PART V: Chapters 17-20
AMONG THE OSSA
LUSTS OF THE HAZORNS
SEVENTEEN - HAZORN
I have seen many strange things, but the sight that beheld my
eyes then made me gasp. For I stood in a cave on the side of a steep
cliff. Facing me across the distance, another sheer cliff.
Running roughly northeast and southwest, I was in an immense steep valley,
perhaps two haads in width at its broadest and tens of haads in its length.
The valley floor was a lush carpet of green and blue, blankets of ivy and
moss climbed the walls. Above me, around me, the width of the
valley, its length and breadth were crossed and crisscrossed by a vast
webwork of green vines, some as thick as a Zitidars body, others as slender
as my finger. Birds flew everywhere. The air was jungle
moist, rich with the scents of life. Here, in one of the most
desolate regions of Barsoom, was a veritable primeval garden, such that
this world had not seen in eons. I was awestruck.
But even this was not the most remarkable of things. For
as I looked up, I saw that the top of the valley was roofed.
Great arches sprouted from the cliff walls and reached out into space,
meeting each other in the center, branching out, forking and thrusting
back towards the walls. From between the immense girders were
giant golden panels, through which a warm light spilled. I
had seen the towers of helium, the great dome of Panar, the citadel of
Jalur, and even the legendary face at ancient Horz. But I had
never seen a work to compare to this.
For whole minutes, I gazed about in wonderment.
Finally, I pulled myself away. For as remarkable as it was,
I had a mission. Azara was not here.
She’d returned with water and plants. Either I had
taken the wrong passage, or she had found a way down to the water.
I studied the sheer face of the cliff, spying a winding ledge. Yes,
she could have made it down that.
I looked straight down, judging the distance. I did
not fear the height. You cannot be a warrior on modern Barsoom and
fear heights, for you spend half your life on flyers. But I would
have given considerable for a flyer at this moment. I estimated
my height at to be least half a haad, and the height of the cliffs altogether
to be a full haad and more.
Carefully, I began my descent. Was this what had happened
to her, I wondered? Had she scaled this ledge a dozen times,
and then, perhaps growing overconfident, perhaps startled by a bird or
undone by a loose rock? Had she fallen to her death?
Was she beyond my help.
I dared not entertain such thoughts. She had to be
alive, I thought grimly. Carefully, I made my way.
As I negotiated the narrow ledge, my face was to the rock, and
thus, I did not see.
Something grabbed my hair, coiling it tight. Before I could
react, I was yanked out into the air. I screamed involuntarily.
My hair was released, and as I tumbled in the air, thousands of feet from
the ground, my ankle was grabbed. I swung about in a wide twisting
arc, and then was released. I had the impression of long gray shapes
all around me. Something slender but muscular caught my wrist,
elongated fingers wrapping double around it. The fingers, it
felt like there were a dozen of them belonged to a hand, which lead to
a wrist, at the end of an arm. I grabbed the arm, buying myself
a moment of stability.
“Ho,” a sonorous voice called from behind me, “it’s a quick one.”
I ignored the voice, my eyes focusing on the arm and following
its length up to an immense gray face, its features long and drooping.
It released me, but I just doubled my grip, it shook its arm to loose me.
“Come on,” the sonorous booming voice said, or perhaps it was
another. Something grabbed my leg and yanked, pulling me loose.
I had a glimpse of the gray being that had held me swinging away on a broad
arc, its arms and lengths impossibly long. I twisted, trying
to grab at the creature that held my legs, but it released me.
Another caught me by the back of my neck, and I thrashed. Suddenly,
I was dropped into a net, it wrapped around me. For a second,
I glimpsed a long drooping face, and then a club swung and I knew no more.
“So,” a sonorous voice announced, “the sleeper wakes.”
My head throbbed painfully, I did not bother even trying to pretend.
My position was uncomfortable, I felt twisted into a bundle and I had no
good temper. Struggling, I touched my hand to my head, fearing
that the wound Haja Obol had laid upon me had opened again.
I opened my eyes, to find myself looking through the loops of
a net at the valley floor, hundreds of feet down.
“What is your name, creature,” a booming voice asked.
