Walk 11 times around the object you wish to protect and say each time: Protected from Harm Who breaks this charm Will fall away Then disappear To nothingness… ... Read more of TO PROTECT POSESSIONS at White Magic.caInformational Site Network Informational
Privacy
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


Captive







From: Pellucidar

When Goork and his people saw that I had no token they commenced to
taunt me.

"You do not come from Kolk, but from the Sly One!" they cried. "He has
sent you from the island to spy upon us. Go away, or we will set upon
you and kill you."

I explained that all my belongings had been stolen from me, and that
the robber must have taken the token too; but they didn't believe me.
As proof that I was one of Hooja's people, they pointed to my weapons,
which they said were ornamented like those of the is-land clan.
Further, they said that no good man went in company with a jalok--and
that by this line of reason-ing I certainly was a bad man.

I saw that they were not naturally a war-like tribe, for they preferred
that I leave in peace rather than force them to attack me, whereas the
Sarians would have killed a suspicious stranger first and inquired into
his purposes later.

I think Raja sensed their antagonism, for he kept tugging at his leash
and growling ominously. They were a bit in awe of him, and kept at a
safe distance. It was evident that they could not comprehend why it
was that this savage brute did not turn upon me and rend me.

I wasted a long time there trying to persuade Goork to accept me at my
own valuation, but he was too canny. The best he would do was to give
us food, which he did, and direct me as to the safest portion of the
is-land upon which to attempt a landing, though even as he told me I am
sure that he thought my request for information but a blind to deceive
him as to my true knowledge of the insular stronghold.

At last I turned away from them--rather disheartened, for I had hoped
to be able to enlist a considerable force of them in an attempt to rush
Hooja's horde and rescue Dian. Back along the beach toward the hidden
canoe we made our way.

By the time we came to the cairn I was dog-tired. Throwing myself upon
the sand I soon slept, and with Raja stretched out beside me I felt a
far greater security than I had enjoyed for a long time.

I awoke much refreshed to find Raja's eyes glued upon me. The moment I
opened mine he rose, stretched himself, and without a backward glance
plunged into the jungle. For several minutes I could hear him crashing
through the brush. Then all was silent.

I wondered if he had left me to return to his fierce pack. A feeling
of loneliness overwhelmed me. With a sigh I turned to the work of
dragging the canoe down to the sea. As I entered the jungle where the
dugout lay a hare darted from beneath the boat's side, and a well-aimed
cast of my javelin brought it down. I was hungry--I had not realized
it before--so I sat upon the edge of the canoe and devoured my repast.
The last remnants gone, I again busied myself with preparations for my
expedition to the island.

I did not know for certain that Dian was there; but I surmised as much.
Nor could I guess what obstacles might confront me in an effort to
rescue her. For a time I loitered about after I had the canoe at the
water's edge, hoping against hope that Raja would return; but he did
not, so I shoved the awkward craft through the surf and leaped into it.

I was still a little downcast by the desertion of my new-found friend,
though I tried to assure myself that it was nothing but what I might
have expected.

The savage brute had served me well in the short time that we had been
together, and had repaid his debt of gratitude to me, since he had
saved my life, or at least my liberty, no less certainly than I had
saved his life when he was injured and drowning.

The trip across the water to the island was uneventful. I was mighty
glad to be in the sunshine again when I passed out of the shadow of the
dead world about half-way between the mainland and the island. The hot
rays of the noonday sun did a great deal toward raising my spirits, and
dispelling the mental gloom in which I had been shrouded almost
continually since entering the Land of Awful Shadow. There is nothing
more dispiriting to me than absence of sunshine.

I had paddled to the southwestern point, which Goork said he believed
to be the least frequented portion of the island, as he had never seen
boats put off from there. I found a shallow reef running far out into
the sea and rather precipitous cliffs running almost to the surf. It
was a nasty place to land, and I realized now why it was not used by
the natives; but at last I managed, after a good wetting, to beach my
canoe and scale the cliffs.

The country beyond them appeared more open and park-like than I had
anticipated, since from the mainland the entire coast that is visible
seems densely clothed with tropical jungle. This jungle, as I could
see from the vantage-point of the cliff-top, formed but a relatively
narrow strip between the sea and the more open forest and meadow of the
interior. Farther back there was a range of low but apparently very
rocky hills, and here and there all about were visible flat-topped
masses of rock--small mountains, in fact--which reminded me of pictures
I had seen of landscapes in New Mexico. Altogether, the country was
very much broken and very beautiful. From where I stood I counted no
less than a dozen streams winding down from among the table-buttes and
emptying into a pretty river which flowed away in a northeasterly
direction toward the op-posite end of the island.

As I let my eyes roam over the scene I suddenly became aware of figures
moving upon the flat top of a far-distant butte. Whether they were
beast or human, though, I could not make out; but at least they were
alive, so I determined to prosecute my search for Hooja's stronghold in
the general direction of this butte.

