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|At the Earth's Core||Edgar Rice Burroughs|
|Page 6 of 8||
"It is your misfortune then," he remarked dryly, "that you may not be judged by one with but half an eye."
"What will they do with me," I asked, "if they do not have a mind to believe me?"
"You may be sentenced to the arena, or go to the pits to be used in research work by the learned ones," he replied.
"And what will they do with me there?" I persisted.
"No one knows except the Mahars and those who go to the pits with them, but as the latter never return, their knowledge does them but little good. It is said that the learned ones cut up their subjects while they are yet alive, thus learning many useful things. However I should not imagine that it would prove very useful to him who was being cut up; but of course this is all but conjecture. The chances are that ere long you will know much more about it than I," and he grinned as he spoke. The Sagoths have a well-developed sense of humor.
"And suppose it is the arena," I continued; "what then?"
"You saw the two who met the tarag and the thag the time that you escaped?" he said.
"Your end in the arena would be similar to what was intended for them," he explained, "though of course the same kinds of animals might not be employed."
"It is sure death in either event?" I asked.
"What becomes of those who go below with the learned ones I do not know, nor does any other," he replied; "but those who go to the arena may come out alive and thus regain their liberty, as did the two whom you saw."
"They gained their liberty? And how?"
"It is the custom of the Mahars to liberate those who remain alive within the arena after the beasts depart or are killed. Thus it has happened that several mighty warriors from far distant lands, whom we have captured on our slave raids, have battled the brutes turned in upon them and slain them, thereby winning their freedom. In the instance which you witnessed the beasts killed each other, but the result was the same--the man and woman were liberated, furnished with weapons, and started on their homeward journey. Upon the left shoulder of each a mark was burned--the mark of the Mahars--which will forever protect these two from slaving parties."
"There is a slender chance for me then if I be sent to the arena, and none at all if the learned ones drag me to the pits?"
"You are quite right," he replied; "but do not felicitate yourself too quickly should you be sent to the arena, for there is scarce one in a thousand who comes out alive."
To my surprise they returned me to the same building in which I had been confined with Perry and Ghak before my escape. At the doorway I was turned over to the guards there.
"He will doubtless be called before the investigators shortly," said he who had brought me back," so have him in readiness."
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|At the Earth's Core
Edgar Rice Burroughs
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