I tried to turn, to focus on that voice. The net twisted and wound
slowly as I struggled. A half dozen gray beings were gathered around
me. Nauseau swept over me and I focused on one to settle my
It was human in the sense that it had two arms, two legs and a
face. But this gray being was the tallest human being I had
ever seen, taller even than a green man or white ape. Its arms and
legs were immensely long and then, each being twice the length of its head
and torso. If it should sit, it could have drawn its knees
up easily above its head. Its hands contained too many fingers,
each of them long and delicate, and its feet were merely short paddles
with elongated grasping toes. Everything about it was out of
proportion, its torso was expanded into a ridiculously broad chest.
Its face had a long drooping nose above a long chin.
Among its most remarkable features was a long tail-like appendage that
it used as a fifth hand. It, and the others depended from fines
or ropes, from which they swung in arcs or dangled.
These beings, I was sure, were unique upon the face of Barsoom,
and I was at their mercy.
I considered my options. I was outnumbered, helpless, dangling
a thousand feet in the air. Cursing them did not seem wise.
“My name is Torakar Thor,” I told them, “I am a wanderer, searching
for my friend, Azara. Have you seen her?”
They glanced at each other, surprised that I would dare to ask
“Two strangers! How remarkable,” one of them boomed.
“We have not, but the Valley is long. Perhaps if she is fortunate,
another Jed of the Hazorn has found your friend. If she is
not fortunate, then the Ossa have her.”
“You are of the Hazorn?” I asked. “Perhaps,
if she is with another Jed, you will take me there?”
At this, they commenced a sort of low honking which I learned
was their laughter.
“And double his wealth?” the one who spoke to me replied.
“No, little one, we shall bring you to our tribe. You shall have
many eggs for us, and with our blood enriched, we shall be the mightiest
tribe, I shall be made Jed and shall ascend to Jeddak of the Hazorn forevermore.”
With that, the loosed the net. My stomach, none too settled,
released its meager content. But instead of falling, the net was
only passed from hand to hand, quickly as a scalding rock.
This, I reflected, did not sound good.
The Hazorn, I learned, were the people of the sky.
Strange elongated beings that lived in villages on the cliff sides, or
in elaborate nests in the sky suspended from vast complexes of rope.
They lived on birds, as well as on fruits and berries that parasitically
festooned the webworks of ropes that spanned their valley.
As we travelled, I saw more Hazorn, presumably of the same tribe, working
along or among the networks of rope and vine, reminding me of nothing so
much as great long legged spiders. Finally, we came to a stop
near a rope village high in the sky.
“Noble Jeddak,” I addressed the one who had spoken to me.
“May I ask questions.”
He turned, his drooping face curving into what I realized was
“Perspicacious creature,” he congratulated himself, “I was wise
to have captured you. I am not yet Jed nor Jeddak. But soon
“How will you become Jed?”
“Why through you!” He replied. “You shall lay many
eggs for us, and thus our community shall be enriched. As your
master, my stature will grow among the headmen, and they shall have no
choice but to name me new Jed.”
“Unless the current Jed or some headman has found your Azara,”
he said, “in which case, I should try to pitch them both to the ground
I was to learn that being a Jed among the Hazorn was a shaky thing,
for each tribe and village had a dozen other headmen, each with his own
followers, and each covetting the title of Jed. There were,
I gathered, about thirty Jeds, who in theory formed the great council of
the valley, though from what I saw and heard, they did nothing but bicker
amongst themselves at every meeting. First among the Jeds,
either by election or right of strength, or some other basis of claim was
their Jeddak, whose main purpose I understood to be arguing with his Jeds
until sooner or later they grew fed up with him and chose another Jeddak
in some other fashion.
“But how can my blood enrich your tribe,” I asked. “Look
at me, my arms and legs are too short to be of use among these heights.”
“Ahh,” he said, “but we are clever and have thought of that.
You shall bear us hundreds of eggs, and each one that bears signs of your
deformities, we shall smash with a mallet. Thus, the only ones to
hatch shall bear every part of the form and nature of Hazorns.”
“So you want me to produce children for you,” I said incredulous,
“but the only children you will suffer to live will be ones with no trace
of me in them at all?”
