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Edgar Rice Burroughs.

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"I am," I replied.

He was silent for several minutes, apparently weighing some thought in
his mind. At last he spoke. "What is that?" he asked. "And what is
that?" He pointed first at my rifle and then to my pistol.

"They are weapons," I replied, "weapons which kill at a great
distance." I pointed to the women in the pool beneath us. "With this,"
I said, tapping my pistol, "I could kill as many of those women as I
cared to, without moving a step from where we now stand."

He looked his incredulity, but I went on. "And with this" - I weighed
my rifle at the balance in the palm of my right hand - "I could slay one
of those distant warriors." And I waved my left hand toward the tiny
figures of the hunters far to the north.

The fellow laughed. "Do it," he cried derisively, "and then it may be
that I shall believe the balance of your strange story."

"But I do not wish to kill any of them," I replied. "Why should I?"

"Why not?" he insisted. "They would have killed you when they had you
prisoner. They would kill you now if they could get their hands on
you, and they would eat you into the bargain. But I know why you do
not try it - it is because you have spoken lies; your weapon will not
kill at a great distance. It is only a queerly wrought club. For all
I know, you are nothing more than a lowly Bo-lu."

"Why should you wish me to kill your own people?" I asked.

"They are no longer my people," he replied proudly. "Last night, in
the very middle of the night, the call came to me. Like that it came
into my head" - and he struck his hands together smartly once - "that I
had risen. I have been waiting for it and expecting it for a long
time; today I am a Kro-lu. Today I go into the coslupak" (unpeopled
country, or literally, no man's land) "between the Band-lu and the
Kro-lu, and there I fashion my bow and my arrows and my shield; there I
hunt the red deer for the leathern jerkin which is the badge of my new
estate. When these things are done, I can go to the chief of the
Kro-lu, and he dare not refuse me. That is why you may kill those low
Band-lu if you wish to live, for I am in a hurry.

"But why do you wish to kill me?" I asked.

He looked puzzled and finally gave it up. "I do not know," he
admitted. "It is the way in Caspak. If we do not kill, we shall be
killed, therefore it is wise to kill first whomever does not belong to
one's own people. This morning I hid in my cave till the others were
gone upon the hunt, for I knew that they would know at once that I had
become a Kro-lu and would kill me. They will kill me if they find me
in the coslupak; so will the Kro-lu if they come upon me before I have
won my Kro-lu weapons and jerkin. You would kill me if you could, and
that is the reason I know that you speak lies when you say that your
weapons will kill at a great distance. Would they, you would long
since have killed me. Come! I have no more time to waste in words. I
will spare the woman and take her with me to the Kro-lu, for she is
comely." And with that he advanced upon me with raised spear.

My rifle was at my hip at the ready. He was so close that I did not
need to raise it to my shoulder, having but to pull the trigger to send
him into Kingdom Come whenever I chose; but yet I hesitated. It was
difficult to bring myself to take a human life. I could feel no enmity
toward this savage barbarian who acted almost as wholly upon instinct
as might a wild beast, and to the last moment I was determined to seek
some way to avoid what now seemed inevitable. Ajor stood at my
shoulder, her knife ready in her hand and a sneer on her lips at his
suggestion that he would take her with him.

Just as I thought I should have to fire, a chorus of screams broke from
the women beneath us. I saw the man halt and glance downward, and
following his example my eyes took in the panic and its cause. The
women had, evidently, been quitting the pool and slowly returning
toward the caves, when they were confronted by a monstrous cave-lion
which stood directly between them and their cliffs in the center of the
narrow path that led down to the pool among the tumbled rocks.
Screaming, the women were rushing madly back to the pool.

"It will do them no good," remarked the man, a trace of excitement in
his voice. "It will do them no good, for the lion will wait until they
come out and take as many as he can carry away; and there is one
there," he added, a trace of sadness in his tone, "whom I hoped would
soon follow me to the Kro-lu. Together have we come up from the
beginning." He raised his spear above his head and poised it ready to
hurl downward at the lion. "She is nearest to him," he muttered. "He
will get her and she will never come to me among the Kro-lu, or ever
thereafter. It is useless! No warrior lives who could hurl a weapon
so great a distance."

