The man and woman stood on the edge of the
precipice and gazed out into the infinite landscape. And the landscape
truly was infinite and unending; for this was Pellucidar, the world within
the Earth's hollow center. It was a world terribly vast, filled with mighty
oceans and continents, trackless jungles, imposing mountains, great rivers.
From where the man and his mate stood, the world stretched
curved up and away in every direction, the fantastic tapestry of great
forests and lofty mountain ranges, interwoven rivers, and the shining silver-grey
of huge bodies of water ascending gradually upward to be finally merged
out within the blue-blurry hazes of the distance.
And, of course, there was the sun!
A sun that appeared many times the size of
its surface counterpart, shedding its perpetual light upon this vast inner
realm, giving life to its infinite multitudes.
The mighty jungle below sounded with the eternal chorus
of a teaming infinitude of seething primeval fauna. Mammals birds and reptiles
great and small, representing all the myriad ages of surface prehistory
teemed throughout the lost world's breadth. From somewhere below came the
mighty rumble from the throat of a ryth, the mighty cave bear of the Pleistocene.
And, as though in answering challenge, the sounded from across the jungled
gorge, a deep-throated roar, culminating in a scream -- the roar of a tarag,
the gigantic cave-tiger, one of the most ferocious beasts of Pellucidar,
and mortal enemy of the ryth since time immemorial.
And from above scream of a thipdar, one of the giant pterodactyls
of the inner-earth, caused the girl to glance up in apprehension. For the
flying reptiles were deadly predators to all but the mightiest creatures
within the hollow earth, including the human and humanoid races.
“Ohhhhh”, said the young woman. “Clive, I am
most thankful to the gods to be your mate, and that I have you to protect
The man tightened his grip about her shapely
shoulders. “I am the one most blessed. For I have you as a mate. I could
not have asked the gods for a more beautiful and magnificent woman than
you. And don't worry about that thipdar. He's probably just warning other
male thipdars out of his airspace. It's his way of telling them it's his
hunting grounds, and to keep away from his harem over in those cliffs.
Just like I won't let any other man come between us.”
“I know.” She murmured, pillowing her child-like
head against his shoulder. “I now realize that I love you more than I could
have any other man that might have had me, Clive. I know that I am safe
for you. Not only form the thipdars and other beasts, but from the men
that would take Jahlanna against her will. The world is so full of such
men.” She added this last with a soft tone of dread and apprehension. “And
from what I have seen and heard or such men, they are most of them like
Blorg, chief of the Mulag. They would treat a girl such as Jahlanna very
roughly if she refused to submit to their wiles. Perhaps Jahlanna's great
beauty is her curse.”
She did not sound it was a curse she would willingly
give up, though, and this made Clive laugh. “If you beauty is a curse,
then it's one I can live with.”
They embraced each other tightly, and still locked within
one anther's arms, kissed long and passionately.
The young woman -- or girl for she was hardly more than
that -- was the nubile eighteen-year-old princess of the Nu-al tribe. She
was a full-fledged Pellucidaran princess, and like most inner world princesses,
she was very comely. Few women of the outer crust could come close to matching
her in face and form, and Jahlanna's face out shown the most celebrated
Hollywood starlet to grace the Silver Screen. She was the equal of any
of Pellucidar’s princesses in shapeliness, and surely surpassed most of
them in voluptuousness when it came to hip size. Clive had supposed the
reason for this for that such as Jahlanna represented a pure genetic lineage,
uncorrupted by weakened civilized generations that now teemed over the
surface of the earth. His friend, the noted scientist Alistair Simmons,
offered a more precise explanation: that many of the women of the inner
world were possessed of striking beauty and femininity because the need
to attract a mate was so vital within the world inside the earth. It brimmed
over with ferocious primordial beasts and warring tribes, and the lives
of the careless was often terminated quickly. In the race for survival,
the rule was to procure a mate as swiftly as possible, and the most comely
women attracted the most mates. A fair face meant youthfulness and vigor.
Large hips and small waist indicted a girl coming of age was fertile and
receptive. Lust took the reins as men battled brutishly to possess her.
From there nature took its course.
