Chapter 25 Escape on Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I must say that after my conversation with this chap, whose name I later learned was Ka-at (Ka'-at), I was really curious to reach Brokol and see a woman so beautiful that she made other women appear as beasts. If it hadn't been for my concern over Duare, I'd have looked forward to it as another rare adventure. One must die eventually, even though he has been inoculated with the longevity serum as have I; so if he has no one dependent upon him, he might as well crowd all of the adventure and experience into his life that he can, even though he at times risks that life.

During the long marches to Brokol, no one spoke to me again. They communicated with me and among themselves largely by signs. I sometimes wondered that their vocal cords did not atrophy. I had much time to think; and of course most of my thoughts revolved about Duare, but I also thought of the strange suggestions Ka-at had placed in my mind. I wondered what he meant when he said that Loto-El-Ho-Ganja had never hung from any plant. Why should anyone wish to hang from a plant? I am quite sure that the horse thieves they used to lynch in the days of our old West would not have chosen to hang from a tree or from anything else.

The Brokols carried nothing but their spears, swords, and a little bag of food; for we lived off the country as we went; so they covered quite a little ground every day. During the morning of the fifth day we climbed through a mountain pass, and from the summit I saw a city lying on a well-watered tableland below.

The party halted at the summit; and, looking down upon the city, bowed three times from the waist. We were standing pretty close together, and the opportunity I had been awaiting came because of that. I was behind and touching the warrior who carried my pistol. As he bowed, I brushed against him; and when he straightened up, he did not have my pistol—it was hidden in my loincloth.

I didn't know when the opportunity to use it might come. I knew that I couldn't shoot my way out of a city full of enemies, but as a last resort I could sell my life dearly. Anyway, I was glad to have my weapon back again; somehow it gives me a feeling of security and superiority that I don't have without it; and that is strange; because before I came to Venus I never carried a weapon of any description.

The bowing at the summit of the pass, I learned later, was something of a religious ritual, Brokol being considered by them a holy city. In it was located the principal temple of Loto-El-Ho-Ganja . Here came the people of the lesser villages to worship and make offerings.

We continued the march immediately, and were soon at one of the gates of Brokol. I shall not bore you with the details of our entry into the city, but I may say that it was not a triumphal entry for Ka-at. He had been defeated, and he brought back no spoils and only a single prisoner. Ka-at was a yorkokor, or commander of a thousand men. Yorkokor means, literally, a thousand daggers; and is a military title corresponding with our colonel. The three gold armlets that he wore and the three golden rings which encircled the haft of his gaff were the insignia of his office.

I was taken to an open square or plaza in a poor part of the city and locked in a cage. There were a number of these cages, but only one other had an occupant. He was a human being like myself, and his cage was next to mine. We were not exactly on exhibit; but the plaza was not enclosed, and many Brokols came and gawped at us. Some of them poked us with sticks, and others threw stones at us. For the most part, however, they just looked and commented—a word or a short phrase. They were not given to loquacity.

One looked at me and said to his companion, "What is it?"

The other just shook his head.

"Yellow hair," said the first.

"Blue eyes," said the second.

They were running on terribly, for Brokols.

"You talk too much," the man in the next cage yelled at them.

One of them threw a rock at him, and then they both walked away.

"They hate to have anyone say they talk too much," confided my neighbor.

I nodded. I was suddenly sick at heart, as though I felt a premonition of tragedy. Somehow I connected it with Duare, and I didn't feel much like talking.

The fellow in the next cage shook his head sadly. "You don't look like a Brokol," he said, "but you talk like one. It is too bad. When I saw you coming I thought that I was going to have some one to talk with. I have been afraid that I was going to forget how to talk."

"I am sorry," I said. "I shall be glad to talk with you."

He brightened up. "My name is Jonda," he said.

"Mine is Carson ."

"I am from Tonglap. Where are you from?"

"From Korva," I said. There was no use going through the futile explanation of where the United States of America was. No one on Venus could have understood it.

"I never heard of Korva," he said. "Tonglap is far away in that direction." He pointed toward the north. "I am a vookor in the army of Tonglap." Vookor really means one dagger, but is the title of an officer who commands one hundred men, a, captain. Tonglap means big land.

The days dragged heavily, and I became much depressed. Here I was in a cage in a strange land, a prisoner of queer, half human creatures; my ship lay disabled at Japal; and Duare was far away in Timal. How long, I wondered, would those savage people remain friendly to her? I began to lose hope, for it seemed impossible that she and I ever would be reunited, that we should ever reach Korva.

Jonda had told me that at any moment one of us might be chosen as a human sacrifice to Loto-El-Ho-Ganja. "From remarks I have overheard," he said, "I think she either drinks the blood of the victim or bathes in it."

"I understand that she is very beautiful," I said. "Have you ever seen her?"

"No, and I don't want to. I understand that it isn't good for one's health to have Loto-El-Ho-Ganja take an interest in one. Let us hope that she never hears of us."

After a couple of weeks Jonda and I were taken from our cages and put to work cleaning up an oval field which had tiers of benches built around it. The benches were raised, the lower tier being some ten feet above the ground; so that the whole thing resembled a Spanish bull ring more than it did anything else. There were two main gates and a number of small doors in the wooden paling surrounding it.

I remarked to Jonda that it seemed strange to me that we didn't see more slaves in the city. As far as I knew, there were only the two of us.

"I've never seen any others," he replied. "Duma, the jong, sent out that expedition under Ka-at to gather slaves; but he didn't do very well. He may have had his head lopped off for it by this time."

"Shut up!" snapped one of the warriors that were guarding us. "You talk too much. Work, don't talk."

While we were working, half a dozen warriors entered the arena and approached our guard. "The jong has sent for these two," said their leader.

One of our guard nodded. No words wasted there.

They conducted us to the palace grounds and through what appeared to be a well kept orchard of small fruit trees. I could see what appeared to be some kind of fruit hanging from the branches, but only one or two to a tree. There were many guards about.

When we had come closer to the orchard, I was amazed to see that what I had thought was fruit were diminutive Brokols dangling in the air by stems attached to the tops of their heads. This suddenly explained many things, among them the knob on the tops of the heads of all the Brokols I had seen and Ka-at's statement that Loto-El-Ho-Ganja had never hung from a plant.

The little Brokols were perfectly formed. Most of them hung quietly, swaying in the breeze, with their eyes shut; but a few were very active, wriggling their arms and legs and making complaining sounds. It all reminded me of the first stirrings of a new born babe, yet there was something almost obscene about it. They were of all sizes, from those but an inch long to some that were fully fifteen inches in length.

Jonda pointed to one of these, and remarked, "Pretty nearly ripe and about to fall off."

"Shut up!" snapped one of our guard. That was practically the extent of the conversations we ever had with our captors.