Welcome to chapter 24 of Arena of Souls, my new, Doc Savage-style, pulp adventure. A new chapter every week! If you missed the previous chapters, you can start at the beginning here:
Arena of Souls Chapter 24- The Traitor
Samman raised his arms, palms open and facing outward, above his head, and crossed his wrists. The burly Varri stared daggers at him before finally lowering his spear and motioning him forward. Samman lowered his hands but kept them visible. He could retrieve any of his three hidden knives and hurl one into the brute’s eye in a flash should the need arise.
“Talk to Krell,” he said simply. The Varri favored a simple vocabulary to go along with their limited imaginations, so the fewer words one used, the better.
The hulking figure nodded and indicated that Samman should lead the way. Just his ill fortune that he would stumble across one of the less idiotic of the primitive tribe. He was keenly aware of the spear just inches from his back. He felt fairly certain he could still kill the Varri if he had to, but it would be a close thing and he might suffer injury in the process.
Samman picked his way along the well-worn path that led to the cliff dwellings where the Varri made their homes. All around he heard the buzzing of insects and the distant cries of more sinister creatures. They passed through a sunlit clearing and he glanced up at the sky. High above, he saw the shadow of a predator on the wing and he keenly felt the absence of the protection the pyramid afforded his people. Perhaps he was close enough still for some effect to still be in play because the creature continued to soar, paying him and his escort no mind.
They arrived at the Varri home in short order. Here, the jungle had been cleared away from a sheer cliff face of yellow stone. The surface was pitted with caves that had been shaped and expanded by human hands, if the Varri were, in fact, human. Rough staircases wended their way up and down the cliff, and Varri of all ages milled about. A few of the primitives gazed at him with dull eyes that conveyed a touch of curiosity, but most looked away as soon as they spotted his approach. He was no stranger to this community, though his visits here were unknown to the people of Ogygia.
When he reached the mouth of Krell’s cave, he stopped just outside and waited to be acknowledged. Krell spotted him immediately, of course, but pretended to be unaware of Samman’s presence until what he considered to be a suitable time had passed. Finally, he invited Samman in with a single word.
A smoky fire warmed the cool, damp cave. Krell sat beside it on a thick fur, sharpening a stone knife. Samman knew the primitive’s attention span was brief, so he began speaking the moment he reached the circle of firelight.
“I need you.”
Krell tilted his head to the side and stared at Samman.
“Intruders in my home. My people let them stay. Intruders must be killed.”
Krell tilted his head farther until it rested on his shoulder, his gaze flat. His countenance conveyed a single question: Why should I care?
“My people must be punished,” Samman said. A spark of interest flared in Krell’s eyes, and Samman knew he had the brute’s interest. “You want food and women. You may take them from our valley one time.” He held up a single finger.
Krell climbed to his feet, muscle and sinew rippling in the firelight. He walked around the fire and stopped when he stood almost nose to nose with Samman. His breath smelled of the sour leaves the Varri loved to chew.
Samman’s spirits leapt. It was going to work! He opened his mouth and then closed it almost immediately, biting off the words before he uttered them. A flicker of self-doubt sparked in his mind as he imagined the toll this decision would make on his people, but he had no choice. For too long he had counseled against allowing outsiders into Ogygia. His people must experience firsthand the consequences of relaxing their vigilance. A Varri raiding party springing up in the middle of their valley would achieve just that. He would finally convince them to completely seal themselves off from the rest of the world. What’s more, the raid would provide the perfect cover for him to kill the outsiders whom the council insisted on coddling. It had to be done.
He swallowed hard, and spoke the words.
“I will let you in.”