Clive and Jahlanna walked back to the village of the Nu-al
in each other’s arms.
Clive often thought of the human races
of Pellucidar as “cave people”, as they were roughly equivalent to the
Cro-Magnon of the outer earth, even though technically Jahlanna’s tribe
now lived in a spacious village and had graduated from the stone to the
bronze age. Everywhere among the Nu-al there was activity. Kids played
in the village streets, or went about the menial chores assigned to them
by their elders. Women wove baskets and rugs and made pottery and jewelry.
Elderly men and women tanned hides and cleaned fish along with some of
the children. Everyone had a place within the Nu-al tribe, and all were
valued and cared for from birth to death. Clive had heard that the Mulag
had more cruel customs, and allowed the elderly to die, and slaughtered
infants that were unwanted, or were born with even a slight physical deformity.
Fortunately, when the Nu-al had turned the tables on the Mulag, and captured
a great many of their number, none of the Mulag children were slaughtered,
and all were being cared for in a more just society than they would have
otherwise. Would the children of the Mulag remain loyal to their adopted
tribe? Clive believed that most would, hopefully all, though he had little
doubt that some problems would arise when certain of them came of age.
“Ho, friend Clive.”
Clive and his mate looked
up to see Tarok, a fierce and loyal young warrior of the tribe approach
him. Some of his fellow warriors were, at that moment, bearing the carcass
of newly killed oxhyena, a Miocene carnivore, tied to a pole. The animals’
coat was gorgeously spotted, and it was doubtless slain for the purpose
of providing a rug for the chief’s hut. Two more warriors bore a body of
a deer-like syntheoceras, doubtless to provide food for the tribe.
Tarok approached Clive and clapped him on the shoulder.
“Hunting has gone well for us.” he said.
“Yes, I can see.” Clive answered.
“Do you and your she still intend to set out
for the land of Sari. I am still not certain if the country is not a myth.”
“I’ve thought about that myself. “Clive was somewhat
amused by this, as he had once supposed the entire inner world of Pelluicdar
to be a myth. “But if you came with us, I think we would both discover
that it is no myth , but a very real country. Alistair and I have
good reason to believe that the Mahars truly came from there.”
“Ha! Funny you should mention it Clive. For
I have two things to share with you.”
“First, one of the Mahars is here
in the village.”
Tarok grinned. “Yes, you
heard me correctly, Clive. “She is one of the refugees form Zhuma. She
was injured in the battle, and we caught her as she was fleeing. My warriors
and I did it during out hunting.”
Jahlanna drew a slight gasp of astonishment.
“How did you manage to do it?” Clive
asked. He was more than aware of the Mahars’ tremendous mental powers.
Even not considering their ferocious teeth and talons, the winged saurians
were incredibly dangerous.
“One of her wings was injured. So, naturally
we took advantage of her predicament when we happened upon her. She tried
to fend us off with her natural weapons. She also used her mind-powers
on us. But fortunately Lorak and Tharn had two of the magic stones with
These were strange crystals that the Mahar scientists
had developed in order for humans to control the mighty thipdars. As servitors
to the Mahars, the Mulag had domesticated the mighty thipdars, the gigantic
pterodactyls of Pelluicdar. They Mulag tribesmen had then used their beasts
of burden to terrorize the other tribes of the region, in particular the
Nu-al who were their hereditary enemies. The Nu-al tribe had gained possession
of a number of the stones following the revolution. They had experimented
with them, seeing if their effects worked on other humans or on animals
they hunted. Unfortunately, they appeared to have been designed to work
on pterosaurian brains only. This was probably because had the Mulag learned
to use them on other humans, or the inhuman groags or sagoths, chaos would
have resulted among the Mahars’ servants. The mahars were collectively
too powerful for the crystals to have any effect on, but apparently Tarok
and his comrades had been able to overwhelm a single specimen.
“Where is the Mahar?” Clive asked.
“I shall take you to her.” Tarok answered.
“She has asked to speak with you directly.”
Why would the Mahar demand an audience with
me? Clive wondered.
“I do not know why,” answered Tarok, as though
reading Clive’s thoughts. “But she spoke with our minds and told us she
wished to speak with the red-haired stranger.”