But even as he spoke, I was leveling my rifle upon the great brute
below; and as he ceased speaking, I squeezed the trigger. My bullet
must have struck to a hair the point at which I had aimed, for it
smashed the brute's spine back of his shoulders and tore on through his
heart, dropping him dead in his tracks. For a moment the women were as
terrified by the report of the rifle as they had been by the menace of
the lion; but when they saw that the loud noise had evidently destroyed
their enemy, they came creeping cautiously back to examine the carcass.

The man, toward whom I had immediately turned after firing, lest he
should pursue his threatened attack, stood staring at me in amazement
and admiration.

"Why," he asked, "if you could do that, did you not kill me long
before?"

"I told you," I replied, "that I had no quarrel with you. I do not
care to kill men with whom I have no quarrel."

But he could not seem to get the idea through his head. "I can believe
now that you are not of Caspak," he admitted, "for no Caspakian would
have permitted such an opportunity to escape him." This, however, I
found later to be an exaggeration, as the tribes of the west coast and
even the Kro-lu of the east coast are far less bloodthirsty than he
would have had me believe. "And your weapon!" he continued. "You
spoke true words when I thought you spoke lies." And then, suddenly:
"Let us be friends!"

I turned to Ajor. "Can I trust him?" I asked.

"Yes," she replied. "Why not? Has he not asked to be friends?"

I was not at the time well enough acquainted with Caspakian ways to
know that truthfulness and loyalty are two of the strongest
characteristics of these primitive people. They are not sufficiently
cultured to have become adept in hypocrisy, treason and dissimulation.
There are, of course, a few exceptions.

"We can go north together," continued the warrior. "I will fight for
you, and you can fight for me. Until death will I serve you, for you
have saved So-al, whom I had given up as dead." He threw down his
spear and covered both his eyes with the palms of his two hands. I
looked inquiringly toward Ajor, who explained as best she could that
this was the form of the Caspakian oath of allegiance. "You need never
fear him after this," she concluded.

"What should I do?" I asked.

"Take his hands down from before his eyes and return his spear to him,"
she explained.

I did as she bade, and the man seemed very pleased. I then asked what
I should have done had I not wished to accept his friendship. They
told me that had I walked away, the moment that I was out of sight of
the warrior we would have become deadly enemies again. "But I could so
easily have killed him as he stood there defenseless!" I exclaimed.

"Yes," replied the warrior, "but no man with good sense blinds his eyes
before one whom he does not trust."

It was rather a decent compliment, and it taught me just how much I
might rely on the loyalty of my new friend. I was glad to have him
with us, for he knew the country and was evidently a fearless warrior.
I wished that I might have recruited a battalion like him.

As the women were now approaching the cliffs, To-mar the warrior
suggested that we make our way to the valley before they could
intercept us, as they might attempt to detain us and were almost
certain to set upon Ajor. So we hastened down the narrow path,
reaching the foot of the cliffs but a short distance ahead of the
women. They called after us to stop; but we kept on at a rapid walk,
not wishing to have any trouble with them, which could only result in
the death of some of them.

We had proceeded about a mile when we heard some one behind us calling
To-mar by name, and when we stopped and looked around, we saw a woman
running rapidly toward us. As she approached nearer I could see that
she was a very comely creature, and like all her sex that I had seen in
Caspak, apparently young.

"It is So-al!" exclaimed To-mar. "Is she mad that she follows me thus?"

In another moment the young woman stopped, panting, before us. She
paid not the slightest attention to Ajor or me; but devouring To-mar
with her sparkling eyes, she cried: "I have risen! I have risen!"

"So-al!" was all that the man could say.

"Yes," she went on, "the call came to me just before I quit the pool;
but I did not know that it had come to you. I can see it in your eyes,
To-mar, my To-mar! We shall go on together!" And she threw herself
into his arms.

It was a very affecting sight, for it was evident that these two had
been mates for a long time and that they had each thought that they
were about to be separated by that strange law of evolution which holds
good in Caspak and which was slowly unfolding before my incredulous
mind. I did not then comprehend even a tithe of the wondrous process,
which goes on eternally within the confines of Caprona's barrier cliffs
nor am I any too sure that I do even now.