“That is exactly right,” he said. “Indeed you are
clever. People will come and look and listen to you, and they
will say, ‘oh how clever she is, Hoolfo is great indeed to have her as
I was not so enthusiastic. I was to be nothing more
than a breeder for them, producing hundreds of eggs? Had they
left me my knife, I might have cut my own throat, for that would be a far
more desirable fate. These people were mad, I decided, and
I resolved to escape them as quickly as possible.
“You said Azara might be among you?”
“Indeed,” he said, “and if she is, I am sure we will hear about
it at tedious and trivial length. I do not approve, for it will surely
detract from the telling of the thrilling adventure which was your capture,
but that is how it falls. We will make the best, you and I.
I am sure that between us, everyone will forget your Hazara.
I can hardly wait to make eggs upon your body.”
I smiled at him, as if I could find nothing but pleasure in being
rutted by this stringy gray beast and his friends.
“You said the Ossa might have her?”
“Ho,” he replied, “if they have her, she is lost indeed.
The Hazorn are the blessed people, when this world died, we made this valley
so that we could shelter forevermore. But into our our paradise,
into the fruit of our labour, came a worm to steal our pleasure.
The evil and villainous Ossa stole into the valley, usurping our works
and robbing us of the floor below.
I did not know it then, but it was the Ossa who had taken Azara.
EIGHTEEN -- AZARA AMONG THE OSSA
The Ossa, for indeed she was to learn that was the name of the
race of creature which had abducted her, dragged her beneath the water.
Like all Barsoomians, she had never learned the art of swimming, and so
she had opened her mouth to scream and taken a deep breath of water.
She thrashed in shock, and thought she would surely die.
But the Ossa swam swiftly, even with a struggling burden, before
blackness claimed her, she found herself thrust up into air.
Choking, she heaved and vomited up lungfuls of water. Gasping
and coughing on her knees, a picture of misery.
“Silly creature,” a deep but unmistakably feminine voice said,
“you can’t breath water, unless you are a fish. And you do
not look like a fish.”
She looked up then, and saw that she was in a large room, dimly
lit with crawling things that glowed with luminousity, as they made their
way along the walls. She was surrounded by creatures much like
the one that kidnapped her. Their faces were similar, so she could
not tell them apart. Like their heads, the bodies were covered with
sleek fur, their bodies were long and sinuous, but their arms and legs
were oddly short.
Before her, there was a throne, and upon the throne sat a being,
clearly female to Azara’s eyes, except taller than the others and grossly
fat. It regarded her with intelligent eyes, shining in the
“Does it look like a fish?” the Ossa Queen repeated.
It’s advisors tittered.
“She does not look like a fish at all!”
“Silly creature, thinks she’s a fish!”
“Try and breath underwater, only fish can do that!”
“She looks like a Hazorn,” one advisor giggled.
They all went silent. Azara gathered that whatever
a Hazorn was, it was not a good thing.
“Are you a Hazorn,” the Queen asked sternly.
“My noble and illustrious queen,” Azara began, for she had taken
the measure of the situation, and had grown up schooled in diplomacy, “I
cannot be a Hazorn, for I do not even know what a Hazorn is!”
“Well, that’s no proof,” sniffed the Queen.
“Indeed, it is not any kind of proof,” agreed Azara, “it is an
obstacle. My Queen’s wisdom far surpasses my poor lot.
While I do not disagree in any way with her Majesty, I must say that not
knowing what it is, I am sorely put to be one.”
“What a funny little creature you are,” she said.
“You are too small for a Hazorn, and not gray enough. Perhaps you
are a baby Hazorn.”
“That may be, your Majesty,” Azara replied, “but I think I have
reached my full growth.”
“You might grow.”
“Indeed, your Majesty, I am prepared to wait and see.”
“Hmmph,” the Queen pouted, the conversation did not seem to be
going the way she felt it should. “What sort of creature are
“I am merely a humble wanderer from a city named Aztor.”
“I’ve never heard of it. I should think if it had
been at all important or grand, I would know all about it.”
“Aztor is a small and modest place,” Azara replied, “compared
to the glory of Your Majesty’s rule.”