To descend to the valley required no great effort. As I swung along
through the lush grass and the fragrant flowers, my cudgel swinging in
my hand and my javelin looped across my shoulders with its aurochs-hide
strap, I felt equal to any emergency, ready for any danger.

I had covered quite a little distance, and I was pass-ing through a
strip of wood which lay at the foot of one of the flat-topped hills,
when I became conscious of the sensation of being watched. My life
within Pellucidar has rather quickened my senses of sight, hearing, and
smell, and, too, certain primitive intuitive or instinctive qualities
that seem blunted in civilized man. But, though I was positive that
eyes were upon me, I could see no sign of any living thing within the
wood other than the many, gay-plumaged birds and little monkeys which
filled the trees with life, color, and action.

To you it may seem that my conviction was the result of an overwrought
imagination, or to the actual reality of the prying eyes of the little
monkeys or the curious ones of the birds; but there is a difference
which I cannot explain between the sensation of casual observation and
studied espionage. A sheep might gaze at you without transmitting a
warning through your subjective mind, because you are in no danger from
a sheep. But let a tiger gaze fixedly at you from ambush, and unless
your primitive instincts are completely calloused you will presently
commence to glance furtively about and be filled with vague,
unreasoning terror.

Thus was it with me then. I grasped my cudgel more firmly and unslung
my javelin, carrying it in my left hand. I peered to left and right,
but I saw nothing. Then, all quite suddenly, there fell about my neck
and shoulders, around my arms and body, a number of pliant fiber ropes.

In a jiffy I was trussed up as neatly as you might wish. One of the
nooses dropped to my ankles and was jerked up with a suddenness that
brought me to my face upon the ground. Then something heavy and hairy
sprang upon my back. I fought to draw my knife, but hairy hands
grasped my wrists and, dragging them be-hind my back, bound them
securely.

Next my feet were bound. Then I was turned over upon my back to look
up into the faces of my captors.

And what faces! Imagine if you can a cross between a sheep and a
gorilla, and you will have some conception of the physiognomy of the
creature that bent close above me, and of those of the half-dozen
others that clustered about. There was the facial length and great
eyes of the sheep, and the bull-neck and hideous fangs of the gorilla.
The bodies and limbs were both man and gorilla-like.

As they bent over me they conversed in a mono-syllabic tongue that was
perfectly intelligible to me. It was something of a simplified
language that had no need for aught but nouns and verbs, but such words
as it included were the same as those of the human beings of
Pellucidar. It was amplified by many gestures which filled in the
speech-gaps.

I asked them what they intended doing with me; but, like our own North
American Indians when questioned by a white man, they pretended not to
understand me. One of them swung me to his shoulder as lightly as if I
had been a shoat. He was a huge creature, as were his fellows,
standing fully seven feet upon his short legs and weighing considerably
more than a quarter of a ton.

Two went ahead of my bearer and three behind. In this order we cut to
the right through the forest to the foot of the hill where precipitous
cliffs appeared to bar our farther progress in this direction. But my
escort never paused. Like ants upon a wall, they scaled that seemingly
unscalable barrier, clinging, Heaven knows how, to its ragged
perpendicular face. During most of the short journey to the summit I
must admit that my hair stood on end. Presently, however, we topped
the thing and stood upon the level mesa which crowned it.

Immediately from all about, out of burrows and rough, rocky lairs,
poured a perfect torrent of beasts similar to my captors. They
clustered about, jabber-ing at my guards and attempting to get their
hands upon me, whether from curiosity or a desire to do me bodily harm
I did not know, since my escort with bared fangs and heavy blows kept
them off.

Across the mesa we went, to stop at last before a large pile of rocks
in which an opening appeared. Here my guards set me upon my feet and
called out a word which sounded like "Gr-gr-gr!" and which I later
learned was the name of their king.

Presently there emerged from the cavernous depths of the lair a
monstrous creature, scarred from a hundred battles, almost hairless and
with an empty socket where one eye had been. The other eye, sheeplike
in its mildness, gave the most startling appearance to the beast, which
but for that single timid orb was the most fearsome thing that one
could imagine.

I had encountered the black, hairless, long-tailed ape--things of the
mainland--the creatures which Perry thought might constitute the link
between the higher orders of apes and man--but these brute-men of
Gr-gr-gr seemed to set that theory back to zero, for there was less
similarity between the black ape-men and these creatures than there was
between the latter and man, while both had many human attributes, some
of which were better developed in one species and some in the other.

The black apes were hairless and built thatched huts in their arboreal
retreats; they kept domesticated dogs and ruminants, in which respect
they were farther advanced than the human beings of Pellucidar; but
they appeared to have only a meager language, and sported long, apelike
tails.