To-mar explained to So-al that it was I who had killed the cave-lion
and saved her life, and that Ajor was my woman and thus entitled to the
same loyalty which was my due.

At first Ajor and So-al were like a couple of stranger cats on a back
fence but soon they began to accept each other under something of an
armed truce, and later became fast friends. So-al was a mighty
fine-looking girl, built like a tigress as to strength and sinuosity,
but withal sweet and womanly. Ajor and I came to be very fond of her,
and she was, I think, equally fond of us. To-mar was very much of a
man - a savage, if you will, but none the less a man.

Finding that traveling in company with To-mar made our journey both
easier and safer, Ajor and I did not continue on our way alone while
the novitiates delayed their approach to the Kro-lu country in order
that they might properly fit themselves in the matter of arms and
apparel, but remained with them. Thus we became well acquainted - to
such an extent that we looked forward with regret to the day when they
took their places among their new comrades and we should be forced to
continue upon our way alone. It was a matter of much concern to To-mar
that the Kro-lu would undoubtedly not receive Ajor and me in a friendly
manner, and that consequently we should have to avoid these people.

It would have been very helpful to us could we have made friends with
them, as their country abutted directly upon that of the Galus. Their
friendship would have meant that Ajor's dangers were practically
passed, and that I had accomplished fully one-half of my long journey.
In view of what I had passed through, I often wondered what chance I
had to complete that journey in search of my friends. The further
south I should travel on the west side of the island, the more
frightful would the dangers become as I neared the stamping-grounds of
the more hideous reptilia and the haunts of the Alus and the Ho-lu, all
of which were at the southern half of the island; and then if I should
not find the members of my party, what was to become of me? I could
not live for long in any portion of Caspak with which I was familiar;
the moment my ammunition was exhausted, I should be as good as dead.

There was a chance that the Galus would receive me; but even Ajor could
not say definitely whether they would or not, and even provided that
they would, could I retrace my steps from the beginning, after failing
to find my own people, and return to the far northern land of Galus? I
doubted it. However, I was learning from Ajor, who was more or less of
a fatalist, a philosophy which was as necessary in Caspak to peace of
mind as is faith to the devout Christian of the outer world.



Chapter 5

We were sitting before a little fire inside a safe grotto one night
shortly after we had quit the cliff-dwellings of the Band-lu, when
So-al raised a question which it had never occurred to me to propound
to Ajor. She asked her why she had left her own people and how she had
come so far south as the country of the Alus, where I had found her.

At first Ajor hesitated to explain; but at last she consented, and for
the first time I heard the complete story of her origin and
experiences. For my benefit she entered into greater detail of
explanation than would have been necessary had I been a native
Caspakian.

"I am a cos-ata-lo," commenced Ajor, and then she turned toward me. "A
cos-ata-lo, my Tom, is a woman" (lo) "who did not come from an egg and
thus on up from the beginning." (Cor sva jo.) "I was a babe at my
mother's breast. Only among the Galus are such, and then but
infrequently. The Wieroo get most of us; but my mother hid me until I
had attained such size that the Wieroo could not readily distinguish me
from one who had come up from the beginning. I knew both my mother and
my father, as only such as I may. My father is high chief among the
Galus. His name is Jor, and both he and my mother came up from the
beginning; but one of them, probably my mother, had completed the seven
cycles" (approximately seven hundred years), "with the result that
their offspring might be cos-ata-lo, or born as are all the children of
your race, my Tom, as you tell me is the fact. I was therefore apart
from my fellows in that my children would probably be as I, of a higher
state of evolution, and so I was sought by the men of my people; but
none of them appealed to me. I cared for none. The most persistent
was Du-seen, a huge warrior of whom my father stood in considerable
fear, since it was quite possible that Du-seen could wrest from him his
chieftainship of the Galus. He has a large following of the newer
Galus, those most recently come up from the Kro-lu, and as this class
is usually much more powerful numerically than the older Galus, and as
Du-seen's ambition knows no bounds, we have for a long time been
expecting him to find some excuse for a break with Jor the High Chief,
my father.