As for Jahlanna herself, she enjoyed most of the
attention -- for the most part anyway. She had been the apple her father's
eye since her birth, when, even as an infant her bright blue eyes, and
glossy raven tresses were evident. She was coddled and dotted upon growing
up as a child. When she hit the equivalent of her teens, she became the
object of rapturous attention by the tribal men and boys. Most of it was
nice, she thought. But it frightened her that men would battle brutishly
for her possession. The though of bashed skulls and bloodied limbs horrified
her, and often she had pleaded for them to stop. When this happened, she
was either ignored or sharply reprimanded for the fact that she was female
and could not understand the matters of men. Of course, such men were only
being very foolish, and Jahlanna knew it. Only a warrior brave enough to
kill a dangerous predator and lay its head at her small feet deserved to
take her as a mate. She had refused all attempts to woo her -- well, except
for one which she accepted partly out of curiosity.
But immediately afterward came the time when
Blorg, and his warriors had abducted her. Jahlanna had endured harsh treatment
at the hands of Blorg and his cronies. The brutal war-chief had slung the
young girl over his brawny shoulder and carried her what must have been
for many leagues. She had remained bound with rough leather thongs. While
the others made camp or hunted. If any of Blorg's cronies attempted to
touch her, of course, the chief cuffed him hard. At least one man was set
to watch her, at least. It was during one of these intervals, that Jahlanna
managed to trick the dull-witted man on guard and escape. The crafty girl
was able to elude her pursuers, and one point hiding beneath a fallen forest
giant. She had nearly reached the borders of her own country, guided by
that uncanny homing instinct common to all Pellucidarans, when a great
beast of prey, a tarap, had set upon her. The tarap is a carnivorous mammal
of the order creodonta, and it is the size of a modern pachyderm, and among
one of the most feared predators among the fauna of the inner-earth.
It was then that the young princess had crossed
paths with the surface man Clive Neville, and his companions. The girl
had been startled by his strange appearance and mannerisms, and his even
stranger-seeming comrades. But the three strangers had successfully slain
the tarap. True, Clive had not actually hacked off the beast's head, and
presented it to her, but such a heroic feat caused her girlish heart to
flutter with admiration. She would gladly have given herself to him even
then, though she restrained herself from showing it. These were strange
men after all, and most definitely not of her people. The furred, tailed
man -- who called himself a Baraboo, and the young of whose tribe were
supposedly raised in pouches on their mothers’ abdomen -- —frightened her
a little. He had to be one of the many strange and unknown races that were
reputed to exist within the fastness of Pellucidar. Often she had gazed
into the far-off dreaming horizons of her world, and wondered what strange
lands and adventures awaited her out there. Doubtless many other peoples
bedsides her own and the Mulag, their hereditary foes.
But the other two men claimed to have come
from another world entirely!
Someplace beyond Pellucidar where a smaller
sun ruled the land in a vast blue heavenscape called the sky. It travelled
across the sky, then sank below the flat horizon, leaving the land cloaked
in darkness -- only to rise once more flooding the land with its rays.
She remembered there had been rumors of such a world before among some
of her tribal elders -- —though there were none who really took it seriously.
Ever since the Mahars had come into her country, there had been rumors
of other surface men -- men who had driven the Mahars out of their native
lands. It had spread from tribe to tribe -- and perhaps from the Marhars,
as some of her tribe had learned it while captives of the Mulag -- that
these strange men claimed herald from another world, one that sounded similar
to Clive's land. These men reputedly had knowledge of weapons that could
shoot fire and kill their enemies from a distance -- similar to a remarkable
weapon that Clive possessed. Rumor had spread that in the far off land
of sari, they were mass producing such weapons of war. To Jahlanna and
her tribe, the Mahars seemed indomitable with their mighty jaws and wings
and vast metal powers. But if there truly were such men, and they were
manufacturing such weapons, then truly the Mahar race had foes worth reckoning.
But these rumors were very vague to say the least. Most
had learned the name of the far-off land of Sari, though not the names
of the men. And the whole concept of Clive Neville's surface realm caused
her mind to spin and reel. If her world was like a hollowed out gourd,
and his world was on the outside, then what kept its inhabitants from falling
off? Clive had once actually hollowed out a small gourd-like fruit, and
shown it to her as an example. It had later shown it to an audience of
village children. The youngsters had gasped in awe as Clive explained carefully
to them about the mechanics of the surface world. Jahlanna guessed that
the children accepted so willingly because they wanted to believe. Older
kids and adolescents mostly laughed, snickered, and turned away. And adults
stood back and appeared to consider it thoughtfully, but it was obvious
they too were very skeptical.