Just then, a village boy who looked in his
early teens approached. Clive recognized him as Jarn, the boy who had helped
them defeat the Mahar Tah-ru and to escape from the city. Jarn grinned
broadly up at them.
Clive was about to give the lad a friendly greeting when
Tarok said, “What do you want, boy?” After the sacking of Zhuma, the entire
tribe had treated Jarn like a hero for the part he had played. The boy’s
peers had thrilled to Jarn’s tale of how he had escaped a Mulag warrior
and flew to Zhuma on the man’s thipdar. And as for Jarn, the boy couldn’t
help taking advantage of the situation, getting out of his chores for a
total of seven wakes and sleeps, and basking in the light of his newfound
fame. But before long, his hero status began to wear off, especially considering
how much he was exploiting it. It became obvious to Clive that the boy
was not held in very high regard by many of the village adults, who were
quick to describe Jarn with terms such as “lazy” and “shiftless”, not to
mention a “poor influence” on the other village youth.
“I wanted to ask Clive if he and his friends are
ready.” Jarn said.
“Ready for what?” Tarok snapped.
“For the journey to Sari.” Jarn said.
“That is none of your concern. Why are you
not repairing the village wall with the other boys? Did you sneak off again?”
“But I need to know when we are leaving.”
Tarok did not miss the boy’s use of the word
“we”. He scowled at Jarn. “You are well aware that you cannot come with
“But you’re going.” Jarn reasoned. “I helped
defeat the Mulag. That means you have to let me come.”
“It means no such thing. We are going to be
responsible for any youngsters.”
”But I am a hero now. Remember, Tarok?
You said so yourself.”
“Back to your chores, boy—now, before I speak
to the elders about you!” Tarok’s face had gone red. Clive was slightly
amused by the boy’s well-placed attempt to use Tarok’s own words against
“Jarn,” Jahlanna said suddenly in a sweet voice.
“You are a hero to the village, even they don’t let you come. You are especially
a hero to me. Remember how you rode the thipdar to Mulag and tried to rescue
me? I know you spoke the truth, even if the others don’t.”
For once, the smooth-talking boy looked tongue-tied.
Jarn began to blush slightly at the prospect of the lovely princess actually
speaking to him in such a manner, though it was evident he was striving
mightily to hold it back. Noting this, Jahlanna bent her lovely face and,
taking the Jarn’s head in her hands planted a brief but firm kiss squarely
on the boy’s mouth.
Unable to restrain himself, Jarn foolishly
blushed vivid red. The pre-pubescent boy’s eyes turned up dizzily. “Whooo!”
he breathed, before dashing off to brag to the other boys about the incident.
Clive laughed heartily. “I think we’ve seen
the last of him for a while. Tarok, I don’t think he’ll give us any more
trouble about going along.”
“Don’t be too certain, my friend. You don’t
know Jarn like I do. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.”
“You mean you think he’ll try to sneak off?”
Tarok grinned at him. “I certainly would not
put that past him. But I will make certain the elders keep a very close
watch on our friend Jarn.”
“I bwlieve Jahlanna has already taken care
of him. At least for a while. Pretty girls have a way with pre-teen boys.”
Clive said, as they made their way toward where the Mahar was held captive.
He almost asked Tarok if perhaps he was being a bit harsh about refusing
the boy. Part of Clive had Jarn’s sympathies. In his youth, he had always
been an adventurous lad; he still largely was. That was why he had taken
a job for National Geographic. And that, of course was what had led directly
to their expedition north, and their entry to Pellucidar. And certainly
this world at the earth’s core was an adventurer’s heaven. Jarn had little
to look forward to besides chores if he remained here in the village, and
Clive couldn’t really blame the lad for hating it. But on the other hand,
he didn’t want to have to look after any youngsters on such a dangerous
journey any more than Tarok did. It would be difficult enough protecting
themselves and his mate from danger without having an irresponsible kid
along. Then he thought of something Jarn had said.
“Was the boy telling the truth?”
“About what? With Jarn, it’s hard to tell.”
“About you going with us.”