"A further complication lay in the fact that Du-seen wanted me, while I
would have none of him, and then came evidence to my father's ears that
he was in league with the Wieroo; a hunter, returning late at night,
came trembling to my father, saying that he had seen Du-seen talking
with a Wieroo in a lonely spot far from the village, and that plainly
he had heard the words: 'If you will help me, I will help you - I will
deliver into your hands all cos-ata-lo among the Galus, now and
hereafter; but for that service you must slay Jor the High Chief and
bring terror and confusion to his followers.'

"Now, when my father heard this, he was angry; but he was also
afraid - afraid for me, who am cos-ata-lo. He called me to him and told
me what he had heard, pointing out two ways in which we might frustrate
Du-seen. The first was that I go to Du-seen as his mate, after which
he would be loath to give me into the hands of the Wieroo or to further
abide by the wicked compact he had made - a compact which would doom his
own offspring, who would doubtless be as am I, their mother. The
alternative was flight until Du-seen should have been overcome and
punished. I chose the latter and fled toward the south. Beyond the
confines of the Galu country is little danger from the Wieroo, who seek
ordinarily only Galus of the highest orders. There are two excellent
reasons for this: One is that from the beginning of time jealousy has
existed between the Wieroo and the Galus as to which would eventually
dominate the world. It seems generally conceded that that race which
first reaches a point of evolution which permits them to produce young
of their own species and of both sexes must dominate all other
creatures. The Wieroo first began to produce their own kind - after
which evolution from Galu to Wieroo ceased gradually until now it is
unknown; but the Wieroo produce only males - which is why they steal our
female young, and by stealing cos-ata-lo they increase their own
chances of eventually reproducing both sexes and at the same time
lessen ours. Already the Galus produce both male and female; but so
carefully do the Wieroo watch us that few of the males ever grow to
manhood, while even fewer are the females that are not stolen away. It
is indeed a strange condition, for while our greatest enemies hate and
fear us, they dare not exterminate us, knowing that they too would
become extinct but for us.

"Ah, but could we once get a start, I am sure that when all were true
cos-ata-lo there would have been evolved at last the true dominant race
before which all the world would be forced to bow."

Ajor always spoke of the world as though nothing existed beyond Caspak.
She could not seem to grasp the truth of my origin or the fact that
there were countless other peoples outside her stern barrier-cliffs.
She apparently felt that I came from an entirely different world.
Where it was and how I came to Caspak from it were matters quite beyond
her with which she refused to trouble her pretty head.

"Well," she continued, "and so I ran away to hide, intending to pass
the cliffs to the south of Galu and find a retreat in the Kro-lu
country. It would be dangerous, but there seemed no other way.

"The third night I took refuge in a large cave in the cliffs at the
edge of my own country; upon the following day I would cross over into
the Kro-lu country, where I felt that I should be reasonably safe from
the Wieroo, though menaced by countless other dangers. However, to a
cos-ata-lo any fate is preferable to that of falling into the clutches
of the frightful Wieroo, from whose land none returns.

"I had been sleeping peacefully for several hours when I was awakened
by a slight noise within the cavern. The moon was shining brightly,
illumining the entrance, against which I saw silhouetted the dread
figure of a Wieroo. There was no escape. The cave was shallow, the
entrance narrow. I lay very still, hoping against hope, that the
creature had but paused here to rest and might soon depart without
discovering me; yet all the while I knew that he came seeking me.

"I waited, scarce breathing, watching the thing creep stealthily toward
me, its great eyes luminous in the darkness of the cave's interior, and
at last I knew that those eyes were directed upon me, for the Wieroo
can see in the darkness better than even the lion or the tiger. But a
few feet separated us when I sprang to my feet and dashed madly toward
my menacer in a vain effort to dodge past him and reach the outside
world. It was madness of course, for even had I succeeded temporarily,
the Wieroo would have but followed and swooped down upon me from above.
As it was, he reached forth and seized me, and though I struggled, he
overpowered me. In the duel his long, white robe was nearly torn from
him, and he became very angry, so that he trembled and beat his wings
together in his rage.

