It must have been several hours before I regained consciousness and I wel_emember the feeling of surprise which swept over me as I realized that I wa_ot dead.
I was lying among a pile of sleeping silks and furs in the corner of a smal_oom in which were several green warriors, and bending over me was an ancien_nd ugly female.
As I opened my eyes she turned to one of the warriors, saying,
"He will live, O Jed."
"'Tis well," replied the one so addressed, rising and approaching my couch,
"he should render rare sport for the great games."
And now as my eyes fell upon him, I saw that he was no Thark, for hi_rnaments and metal were not of that horde. He was a huge fellow, terribl_carred about the face and chest, and with one broken tusk and a missing ear.
Strapped on either breast were human skulls and depending from these a numbe_f dried human hands.
His reference to the great games of which I had heard so much while among th_harks convinced me that I had but jumped from purgatory into gehenna.
After a few more words with the female, during which she assured him that _as now fully fit to travel, the jed ordered that we mount and ride after th_ain column.
I was strapped securely to as wild and unmanageable a thoat as I had eve_een, and, with a mounted warrior on either side to prevent the beast fro_olting, we rode forth at a furious pace in pursuit of the column. My wound_ave me but little pain, so wonderfully and rapidly had the applications an_njections of the female exercised their therapeutic powers, and so deftly ha_he bound and plastered the injuries.
Just before dark we reached the main body of troops shortly after they ha_ade camp for the night. I was immediately taken before the leader, who prove_o be the jeddak of the hordes of Warhoon.
Like the jed who had brought me, he was frightfully scarred, and als_ecorated with the breastplate of human skulls and dried dead hands whic_eemed to mark all the greater warriors among the Warhoons, as well as t_ndicate their awful ferocity, which greatly transcends even that of th_harks.
The jeddak, Bar Comas, who was comparatively young, was the object of th_ierce and jealous hatred of his old lieutenant, Dak Kova, the jed who ha_aptured me, and I could not but note the almost studied efforts which th_atter made to affront his superior.
He entirely omitted the usual formal salutation as we entered the presence o_he jeddak, and as he pushed me roughly before the ruler he exclaimed in _oud and menacing voice.
"I have brought a strange creature wearing the metal of a Thark whom it is m_leasure to have battle with a wild thoat at the great games."
"He will die as Bar Comas, your jeddak, sees fit, if at all," replied th_oung ruler, with emphasis and dignity.
"If at all?" roared Dak Kova. "By the dead hands at my throat but he shal_ie, Bar Comas. No maudlin weakness on your part shall save him. O, would tha_arhoon were ruled by a real jeddak rather than by a water-hearted weaklin_rom whom even old Dak Kova could tear the metal with his bare hands!"
Bar Comas eyed the defiant and insubordinate chieftain for an instant, hi_xpression one of haughty, fearless contempt and hate, and then withou_rawing a weapon and without uttering a word he hurled himself at the throa_f his defamer.
I never before had seen two green Martian warriors battle with nature'_eapons and the exhibition of animal ferocity which ensued was as fearful _hing as the most disordered imagination could picture. They tore at eac_thers' eyes and ears with their hands and with their gleaming tusk_epeatedly slashed and gored until both were cut fairly to ribbons from hea_o foot.
Bar Comas had much the better of the battle as he was stronger, quicker an_ore intelligent. It soon seemed that the encounter was done saving only th_inal death thrust when Bar Comas slipped in breaking away from a clinch. I_as the one little opening that Dak Kova needed, and hurling himself at th_ody of his adversary he buried his single mighty tusk in Bar Comas' groin an_ith a last powerful effort ripped the young jeddak wide open the full lengt_f his body, the great tusk finally wedging in the bones of Bar Comas' jaw.
Victor and vanquished rolled limp and lifeless upon the moss, a huge mass o_orn and bloody flesh.
Bar Comas was stone dead, and only the most herculean efforts on the part o_ak Kova's females saved him from the fate he deserved. Three days later h_alked without assistance to the body of Bar Comas which, by custom, had no_een moved from where it fell, and placing his foot upon the neck of hi_rstwhile ruler he assumed the title of Jeddak of Warhoon.
The dead jeddak's hands and head were removed to be added to the ornaments o_is conqueror, and then his women cremated what remained, amid wild an_errible laughter.
The injuries to Dak Kova had delayed the march so greatly that it was decide_o give up the expedition, which was a raid upon a small Thark community i_etaliation for the destruction of the incubator, until after the great games,
and the entire body of warriors, ten thousand in number, turned back towar_arhoon.
My introduction to these cruel and bloodthirsty people was but an index to th_cenes I witnessed almost daily while with them. They are a smaller horde tha_he Tharks but much more ferocious. Not a day passed but that some members o_he various Warhoon communities met in deadly combat. I have seen as high a_ight mortal duels within a single day.
We reached the city of Warhoon after some three days march and I wa_mmediately cast into a dungeon and heavily chained to the floor and walls.
Food was brought me at intervals but owing to the utter darkness of the plac_ do not know whether I lay there days, or weeks, or months. It was the mos_orrible experience of all my life and that my mind did not give way to th_errors of that inky blackness has been a wonder to me ever since. The plac_as filled with creeping, crawling things; cold, sinuous bodies passed over m_hen I lay down, and in the darkness I occasionally caught glimpses o_leaming, fiery eyes, fixed in horrible intentness upon me. No sound reache_e from the world above and no word would my jailer vouchsafe when my food wa_rought to me, although I at first bombarded him with questions.
Finally all the hatred and maniacal loathing for these awful creatures who ha_laced me in this horrible place was centered by my tottering reason upon thi_ingle emissary who represented to me the entire horde of Warhoons.
I had noticed that he always advanced with his dim torch to where he coul_lace the food within my reach and as he stooped to place it upon the floo_is head was about on a level with my breast. So, with the cunning of _adman, I backed into the far corner of my cell when next I heard hi_pproaching and gathering a little slack of the great chain which held me i_y hand I waited his coming, crouching like some beast of prey. As he stoope_o place my food upon the ground I swung the chain above my head and crashe_he links with all my strength upon his skull. Without a sound he slipped t_he floor, stone dead.
Laughing and chattering like the idiot I was fast becoming I fell upon hi_rostrate form my fingers feeling for his dead throat. Presently they came i_ontact with a small chain at the end of which dangled a number of keys. Th_ouch of my fingers on these keys brought back my reason with the suddennes_f thought. No longer was I a jibbering idiot, but a sane, reasoning man wit_he means of escape within my very hands.
As I was groping to remove the chain from about my victim's neck I glanced u_nto the darkness to see six pairs of gleaming eyes fixed, unwinking, upon me.
Slowly they approached and slowly I shrank back from the awful horror of them.
Back into my corner I crouched holding my hands palms out, before me, an_tealthily on came the awful eyes until they reached the dead body at my feet.
Then slowly they retreated but this time with a strange grating sound an_inally they disappeared in some black and distant recess of my dungeon.