“This is only obvious,” the Queen said. “I am amused,
we shall let it live for a time. Until it grows a bit, and we see
whether it will become a Hazorn.”
Azara’s curiosity got the better of her.
”What are these awful Hazorn?” she asked finally.
“You do not know?” The queen was astonished.
“Surely Aztor is the most miserable and worthless collection of mud huts,
and its inhabitants the sorriest and most be nighted of people.
You do not know the Hazorn? Look up.”
Azara looked up at the ceiling of the chamber, seeing only packed
mud and woven branches.
“No, no, foolish creature!” The Queen told her. “Look
up with your mind. When this world was dying, only we Ossa
had the foresight to see the end. United with our common purpose,
we came together to build the roof that shields our sacred valley.
A paradise we had made for ourselves. But then, like a serpent,
the Hazorn came, infiltrating into our valley and taking away our sky,
like the thieves they are!”
For myself, I was learning the ways of the Hazorn, and I will
confess, I did not like them much.
I hung in a twisting net in the floating village, my stomach turning
regular cycles. Had I anything left in my stomach, I would
have given it up hours ago. I noticed a Hazorn watching me.
“Hey you,” I called, “tie my net at least, so that I can at least
cease this awful spinning.”
“Gorbarba says not to touch you,” he said, “else you escape.”
“Escape? I cannot even stand. Brace me, or I
shall surely die.”
“He won’t like it,” the Hazorn said. I had the impression
that this was a youth among them.
“He’ll like it less if I die,” I replied.
He seemed to think that over.
“Okay,” he agreed. “Hold on.”
With spiderlike grace, he advanced towards me, pulling himself
hand over prehensile feet, over tail-like appendage, in a sort of cartwheel
along the rope lines that seemed to run everywhere. His huge
hand wrapped in the loops of my net and pulled it effortlessly, securing
it to the side of what seemed to be a floating hut.
“Yes, thank you,” I said.
“You said Gorbaba?” I asked.
“It is the headman who holds you.”
“I thought I heard another name, Hoolfa.”
“Hoolfamalama,” the boy corrected. “Yes, he was a small
headman, he thought to ally himself with Gorbaba.”
“What happened to him.”
“He had an accident.”
“What sort of accident?”
“The usual sort.”
I digested that for a few minutes.
“My name is Tora Kar Thor.”
“That’s a very strange name: Gorbabor” he replied,
completely mispronouncing me. “My name is Hubavaba.”
“I’m pleased to meet you, Hubavaba,” I felt a little superiority
in having been able to pronounce his name correctly. “You are
a follower of Gorbaba?”
“For now?” Was there something here I could use.
“You are naked,” he said.
“Yes, I am.”
“Do you mind if I move? I know it is rude not to talk to
your face, but there are other parts of you I would like to look at.”
“Please yourself,” I replied, “so long as you talk to me.
I have not had anyone to talk to.”
“Is Gorbaba cruel to you?” I asked.
“Not especially,” he replied. “But he is weak and impotent.
We have heard all his boasting about how he will get a hundred eggs from
you, and share you for a hundred more from his followers. But I think
he is bragging, he has not gotten an egg from a real woman in years.”
“So he will share me with his followers?”
“Well, after he gets his eggs. But that will never happen.
If he was sensible, he would give you to us to get eggs, but then he would
lose status, and someone might challenge him for headman.”
“I see his problem.”
“He will probably just give up after a while, and then say you
are barren, and pitch you over the side.”
“That doesn’t sound good.”
He thought about it.
“No, not from your point of view.”
“What if another took me?”
“Oh, he would never allow that. If someone else took you
and got an egg, then he would lose face.”
“But you should not worry about that,” he said. “You will
likely be dead long before that.”
“Because Gorbaba has you, and so he threatens the Jed and the
other head men. To remove the threat, one of them will surely kill
“Even if they do not, then one of the Jeds from the rich villages
on the cliff face will hear of it, and they will kill you.
Just think, you might even be killed by the Jeddak.”
This conversation was decidedly monotonous.
“What about you?” I asked. “Do you have any reason to kill
“Me?” he asked, surprised. “I am too unimportant
to need to kill anyone.”
