Yron’s agent motioned us to accompany him; and Kandar started to comply, but I stood still.
“Come, slave!” commanded the agent.”What are you standing there for? Come with me!” He raised a whip he carried, to strike me.
“My wrists are bound,” I said.
“What of it?” he demanded.”Come along!”
“Not until you free my hands,” I told him.
He struck me then with his whip.”Get going, slave!” he cried.
“Not until my hands are freed,” I said, stubbornly; then he struck me again; whereupon I lay down.
The fellow became furious, and struck me again and again, but I would not budge.
“If you want your slave alive,” said Kandar,”you will free his hands. He will never come until you do.”
I knew that it was a hell of a way for a five dollar and ninety cent slave to act, but I felt that by asserting myself at the beginning I might find the going easier later.
The agent hit me a couple of more blows for good luck; then he stooped and freed my hands.
“Get up!” he ordered, and as I rose to my feet he swelled visibly, exhaling wind through his teeth.”I am a great slave driver,” he said; “they always obey me.”
I was glad he was satisfied, and winked at Kandar. Kandar grinned. “Be careful,” he cautioned. “They make short shrift of slaves who are recalcitrant, and don’t forget that you didn’t cost Yron very much. He could easily afford to do away with you.”
Vomer had been standing around evidently enjoying the whipping I had received. “You shouldn’t have freed his hands,” he said to Yron’s agent.
“Why?” demanded the fellow.
“Because now he can kill you with that thing,” he explained, pointing at my pistol.
“Give it to me!” commanded the agent. I slipped it from its holster and proffered it to him, muzzle first.
“Don’t touch it!” cried Vomer. “It will kill you if you touch it.”
The man drew back. He was in a quandary.
“You needn’t be afraid,” I told him, “you would never have touched it, and as long as you treat Kandar and me well I’ll not kill you.” I slipped the weapon back into its holster.
“You’ve bought something for Yron,” said Vomer, venomously. “When he finds out what, he’ll lop off your head.”
I suppose the fellow was unhappy, for his gills fluttered. I couldn’t tell, of course, by the expression on his face; as that never changed. Like all the rest of his kind, he had no facial muscles to reflect his moods.
“Come along, slaves!” he ordered, and led Kandar and me away.
It was not far from the slave market to Yron’s house, and we presently found ourselves in a large patio in the center of which was a pool about fifty feet wide and a hundred long. There were trees and shrubs and flowers and an expanse of lawn, all in the soft pastel shades of Amtorian verdure. Several slaves were pruning and trimming and cultivating, and there were three armed with wooden tridents standing like sentries about the pool. I noticed that these often glanced up at the sky. Naturally, I looked up also; but I saw nothing. Glancing into the pool, I saw a few fishes swimming about; but they did not interest me—then.
Some one had notified Yron that two new slaves had arrived; and presently he came out into the patio to inspect us, much as a gentleman farmer on Earth would inspect a couple of new cows or horses.
There was nothing distinctive about Yron, except that his trappings and weapons were more ornate than those of common warriors. He looked us over carefully, felt of our muscles, examined our teeth.
“A fine specimen,” he said, indicating me. “What did you have to pay for him?”
“Ten kloovol,” said the agent.
“They must have paid you to take this one, then,” he said, nodding toward Kandar.
I gave Kandar the laugh, then.
I think the agent was not very happy then. Casting about for an out, he said, “I was very fortunate. I got both these fine male slaves for three hundred sixty kloovol.”
“You mean to tell me you paid three hundred and fifty for that,” he yelled, pointing at Kandar, “when you could buy magnificent specimens like this for only ten?”
“Nobody wanted this one,” said the agent.”That is why I got it so cheap. No one else bid.”
“Why?” demanded Yron.
“Because he is insubordinate and dangerous. They had to tie his hands behind his back to keep him from killing people.”
Yron’s gills fluttered and flapped; and he blew, and he blew, and he blew, reminding me of the Big Bad Wolf in the Three Little Pigs. “So!” he fairly screamed. “So! you bought a dangerous slave that no one else would have, and you brought him here!”
“The auctioneer made me buy him,” pleaded the agent; “but if you don’t want him, I’ll kill him and repay you the ten kloovol.”
I laid my hand upon the butt of my pistol, and the agent saw the gesture.
“All right,” said Yron. “Kill him.”
I drew the pistol from its holster, and the agent changed his mind. “On second thought,” he said, “I’ll buy him from you and then resell him. Perhaps I can make some profit from him.”
“Listen,” I said to Yron, “this is all very foolish. If I am well treated and my friend here is well treated, I will kill no one.”
“And you will work for me and obey orders?” demanded Yron.
“As long as we are well treated,” I said.
“What is your name?”
Yron called to a funny looking little man whose mouth appeared to be beneath his chin. He looked like a shark. He was a sort of major domo. “Carson and Kandar,” said Yron, “will go to the ship the next time we sail; in the meantime keep them around the pool and let them guard the children; and as for you,” he shouted at the agent, “if this Carson causes any trouble, you’ll go to the ship;” then he came and examined me closely. “Where did you come from?” he demanded. “I never saw any of your kind who looked like you. I never saw anyone with yellow hair and gray eyes before.”
As there was no use trying to explain something to him that he couldn’t possibly understand, I simply told him that I came from a country far to the south.
“There is no country to the south,” he said, “only molten rock and fire;” so that settled that. Yron, the great noble, walked away and recentered his house.
The major domo approached us. He seemed to undulate toward us. Momentarily I expected to see him roll over on his back and bite somebody, so sharklike was his appearance. He handed us each a wooden trident.
“You will remain close to the pool,” he said, “until you are relieved. Let nothing harm the children. Let no one enter the pool other than Yron or one of his women. Be constantly on the lookout for guypals. Never forget that you are very fortunate to be in the service of so great a man as the noble Yron;” then he undulated away.
Kandar and I walked over beside the pool where the other three slaves were patrolling, and one of them instantly recognized Kandar and greeted him most respectfully. “You do not recognize me, of course,” he said. “I was a warrior in the bodyguard of Jantor, Jong of Japal, your father. My name is Artol. I am sorry to see a prince of Japal here. As I served your father, I will serve you in whatever way I can.”
“We are neither common warrior nor royal prince here,” said Kandar. “Let us serve one another.”
“Whatever you wish,” replied Artol, “but you are still my Prince.”
Kandar smiled and shrugged. “How came you here?” he asked.
So Artol told his story.