It was possible that all these surface world tales
were nonsense, and Clive was sick in the head. Maybe a branch had fallen
on him in his youth and done him permanent damage. But Jahlanna was beyond
caring. Clive had done more for her than save her from the tarap. He and
his friends had braved the Mulag cliff-city to ensure her safe return.
He had fought and killed Blorg in battle when the Mahars had pitted them
against each other. It was a feat Jahlanna would have scarcely thought
possible, even after the incident with the tarap. She would have been scared
out of her wits for him -- but Clive had accomplished it and that was more
than enough for her to accept him was a rightful mate. Then she and Clive
had been forced into a maze of death at the whim of the Mahar scientists
of Zhuma, where man and girl were forced to battle a fierce, hunger-crazed
varg, a long extinct gigantic counterpart to the modern wolverine. Clive
had tricked to beast into escaping and venting its fury on its masters.
Then they led a revolt against the reptilian lords of Zhuma, and overthrew
both them and the cruel Mulag. The captives of Zhuma were liberating and
Jahlana had returned home to her people, only now with a mate to call her
Her father, chief of the Nu-al, had given Clive and herself
her blessing, and they were “married” through a primitive ceremony. There
was much feasting and revelry among the Nu-al, both in the defeat and overthrowing
of not just one but two powerful enemies, but the wedding of the tribal
princess as well. Clive and Jahlanna spent the aftermath of the celebration
lovemaking in a special ceremonial hut -- though they had already made
love many a time while they were both captives of the Mahars.
Now Clive and his friends planned
to leave Nu-al behind and travel upriver into the vastness of Pellucidar.
From the rumors and tales told by the warriors of Nu-al, Clive and Simmons
knew in what direction Sari was supposed to lie, and Simmons believed that
he had pinpointed its location on his makeshift map. Though Jahlanna's
father offered to send forth his mightiest warriors to guide them, Clive
assured him that it would not be necessary for him to risk the lives of
any of their people.
“But you would risk my daughter, then, the one Nu-al
most precious to me.”
Clive blushed slightly. He had assumed, of course, that
since she was with him, Jahlanna would be safe. But it did seem foolish
to take fragile young girl along with him on what would undoubtedly be
a most peril-fraught journey.
“But I wish to go with him, father!” cried
Jahlanna, rushing to Clive, and grasping his arm. “You owe him so much,
since he saved me and liberated our people. ‘I owe you my daughter, the
most precious thing in the world to me!’ Those are you words, father. That's
what you said. Why shouldn't I go with my own mate when I wish it. I am
a grown woman now, father!”
Chief Morag scowled thoughtfully at them. “You
always had a way of persuasion, girl. It is against my better judgment,
but you are correct. It is not only that you use my own words against me.
By tribal law you must obey your new mate.” Then a fierce light came into
the chief's eyes, hardening his gaze. “Accept when it goes against
the wishes of the chief! I am still the chief, and both of you must stay
here! Besides, Clive Neville, we have need of such as you here. The war
with the Mahars may not be finished yet. Some may return and wreck havoc
on our village.”
“Alistair and I have instructed your men what
to do in the event that happens.” Clive answered. “But Nu-al is not my
home. We need to push on into other lands. I do not wish to endanger your
daughter. If she wishes, she may stay here. But she had expressed her wish
to accompany me, and I do not wish to leave here without her. I believe
you should let her decide. If she decides to accompany us, I can assure
you she will be under my protection, not to mention that of my two companions,
and we have more than proven ourselves in battle.”
The chief glowered at Clive, but appeared to consider
how his daughter might regard him if he did not allow her to remain with
the man she had fallen in love with. Finally, he said gruffly, “Jahlanna,
my daughter, feel free to go with your new mate. I would not keep you from
your newfound happiness with him.”
Jahlanna ran to her father and like a child
kissed him. “Oh, father, father, thank you!” He embraced her tenderly,
then returned her to Clive. Then he glared at the red-haired man sternly.
“But is anything at all should befall my daughter while she is under your
care -- I shall have your head impaled on spear to decorate the village
square, and your body will be thrown to the dogs!”
“I'll remember that.” Clive assured him.
Now, as they stood together on the cliff edge,
observing the majestic panorama sweeping out before them, Jahlanna said,
“if my father had refused, I would have run off with you.”
“Don't think for a moment I would have left without
you.” he assured her.