And there, our conversation drew to a close. He settled
down to staring at parts of my naked anatomy that normally I would object
to being stared at. But I had bigger things to think about.
“Hubavaba,” I said finally, “has anyone ever escaped from here?”
“Where would they go?” he asked. “There is nothing
but other Jeds who will enslave or kill you, or the Ossa who will simply
eat you. It is only Hazorn and Ossa.”
“There is nothing outside,” he said with the utter confidence
“I am from the outside,” I told him.
“I do not believe that.”
“Well, I’m not a Hazorn,” he said.
“And I’m not an Ossa, whatever that is.”
“Well, if I’m not Hazorn, and not Ossa, then where am I from?”
He thought about that.
“I’m not sure. Maybe you are just a deformed, shaved
Ossa. You could be an evil trick they are playing on us.
Maybe we should kill you.”
He pushed my net, and it swung out into empty space.
Then he gave a shriek of fear.
“Oberhoblo is coming,” he whispered. “He is the Jed,
he will kill us both.”
With that, he fled.
A grey whiskered Hazorn appeared in my view. Things
just kept getting worse and worse. Weakly, I struggled within my
net. The grey creature merely stared at me.
“Gorbaba is dead!” he announced, reaching for me.
NINETEEN -- THE LUSTS OF THE HAZORNS
“You are mine now,” he exulted, pulling me towards him.
His tail-like member prodded at the net holding me.
“What happened to Gorbaba?” I asked.
“He fell and died.”
“From a fall?”
“It was a long fall.”
“How did he fall?”
“Why did he trip?”
“He was not paying attention.”
“Probably, he was distracted because his head hurt, I heard him
complain of it.”
“Why did his head hurt.”
“He hit it on a rock.”
“The rock was high up, in the air. Rocks fly sometimes.”
“The rock flew?”
“Remarkable, is it not.”
“Someone threw it?”
“Well,” dismissively, “that can be one way a rock might fly, but
surely it narrows possibilities.”
“Why didn’t he catch himself?”
“Well,” Oberhoblo said, “it was a remarkable thing.”
“His fingers fell off.”
“They fell off?”
“Completely! One moment they were attached to his
hands, the next minute, they had fallen off, and so he lost his grip.”
“As if someone had chopped them off?”
“Why do we speak of such depressing subjects. Gorbaba is
dead, and as his closest friend, it falls to me to safeguard his property
and his memory. Spread your legs please, I’m sure he would
have wanted this.”
He had pulled the net up onto a hammock of vines by this time,
and I will tell you, it felt like he had as many hands as he had fingers,
they were everywhere.
“Wait!” I said, “I cannot give you an egg!”
He paused, staring down at me.
“Well then, what use are you?”
“I can only lay eggs on the fifteenth rise of the sun.”
“I’ve never heard of such a thing!”
“All woman of Az are like me,” I told him. “Have you
never been with a woman of Az?”
“Of course I have!” He bragged. “Dozens of them.”
“Then you know its true.”
“Oh,” he said, neatly caught in his own lie. “I knew that,
it had just slipped my mind.”
He thought it over, and commenced to paw me again.
“Well, we can get started now.”
“No,” I said, “for if I am entered before the appointed time,
my womb will poison the member of any male who takes me, and their organ
shall turn green, run with pus, shrivel up and be forever barren.”
“Shrivel?” He asked. “That doesn’t sound good.
How do I know you are not lying?”
“Because you know all about women of Az, having had so many.”
“That’s true,” he said suspiciously, but it was clear he wasn’t
“And,” I added, “because I was ready to let Gorbaba have me.”
“I did not care if Gorbaba’s member shriveled up and ran with
pus,” I said. “Who could tell the difference anyway.”
“Hmmm,” he said thinking it over, “you have a point. I would
not care either. But I would care very much if it was me.”
“How many rises before you can be put in egg?”
I did some fast thinking. Too few, and he’d be all
over me. Too many, and he would decide to chance it.
“Nine,” I said.
“Huff!” he said, “I’m disappointed.”
“As am I.”