On the other hand, Gr-gr-gr's people were, for the most part, quite
hairy, but they were tailless and had a language similar to that of the
human race of Pellucidar; nor were they arboreal. Their skins, where
skin showed, were white.

From the foregoing facts and others that I have noted during my long
life within Pellucidar, which is now passing through an age analogous
to some pre-glacial age of the outer crust, I am constrained to the
belief that evolution is not so much a gradual transition from one form
to another as it is an accident of breeding, either by crossing or the
hazards of birth. In other words, it is my belief that the first man
was a freak of nature--nor would one have to draw over-strongly upon
his credulity to be convinced that Gr-gr-gr and his tribe were also
freaks.

The great man-brute seated himself upon a flat rock--his throne, I
imagine--just before the entrance to his lair. With elbows on knees
and chin in palms he regarded me intently through his lone sheep-eye
while one of my captors told of my taking.

When all had been related Gr-gr-gr questioned me. I shall not attempt
to quote these people in their own abbreviated tongue--you would have
even greater difficulty in interpreting them than did I. Instead, I
shall put the words into their mouths which will carry to you the ideas
which they intended to convey.

"You are an enemy," was Gr-gr-gr's initial declaration. "You belong to
the tribe of Hooja."

Ah! So they knew Hooja and he was their enemy! Good!

"I am an enemy of Hooja," I replied. "He has stolen my mate and I have
come here to take her away from him and punish Hooja."

"How could you do that alone?"

"I do not know," I answered, "but I should have tried had you not
captured me. What do you intend to do with me?"

"You shall work for us."

"You will not kill me?" I asked.

"We do not kill except in self-defense," he replied; "self-defense and
punishment. Those who would kill us and those who do wrong we kill.
If we knew you were one of Hooja's people we might kill you, for all
Hooja's people are bad people; but you say you are an enemy of Hooja.
You may not speak the truth, but until we learn that you have lied we
shall not kill you. You shall work."

"If you hate Hooja," I suggested, "why not let me, who hate him, too,
go and punish him?"

For some time Gr-gr-gr sat in thought. Then he raised his head and
addressed my guard.

"Take him to his work," he ordered.

His tone was final. As if to emphasize it he turned and entered his
burrow. My guard conducted me farther into the mesa, where we came
presently to a tiny depression or valley, at one end of which gushed a
warm spring.

The view that opened before me was the most surprising that I have ever
seen. In the hollow, which must have covered several hundred acres,
were numerous fields of growing things, and working all about with
crude implements or with no implements at all other than their bare
hands were many of the brute-men engaged in the first agriculture that
I had seen within Pellucidar.

They put me to work cultivating in a patch of melons.

I never was a farmer nor particularly keen for this sort of work, and I
am free to confess that time never had dragged so heavily as it did
during the hour or the year I spent there at that work. How long it
really was I do not know, of course; but it was all too long.

The creatures that worked about me were quite simple and friendly. One
of them proved to be a son of Gr-gr-gr. He had broken some minor
tribal law, and was working out his sentence in the fields. He told me
that his tribe had lived upon this hilltop always, and that there were
other tribes like them dwelling upon other hilltops. They had no wars
and had always lived in peace and harmony, menaced only by the larger
carnivora of the island, until my kind had come under a creature called
Hooja, and attacked and killed them when they chanced to descend from
their natural fortresses to visit their fellows upon other lofty mesas.

Now they were afraid; but some day they would go in a body and fall
upon Hooja and his people and slay them all. I explained to him that I
was Hooja's enemy, and asked, when they were ready to go, that I be
allowed to go with them, or, better still, that they let me go ahead
and learn all that I could about the village where Hooja dwelt so that
they might attack it with the best chance of success.

Gr-gr-gr's son seemed much impressed by my suggestion. He said that
when he was through in the fields he would speak to his father about
the matter.

Some time after this Gr-gr-gr came through the fields where we were,
and his son spoke to him upon the subject, but the old gentleman was
evidently in anything but a good humor, for he cuffed the youngster
and, turning upon me, informed me that he was convinced that I had lied
to him, and that I was one of Hooja's peo-ple.

"Wherefore," he concluded, "we shall slay you as soon as the melons are
cultivated. Hasten, therefore."

And hasten I did. I hastened to cultivate the weeds which grew among
the melon-vines. Where there had been one sickly weed before, I
nourished two healthy ones. When I found a particularly promising
variety of weed growing elsewhere than among my melons, I forthwith dug
it up and transplanted it among my charges.

My masters did not seem to realize my perfidy. They saw me always
laboring diligently in the melon-patch, and as time enters not into the
reckoning of Pellucidar-ians--even of human beings and much less of
brutes and half brutes--I might have lived on indefinitely through this
subterfuge had not that occurred which took me out of the melon-patch
for good and all.





Next: Hooja's Cutthroats Appear

Previous: From Plight To Plight



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 442