Llana of Gathol

Book 2. The Black Pirates of Barsoom
Chapter 5

Edgar Rice Burroughs

AFTER the paraphernalia had been removed from me, I was turned over to my guard and taken to the pits, such as are to be found in every Martian city, ancient or modern. These labyrinthine corridors and chambers are used for storage purposes and for the incarceration of prisoners, their only other tenants being the repulsive ulsio.

I was chained to the wall in a large cell in which there was another prisoner, a red Martian; and it was not long until Llana of Gathol and Pan Dan Chee were brought in and chained near me.

“I see you survived the examination,” I said.

“What in the world do they expect to learn from such an examination as that?” demanded Llana. “It was stupid and silly.”

“Perhaps they wanted to find out if they could scare us to death,” suggested Pan Dan Chee.

“I wonder how long they will keep us in these pits,” said Llana.

“I have been here a year,” said the red man. “Occasionally I have been taken out and put to work with other slaves belonging to the jeddak, but until someone buys me I shall remain here.”

“Buys you! What do you mean?” asked Pan Dan Chee.

“All prisoners belong to the jeddak,” replied the red man, “but his nobles or officers may buy them if they wish another slave. I think he is holding me at too high a price, for a number of nobles have looked at me and said that they would like to have me.”

He was silent for a moment and then he said, “You will pardon my curiosity, but two of you do not look like Barsoomians at all, and I am wondering from what part of the world you come. Only the woman is typical of Barsoom; both you men have white skin and one of you black hair and the other yellow.”

“You have heard of the Orovars?” I asked.

“Certainly,” he replied, “but they have been extinct for ages.

“Nevertheless, Pan Dan Chee here is an Orovar. There is a small colony of them that has survived in a deserted Orovar city.”

“And you?” he asked; “you are no Orovar, with that black hair.”

“No,” I said, “I am from another world—Jasoom.”

“Oh,” he exclaimed, “can it be that you are John Carter?”

“Yes; and you?”

“My name is Jad-han. I am from Amhor.”

“Amhor?” I said. “I know a girl from Amhor. Her name is Janai.”

“What do you know of Janai?” he demanded.

“You knew her?” I asked.

“She was my sister; she has been dead for years. While I was out of the country on a long trip, Jal Had, Prince of Amhor, employed Ganturn Gur, the assassin, to kill my father because he objected to Jal Had as a suitor for Janai’s hand. Then I returned to Amhor, Janai had fled; and later I learned of her death. In order to escape assassination myself, I was forced to leave the city; and after wandering about for some time I was captured by the First Born. But tell me, what did you know of Janai?”

“I know that she is not dead,” I replied. “She is mated with one of my most trusted officers and is safe in Helium.”

Jad-han was overcome with happiness when he learned that his sister still lived.

“Now,” he said, “if I could escape from here and return to Amhor to avenge my father, I would die happy.”

“Your father has been avenged,” I told him. “Jal Had is dead.”

“I am sorry that it was not given to me to kill him,” said Jad-han.

“You have been here a year,” I said, “and you must know something of the customs of the people. Can you tell us what fate may lie in store for us?”

“There are several possibilities,” he replied. “You may be worked as slaves, in which event you will be treated badly, but may be permitted to live for years; or you may be saved solely for the games which are held in a great stadium. There you will fight with men or beasts for the edification of the First Born. On the other hand, you may be summarily executed at any moment. All depends upon the mental vagaries of Doxus, Jeddak of The First Born, who I think is a little mad.”

“If the silly examination they gave us is any criterion,” said Llana, “they are all mad.”

“Don’t be too sure of that,” Jad-han advised. “If you realized the purpose of that examination, you would understand that it was never devised by any unsound mind. Did you see the dead men as you entered the valley?”

“Yes, but what have they to do with the examination?”

“They took that same examination; that is why they lie dead out there.”

“I do not understand,” I said. “Please explain.”

“The machines to which you were connected recorded hundreds of your reflexes; and automatically recorded your own individual nerve index, which is unlike that of any other creature in the world.

“The master machine, which you did not see and never will, generates short wave vibrations which can be keyed exactly to your individual nerve index. When that is done you have such a severe paralytic stroke that you die almost instantly.”

“But why all that just to destroy a few slaves?” demanded Pan Dan Chee.

“It is not for that alone,” explained Jad-han. “Perhaps that was one of the initial purposes to prevent prisoners from escaping and spreading word of this beautiful valley on a dying planet. You can imagine that almost any country would wish to possess it. But it has another purpose; it keeps Doxus supreme.

“Every adult in the valley has had his nerve index recorded, and is at the mercy of his jeddak. You don’t have to leave the valley to be exterminated. An enemy of the jeddak might be sitting in his own home some day, when the thing would find him out and destroy him. Doxus is the only adult in Kamtol whose index has not been recorded; and he and one other man, Myr-lo, are the only ones who know exactly where the master machine is located, or how to operate it. It is said to be very delicate and that it can be irreparably damaged in an instant—and can never be replaced.”

“Why couldn’t it be replaced?” asked Llana.

“The inventor of it is dead,” replied Jad-han. “It is said that he hated Doxus because of the purpose to which the jeddak had put his invention and that Doxus had him assassinated through fear of him. Myr-lo, who succeeded him, has not the genius to design another such machine.”

Llana of Gathol - Contents    |     Book 2 - Chapter 6

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