“Well, I don’t intend to shrivel. You can’t trick me like
Gorbaba. He was an ignoramus, but I know all about women of
“I could not trick a Jed such as yourself,” I replied.
“I should say not. Soon I will be a Jeddak, and even
harder to trick.”
“I know how,” I said cunningly, “you might get eggs twice as fast,
and become a Jeddak even sooner.”
“I have a friend, Azara, she is very fertile, she lays many eggs.
Why, every time I turn around, there she is, laying another egg.
We always have to keep moving, she fills the place up with eggs, you can’t
even move around after a while.”
“She sounds very fertile.”
“Yes she is.”
“Much more fertile than you.”
“I’m very fertile too,” I said quickly.
“Hmmm,” he said, “where is this Azara?”
“I don’t know, she is lost in this valley.”
“Then she’s of no use, some other Jed has her. Or if not
them, then the Ossa possess her.”
“But you could find out where she is, could you not?”
“If she’s among the Hazorn, yes. But why should I
“You know the secret of Az fertility. Azara too is on a
cycle, until she is ready, every man who has her will shrivel.”
“Then I can acquire her cheaply!” He picked up the bait
I let out for him. “I have an excellent idea. I shall find
her, if she is among us.”
He went off to search for me. Hopefully, he would
spread the word, and Azara and I would be safe for a few days.
I didn’t want to spend more than a few days here. Hopefully,
I would recover my strength, learn the way of this place, understand these
people, find Azara, and escape.
My net slipped. I clung to the side of a monstrous
vine. No problem, I thought sarcastically.
A short distance away, the young Hazorn approached again.
“Hey you,” I said, embarrassed that I had forgotten his name,
“Oberhoblo said you must get me out of this net and take me to a hut to
rest. Also, he said to get me food.”
The Hazorn hastily scrambled to do my bidding.
This was my acquaintance with the Hazorn, and in the next few
days, I will say that in my life, I have never encountered a stranger people.
Often I would watch them climbing in and among their networks of vines
and ropes, using five limbs, casually indifferent to up and down, this
way and that. It was a marvel. In their natural
habitat, they were strangely graceful and beautiful.
Of course, sooner or later, one of them would come over and start
talking, and that would ruin it all. The Hazorn were, without
a doubt, the stupidest, most obstinately ignorant, petty, self absorbed,
bigoted people I have ever met. The only thing remarkable about
them was the ability to believe in two completely contradictory wrong things
at once. Most people can only cling to one wrong belief at
“You are from the outside,” one would say to me.
“There is nothing outside, it is an empty airless desert.”
“Then where did I come from?”
“You are from the outside.”
My being an outsider did not, in a whit, disturb their theory
as to what was out there. Moreover, they were utterly incurious
about me, or about anything that did not relate to their petty concerns.
They cared, and thought, only of their endless personal petty games of
status over one another, and in fact, if they were not afraid of appearing
weakened among their neighbors, they would not have bothered to eat or
drink, and would have happily starved to death scheming against their rivals.
I learned a bit of my own value to them. The Hazorn were
seriously inbred, and many of their eggs never hatched, or were born deformed.
The physically defective were killed, of course, but at times it was difficult
to spot a mental deficiency. Thus, the Hazorn had come to their present
state, and were desperate for new blood.
I quickly learned that Azara was not among the Hazorn.
Which meant, I supposed, that she was among the Ossa. Unless,
of course, she had broken her neck in a fall in the caves, or was trapped
in some pit, but I did not wish to think of that. Still, even
if she was with the Ossa, that complicated matters.
“We hate the Ossa,” Oberhabla told me.
I paused and let the throbbing go down in my temples.
Talking to Hazorn would tend to have that effect on me.
“Why do you hate the Ossa?”
He looked at me like I was mad. “That question makes no
I tried again, asking about the Ossa.
“We are at war with the Ossa,” Oberhobla told me.
They hated the Ossa, apparently because they just did. They
were at war with the Ossa, but that war consisted mostly of dropping stones
and excrement whenever they got around to it.
“Someday,” Oberhobla told me, “we will kill all the Ossa and take
their valley floor.”
I didn’t see that happening any time soon, but bit my tongue.
