At the Earth's Core
Chapter 11. Four Dead Mahars
A moment later I was standing before a dozen Mahars--the social investigators of Phutra.
They asked me many questions, through a Sagoth interpreter. I answered them all
truthfully. They seemed particularly interested in my account of the outer earth and the
strange vehicle which had brought Perry and me to Pellucidar. I thought that I had
convinced them, and after they had sat in silence for a long time following my
examination, I expected to be ordered returned to my quarters.
During this apparent silence they were debating through the medium of strange,
unspoken language the merits of my tale. At last the head of the tribunal communicated
the result of their conference to the officer in charge of the Sagoth guard.
"Come," he said to me, "you are sentenced to the experimental pits for having dared to
insult the intelligence of the mighty ones with the ridiculous tale you have had the
temerity to unfold to them."
"Do you mean that they do not believe me?" I asked, totally astonished.
"Believe you!" he laughed. "Do you mean to say that you expected any one to believe so
impossible a lie?"
It was hopeless, and so I walked in silence beside my guard down through the dark
corridors and runways toward my awful doom. At a low level we came upon a number of
lighted chambers in which we saw many Mahars engaged in various occupations. To one
of these chambers my guard escorted me, and before leaving they chained me to a side
wall. There were other humans similarly chained. Upon a long table lay a victim even as I
was ushered into the room. Several Mahars stood about the poor creature holding him
down so that he could not move. Another, grasping a sharp knife with her three-toed fore
foot, was laying open the victim's chest and abdomen. No anesthetic had been
administered and the shrieks and groans of the tortured man were terrible to hear. This,
indeed, was vivisection with a vengeance. Cold sweat broke out upon me as I realized
that soon my turn would come. And to think that where there was no such thing as time I
might easily imagine that my suffering was enduring for months before death finally
The Mahars had paid not the slightest attention to me as I had been brought into the
room. So deeply immersed were they in their work that I am sure they did not even know
that the Sagoths had entered with me. The door was close by. Would that I could reach it!
But those heavy chains precluded any such possibility. I looked about for some means of
escape from my bonds. Upon the floor between me and the Mahars lay a tiny surgical
instrument which one of them must have dropped. It looked not unlike a button-hook, but
was much smaller, and its point was sharpened. A hundred times in my boyhood days
had I picked locks with a buttonhook. Could I but reach that little bit of polished steel I
might yet effect at least a temporary escape.