At the Earth's Core
Chapter 6. The Beginning Of Horror
Within Pellucidar one time is as good as another. There were no nights to mask our
attempted escape. All must be done in broad daylight--all but the work I had to do in the
apartment beneath the building. So we determined to put our plan to an immediate test
lest the Mahars who made it possible should awake before I reached them; but we were
doomed to disappointment, for no sooner had we reached the main floor of the building
on our way to the pits beneath, than we encountered hurrying bands of slaves being
hastened under strong Sagoth guard out of the edifice to the avenue beyond.
Other Sagoths were darting hither and thither in search of other slaves, and the moment
that we appeared we were pounced upon and hustled into the line of marching humans.
What the purpose or nature of the general exodus we did not know, but presently through
the line of captives ran the rumor that two escaped slaves had been recaptured--a man and
a woman--and that we were marching to witness their punishment, for the man had 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.