“It is too bad,” said Jad-han, who had been looking at the sleeping girl; “it is too bad that she is so beautiful.”
“What do you mean?” asked Pan Dan Chee.
“This afternoon you asked me what your fate might be; and I told you what the possibilities might be, but those were the possibilities for you two men. For the girl—” He looked sorrowfully at Llana and shook his head; he did not need to say more.
The next day a number of the First Born came down into our cell to examine us, as one might examine cattle that one purposed buying. Among them was one of the jeddak’s officers, upon whom developed the duty of selling prisoners into slavery for the highest amounts he could obtain.
One of the nobles immediately took a fancy to Llana and made an offer for her.
They haggled over the price for some time, but in the end the noble got her.
Pan Dan Chee and I were grief-stricken as they led Llana of Gathol away, for we knew that we should never see her again. Although her father is Jed of Gathol, in her veins flows the blood of Helium; and the women of Helium know how to act when an unkind Providence reserves for them the fate for which we knew Llana of Gathol was intended.
“Oh! to be chained to a wall and without a sword when a thing like this happens,” exclaimed Pan Dan Chee.
“I know how you feel,” I said; “but we are not dead yet, Pan Dan Chee; and our chance may come yet.”
“If it does, we will make them pay,” he said.
Two nobles were bidding for me, and at last I was knocked down to a dator named Xaxak. My fetters were removed, and the jeddak’s agent warned me to be a good and docile slave.
Xaxak had a couple of warriors with him, and they walked on either side of me as we left the pits. I was the object of considerable curiosity, as we made our way toward Xaxak’s palace, which stood near that of the jeddak. My white skin and gray eyes always arouse comment in cities where I am not known. Of course, I am bronzed by exposure to the sun, but even so my skin is not the copper red of the red men of Barsoom.
Before I was to be taken to the slaves’ quarters of the palace, Xaxak questioned me. “What is your name?” he asked.
“Dotar Sojat,” I replied. It is the name given me by the green Martians who captured me when I first came to Mars, being the names of the first two green Martians I had killed in duels; and is in the nature of an honorable title. A man with one name, an o-mad, is not considered very highly. I was always glad that they stopped with two names, for had I had to assume the name of every green Martian warrior I had killed in a duel it would have taken an hour to pronounce them all.
“Did you say dator?” asked Xaxak. “Don’t tell me that you are a prince!”
“I said Dotar,” I replied. I hadn’t given my real name; because I had reason to believe that it was well known to the First Born, who had good reason to hate me for what I had done to them in the Valley Dor.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“I have no country,” I said; “I am a panthan.”
As these soldiers of fortune have no fixed abode, wandering about from city to city offering their services and their swords to whomever will employ them, they are the only men who can go with impunity into almost any Martian city.
“Oh, a panthan,” he said. “I suppose you think you are pretty good with a sword.”
“I have met worse,” I replied.
“If I thought you were any good, I would enter you in the lesser games,” he said; “but you cost me a lot of money, and I’d hate to take the chance of your being killed.”
“I don’t think you need worry about that,” I told him.
“You are pretty sure of yourself,” he said. “Well, let’s see what you can do. Take him out into the garden,” he directed the two warriors. Xaxak followed us out to an open patch of sand.
“Give him your sword,” he said to one of the warriors; and, to the other, “Engage him, Ptang; but not to the death;” then he turned to me. “It is not to the death, slave, you understand. I merely wish to see how good you are. Either one of you may draw blood, but don’t kill.”
Ptang, like all the other Black Pirates of Barsoom whom I have met, was an excellent swordsman—cool, quick, and deadly. He came toward me with a faint, supercilious smile on his lips.
“It is scarcely fair, my prince,” he said to Xaxak, “to pit him against one of the best swordsmen in Kamtol.”
“That is the only way in which I can tell whether he is any good at all, or not,” replied Xaxak. “If he extends you, he will certainly be good enough to enter in the Lesser Games. He might even win his price back for me.”
“We shall see,” said Ptang, crossing swords with me.
Before he realized what was happening, I had pricked him in the shoulder. He looked very much surprised, and the smile left his lips.
“An accident,” he said; “it will not occur again;” and then I pinked him in the other shoulder. Now, he made a fatal mistake; he became angry. While anger may stiffen a man’s offense, it weakens his defense. I have seen it happen a thousand times, and when I am anxious to dispatch an antagonist quickly I always try to make him angry.
“Come, come! Ptang,” said Xaxak; “can’t you make a better showing than that against a slave?”
With that, Ptang came for me with blood in his eye, and I didn’t see anything there that looked like a desire to pink—Ptang was out to kill me.
“Ptang!” snapped Xaxak; “don’t kill him.”
At that, I laughed; and drew blood from Ptang’s breast. “Have you no real swordsmen in Kamtol?” I asked, tauntingly.
Xaxak and his other warrior were very quiet. I caught glimpses of their faces occasionally, and they looked a bit glum. Ptang was furious, and now he came for me like a mad bull with a cut that would have lopped off my head had it connected. However, it didn’t connect; and I ran him through the muscles of his left arm.
“Hadn’t we better stop,” I asked Xaxak, “before your man bleeds to death?”
Xaxak did not reply; but I was getting bored with the whole affair and wanted to end it; so I drew Ptang into a lunge and sent his sword flying across the garden.
“Is that enough now?” I asked.
Xaxak nodded. “Yes,” he said, “that is enough.”
Ptang was one of the most surprised and crestfallen men I have ever seen. He just stood there staring at me, making no move to retrieve his blade. I felt very sorry for him.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of, Ptang,” I told him. “You are a splendid swordsman, but what I did to you I can do to any man in Kamtol.”
“I believe it,” he said. “You may be a slave, but I am proud to have crossed swords with you. The world has never seen a better swordsman.”
“I am convinced of that,” said Xaxak, “and I can see where you are going to make a lot of money for me, Dotar Sojat.”