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Chapter 10. The Raid On The Cave-Prison
His head was turned over his shoulder as I first saw him--he was looking back toward the
village. As I leaped for him his eyes fell upon me. Never in my life have I seen a more
surprised mortal than this poor cave man. Before he could utter a single scream of
warning or alarm I had my fingers on his throat and had dragged him behind the boulder,
where I proceeded to sit upon him, while I figured out what I had best do with him.
He struggled a little at first, but finally lay still, and so I released the pressure of my
fingers at his windpipe, for which I imagine he was quite thankful--I know that I should
have been.
I hated to kill him in cold blood; but what else I was to do with him I could not see, for to
turn him loose would have been merely to have the entire village aroused and down upon
me in a moment. The fellow lay looking up at me with the surprise still deeply writ- ten
on his countenance. At last, all of a sudden, a look of recognition entered his eyes.
"I have seen you before," he said. "I saw you in the arena at the Mahars' city of Phutra
when the thipdars dragged the tarag from you and your mate. I never understood that.
Afterward they put me in the arena with two warriors from Gombul."
He smiled in recollection.
"It would have been the same had there been ten warriors from Gombul. I slew them,
winning my free- dom. Look!"
He half turned his left shoulder toward me, exhibiting the newly healed scar of the
Mahars' branded mark.
"Then," he continued, "as I was returning to my peo- ple I met some of them fleeing.
They told me that one called Hooja the Sly One had come and seized our village, putting
our people into slavery. So I hurried hither to learn the truth, and, sure enough, here I
found Hooja and his wicked men living in my village, and my father's people but slaves
among them.
"I was discovered and captured, but Hooja did not kill me. I am the chief's son, and
through me he hoped to win my father's warriors back to the village to help him in a great
war he says that he will soon commence.
"Among his prisoners is Dian the Beautiful One, whose brother, Dacor the Strong One,
chief of Amoz, once saved my life when he came to Thuria to steal a mate. I helped him
capture her, and we are good friends. So when I learned that Dian the Beautiful One was
Hooja's prisoner, I told him that I would not aid him if he harmed her.