"He asked me my name; but I would not answer him, and that angered him
still more. At last he dragged me to the entrance of the cave, lifted
me in his arms, spread his great wings and leaping into the air,
flapped dismally through the night. I saw the moonlit landscape
sliding away beneath me, and then we were out above the sea and on our
way to Oo-oh, the country of the Wieroo.

"The dim outlines of Oo-oh were unfolding below us when there came from
above a loud whirring of giant wings. The Wieroo and I glanced up
simultaneously, to see a pair of huge jo-oos" (flying
reptiles - pterodactyls) "swooping down upon us. The Wieroo wheeled and
dropped almost to sea-level, and then raced southward in an effort to
outdistance our pursuers. The great creatures, notwithstanding their
enormous weight, are swift on their wings; but the Wieroo are swifter.
Even with my added weight, the creature that bore me maintained his
lead, though he could not increase it. Faster than the fastest wind we
raced through the night, southward along the coast. Sometimes we rose
to great heights, where the air was chill and the world below but a
blur of dim outlines; but always the jo-oos stuck behind us.

"I knew that we had covered a great distance, for the rush of the wind
by my face attested the speed of our progress, but I had no idea where
we were when at last I realized that the Wieroo was weakening. One of
the jo-oos gained on us and succeeded in heading us, so that my captor
had to turn in toward the coast. Further and further they forced him
to the left; lower and lower he sank. More labored was his breathing,
and weaker the stroke of his once powerful wings. We were not ten feet
above the ground when they overtook us, and at the edge of a forest.
One of them seized the Wieroo by his right wing, and in an effort to
free himself, he loosed his grasp upon me, dropping me to earth. Like
a frightened ecca I leaped to my feet and raced for the sheltering
sanctuary of the forest, where I knew neither could follow or seize me.
Then I turned and looked back to see two great reptiles tear my
abductor asunder and devour him on the spot.

"I was saved; yet I felt that I was lost. How far I was from the
country of the Galus I could not guess; nor did it seem probable that I
ever could make my way in safety to my native land.

"Day was breaking; soon the carnivora would stalk forth for their first
kill; I was armed only with my knife. About me was a strange
landscape - the flowers, the trees, the grasses, even, were different
from those of my northern world, and presently there appeared before me
a creature fully as hideous as the Wieroo - a hairy manthing that barely
walked erect. I shuddered, and then I fled. Through the hideous
dangers that my forebears had endured in the earlier stages of their
human evolution I fled; and always pursuing was the hairy monster that
had discovered me. Later he was joined by others of his kind. They
were the speechless men, the Alus, from whom you rescued me, my Tom.
From then on, you know the story of my adventures, and from the first,
I would endure them all again because they led me to you!"

It was very nice of her to say that, and I appreciated it. I felt that
she was a mighty nice little girl whose friendship anyone might be glad
to have; but I wished that when she touched me, those peculiar thrills
would not run through me. It was most discomforting, because it
reminded me of love; and I knew that I never could love this half-baked
little barbarian. I was very much interested in her account of the
Wieroo, which up to this time I had considered a purely mythological
creature; but Ajor shuddered so at even the veriest mention of the name
that I was loath to press the subject upon her, and so the Wieroo still
remained a mystery to me.

While the Wieroo interested me greatly, I had little time to think
about them, as our waking hours were filled with the necessities of
existence - the constant battle for survival which is the chief
occupation of Caspakians. To-mar and So-al were now about fitted for
their advent into Kro-lu society and must therefore leave us, as we
could not accompany them without incurring great danger ourselves and
running the chance of endangering them; but each swore to be always our
friend and assured us that should we need their aid at any time we had
but to ask it; nor could I doubt their sincerity, since we had been so
instrumental in bringing them safely upon their journey toward the
Kro-lu village.

This was our last day together. In the afternoon we should separate,
To-mar and So-al going directly to the Kro-lu village, while Ajor and I
made a detour to avoid a conflict with the archers. The former both
showed evidence of nervous apprehension as the time approached for them
to make their entry into the village of their new people, and yet both


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsThe People That Time Forgot → online text (page 5 of 9)