“Do you want the valley floor.”
“No!” He said, “It’s a terrible place, who would want to
live there? You make no sense!”
“Then why do you want their valley floor?”
“Why, so they will not have it!”
See what I mean? I had never met anyone like the Hazorn,
though I must admit, that since that time, I have met many people who thought
or talked like the Hazorn. It was ironic that a people so annoying
should inhabit such a beautiful and fertile place. But this is life,
I suppose. Paradise is always ruined by other people.
The sun rose and fell, and with each day, Oberhobla became bolder
and more pressing. But my strength returned, and I learned to carefully
navigate the vines. Azara was out there, and she needed
Somehow, I would have to escape these Hazorn, I had no idea how,
and then make my way to the Ossa, find my Azara and escape this wretched
place. I had no idea how to do this, casting plans and
Then one day, Oberhobla, appeared, accompanied by a select group
of a hundred of his most loyal men. With great enthusiasm,
he grabbed me, holding me up in the air and announced.
“It is the ninth rise of the sun ! Spread your legs,
it is time for you to lay eggs!”
TWENTY -- TORA’S REFUSAL
I waited until Oberhobla’s face was right up close to me, and
then I swung and punched him in the face with all my strength, and I have
He reeled back, falling to the edge of the network of vines that
supported this spiderweb village. For a second, it looked like
he would tumble over. But his hand reached out, a multitude
of elongated fingers twining in vegetable matter, then another hand, and
then his tail and foot and he was safe.
I cursed their remarkable agility. No wonder Gorbaba had
had to have his fingers chopped off.
“What was that about?” Oberhobla shouted, more startled
than angry. There was a scattered titter among his followers,
but a quick glare silenced them.
“I do not want to have sex with you,” I told him primly.
“I shall not bear your eggs.”
He took this with more equanimity than I credited him.
“Oh well,” he said, “then in that case, you are useless to me.
I shall just throw you over the side for embarrassing me in this way.”
“You shall not,” I replied.
“Why not?” he asked with something like genuine curiosity.
“Will you reconsider?”
“No,” I said, “I shall bear Furhohay’s eggs.”
Furhohay was, with Gorbaba’s unfortunate accident, now the leading
headman and most immediate rival to the Jed. You see, I had
taken some time out to learn a little bit of the politics of this village,
and of the Hazorn nation.
Well, this did it, he could bear an assault with indifference.
But a political slight? That was too much.. Oberhobla turned
a shade of grayish purple and screamed with rage.
“Traitor,” he said, advancing towards me with prominent menace,
“I shall kill you immediately, and Furhohay may gnash his teeth.”
“You shall not,” I said confidently, “for Furhohay’s men are all
around you and will stop you. They only wait for you to try, so that
they may, with justice, fall upon you and kill you.”
That stopped him.
“These men are loyal to me!” he screamed.
“Only one in three are loyal to you, the rest have gone to Furhohay
and are lying in order to trap you into your fatal mistake.”
Now the Hazorn began to look at each other askance.
The Jed demanded an accounting from the assembled crowd. Every single
one of them pledged his devout loyalty to Oberhobla. Each Hazorn
warrior found himself increasingly nervous as he pledged, each new protestation
of loyalty was more dramatic. By the time the last of them
spit on Furhohay’s name, compared the Jed’s rival to various forms of mold
and speculated on his sexual attraction to lower beasts, whilst glorifying
Oberhobla in the most extravagant terms, the Jed was completely unstrung.
“Well?” he demanded of me.
“Didn’t I tell you?” I said. “Everyone can see the
situation as clear as day. Many of those who were loyal to
you have considered their position even as they swore your oaths.
Your men are probably outnumbered ten to one by now. This is a trap,
and you and your last foolish followers have entered it.”
“Nonsense,” he said without conviction.
He glared around at his followers, each of whom was nervously
checking out their neighbors. Then, he did the only thing a
Hazorn could do.
He jumped over the side to his death.
Admittedly, I was surprised by that. I assumed that he would
find some way to bluff his way back out of a confrontation, and that the
village would be torn between him and Furhohay. I’d hoped to profit
by playing them off against each other. Unfortunately for him,
I had convinced Oberhobla that his kingdom had been stolen out from under
him, and so he had taken the only way out that his sort of mind could see.
