ringing of the bells of Beng-Kishi. I am glad I do not go to the pearl fisheries of Tancrophor.”
This Brokelsh was sold with others to a Notor who owned many kools of land in Methydria. Other slaves were sold, and then it was my turn. I spent less than a day in the Sorah barracoon and I took no pride from the price I brought. I had taken one simple precaution during the ritual questioning of my abilities. I lied. I said I knew nothing of swords and battles and fighting, and whether or not the record-keeping Kataki believed me, I do not know. But he sold me to an agent from Hamal buying workers for the Heavenly Mines.
You have probably heard it said more than once that if you can keep your head when others all around you are losing theirs, then maybe you do not fully understand the situation.
There were two brothers, two apims, fine young men with strong shoulders and sinewy backs. When the understanding hit them that they were sold to the Heavenly Mines, they looked into each other’s eyes and, with a previous arrangement clearly agreed between them, placed their hands on each other’s throats. The two brothers stood there, facing each other, gazing one at the other in brotherly love, and choked each other to death. Guards bustled through with their balass sticks lashing and dragged the two apart. The finger-marks glared lividly upon their throats. One of the brothers was dead. The other was revived, and when he realized what had happened he sat in a ball, his hands over his head, crooning. He had become insane, and if I thought that would disqualify him from laboring in the mines of Hamal I was mistaken. This young man, Agilis, was taken out with the rest of us to the waiting fliers.
Many of us fought. The guards brought their balass sticks down viciously now, now that we were sold. I kept a wary lookout for Reterhan, but I did not see him — luckily for him.
“Treat them carefully, you onkers!” The agent from Hamal, a Rapa, screeched at the Kataki guards, and he tried to protect his merchandise without letting them beat him over the head. I joined in. After all, I knew the outcome of this; the slaves would be battered into submission and be dragged aboard the fliers. But I admit I wanted to get in a few whacks before that.
A surprised Kataki felt his tail pulled, and as he swung toward me, roaring, I took the balass stick away and clouted him over the head with it. Then I jumped into the melee.
Well, foolish as I was then, and stark stupid as I am now if I still recall some pleasure in laying about me at those evil Kataki faces, I feel only a little shame in saying that I enjoyed thwacking that long ebony stick down and stretching a few of the aragorn senseless.
We fought in a small enclosure at the side of the main barracoon, with a lenk-wood fence beyond. The gates were closed and the fliers from Hamal waited, hovering, to pick us up. The thought of escape flashed across my mind with considerable shock. At once I began to fight in earnest, bashing now with intent and working my way through to the nearest flier. But, as I have said, the Kataki are good man-managers, like so many of the aragorn and slave-masters I have met on Kregen.
At a raucous shout the fliers lifted out of reach, and reinforcements of Katakis pounded into the small enclave. They must have gone through this scene or similar scenes a hundred times. I guessed they did not bother to practice a deception on the slaves and tell them nothing of their destination because they wished to enjoy the sufferings and anticipatory horror of the slaves. I saw at last that any further joyous slashing and bashing would get nowhere and so I tripped a Kataki, kicked him in the belly, hurdled his screeching form, and dived into the safe shadows by the lenk fence.
When it was all over I walked out, unruffled.
I, Dray Prescot, had stood calmly and watched a fight going on and made no further effort to interfere — and that, mark you, a fight between slaves