I cannot say that I would miss him, or that I cared very much.
Keeping all expression from my face, I addressed Oberhobla’s men,
who were now all secretly planning to see Furhohay as quickly as possible
to pledge their allegiance behind their comrades backs.
“Go to Furhohay,” I told no one in particular, “tell him that
his plan was a great success, and that within a few days he shall be ready
to commence the other parts of his great plan.”
“What great plan is that?” asked a timorous voice.
“Clearly, you are one of Oberhobla’s few,” I said, “if you do
not know what the great plan is.”
There was a mutter of forced laughter, as many in the crowd tried
to chuckle at this ignorant fool, and thus give the impression that they
were privy to Furhohay’s great plan.
“I know the plan,” one, a little swifter than the others, announced
confidently. I had to smile. He was bluffing of course,
either he realized it was all nonsense, or he proposed to get on the bandwagon
“Then you know of Furhohay’s plans to end the war with the Ossa,
conquer all the other Jeds, become the greatest Jeddak in the history of
the Hazorn, construct a great city in the sky, and to make each one here
the equal of a Jed.”
There was a collective drawing of breaths. I paused.
Was there any other lunatic task I could set out? Turn wine into
water? Reverse the course of gravity? No, I thought.
This was sufficient. Best not to go too far.
“Now go, Furhohay says he will come to attend me in one
day, and orders that I not be disturbed on pain of dismemberment,” I commanded.
They couldn’t clear out fast enough.
I contemplated the empty square, where Oberhobla had thought to
consummate his triumph and only found his doom. Perhaps I could
get used to this place. In a year, I might make myself Jeddara.
But then I shook my head. It would be a special kind of hell
to rule a nation of Hazorns, and in any case, I needed to find my Azara.
Azara found herself examined by all the learned savants of the
Ossa. By and large, it was not a pleasant experience, she found
herself poked and prodded in ways that were most undignified, and a large
variety of very strangely shaped object were inserted in a number of ways
into a variety of orifices, including some she hardly knew she possessed.
The Ossa were exacting to a punctilious degree. One, for
instance, occupied himself solely with counting the number of times she
blinked. Another took a continual series of measurements of
the distance between her knee and her elbow as she changed posture.
Finally, Azara became frustrated.
“What is the purpose of these things?” she protested, as a rather
uncomfortable curving object was inserted further inside her than she had
ever imagined anything going.
“We are to determine whether you are a Hazorn,” an Ossa replied
“How..... Agh.... does this procedure prove I am or
am not a Hazorn?” she demanded.
“We don’t know.”
“What do you mean?” she grunted.
“We’ve never done this to a Hazorn, so we cannot determine if
you do or do not conform to Hazorn physiognomy on this particular point.”
“Then what is the point?” Azara snapped, for although she had
the patience of mountains, several hours of prodding and probing had worn
it to a very thin thread which was on the point of snapping.
“Well,” said the Ossa, “it is the collection of data, which is
an end in itself. If we collect enough data, then surely patterns
shall make themselves known.”
“We Ossa,” another bragged, “are great collectors of data.
If you wish to know how many sneezes were expressed 123 years ago, I could
look it up for you right now.”
He beamed expectantly, for in fact, this Ossa had that morning
stumbled over the record of sneezes which had been mislaid in the compendiums
of historical records of eyeblinks, and thus was dying to show off his
trove of esoteric nonsense. He’d been trying to work it into
the conversation all day.
Instead, Azara kicked him in the face, an action that caused more
startlement than injury, since even in rage, she was a gentle creature.
She stood up, pushing the curious Ossa away, and pulled a variety of probes
from a variety of orifices. Then, standing there naked and
enraged, she announced:
“This is not the way civilized beings should treat even the lowest
among them. How dare you abuse a stranger to your land in such a
Thereupon, she stalked off to a corner of the room, leaving the
Ossa blinking in puzzlement, all except for one happy individual who had
recorded an absolute treasure trove of elbow to knee measurements during
“Is this typical Hazorn behaviour?” one of them asked.
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