“Chief Zog believes you are in need of at least
one strong warrior to guide you, at least to edge of the Korsar sea, which
lies seven leagues to the west of here. My people are familiar with these
lands—you are not. But he did not wish to force any man to endanger himself
on such a journey, so he asked for volunteers. I was the first, and he
chose me specifically as you and I have been through much together.”
“Then I’m honored that you will be accompanying
us.” Clive said. “But inwardly, there was part of him that doubted whether
Tarok had volunteered solely on the basis of friendship. He knew of course,
how Tarok used to feel about Jahlanna. He had already defeated Tarok once
in mate battle. But even then, Tarok had hinted that he might try and take
Jahlanna for himself. Since then, it was true that he had hardly spoken
directly to the girl, and had not even looked at her much. Somehow that
did not ease Clive’s feelings. It was as if Tarok was purposefully avoiding
as much contact as possible with the girl he had formerly desired as his
mate more than anything. And now Tarok had “volunteered” to accompany them
to Sari. Doubtless, the long trek would offer him many opportunities to
get close to the girl. Clive doubted very much that Tarok was capable of
any open treachery. But he equally doubted he would have volunteered if
it weren’t for Jahlanna. He thought that Tarok was seriously waiting for
the opportunity for a rematch.
And what about the girl? Did Jahlanna
have any feelings for her own for Tarok? Clive was suddenly shocked
that he hadn’t even thought of that before now. Why wouldn’t she? Tarok
was well-built, sleekly muscled warrior with handsome features and bronzed
flesh. And now that he thought about it, it seemed that he had noticed
Jahlanna casting admiring glances Tarok’s way on occasion—especially it
seemed when Clive did not appear to be looking. It was true that Jahlaana
had professed her love only for him, he did not doubt her sincerity. But
in the course of whatever adventures and hardships awaited them, circumstances
They entered the area of the village that Prof.
Simmons had committed to his Paleontological research. It was a large
tent erected near the rear of the village, close to the south wall. What
Clive immediately noticed was that another huge tent had been erected next
to it. They entered the professor’s tent. Simmons had several long wooden
tables set up, upon which he was conducting his experiments.
On one were a large collection of leaves, flowers,
pods and other samples of the native flora, spread out and arranged according
to Order and Phyla. Another had samples taken form the native fauna— assorted
skins, feathers, skulls, teeth and bones, most of it taken from smaller
animals. Some of the specimens had been supplied by warriors and youth
of the Nu-al, others Simmons himself had managed to procure by combing
the outskirts of the village. On another table, the professor had set up
a number of plastic test tubes, beakers and vials, and syringes, all of
which had come form the laboratories of Zhuma. One rack of test tubes held
what appeared to be blood samples. The professor himself sat studiously
before another table peering at a sample from the lense of a Mahar microscope.
Tethered to a nearby post was an example of the orthopi, one of the dimunitive
ancestors of modern equines, which Professor Simmons considered to be the
eohippus. The tiny horse was sleeping in the innocent manner of small animals,
its legs tucked beneath it, head curled to its flank. Tethered to
another post was another animal, a small bidpedal dinosaur, which stood
on its hind limbs in a remarkably birdlike manner. Its scaled boy was a
deep blue-green in color, its lizard-ish head filled with razory teeth.
It appeared to be eyeing the orthopi hungrily, and when it snapped its
head around at the intruders it hissed shrilly at them.
Professor Simmons looked up from his study.
“Clive, my boy.” he said. “This is truly phenomenal,
what I’ve discovered here! This land is a paleontologist’s dream come true.
To think of all the time scientists like myself were content to excavate
fossilized old bones, when the living counterparts were thriving, in this
incredible world, literally beneath our very feet.”
“I should think so.” Clive said.
“And it’s not just the “living fossils,” mind you,
though they are far thrilling enough. In just what I would gage to be a
week’s time, I’ve discovered at least twelve—and possibly more—species
endemic to this very region that are absolutely unknown from anything in
the fossil record! For example, you notice those feathers on that table
over yonder? I’ve got them arranged as best I can according to species.
I have been supplied with a few skulls as well. You can see that they are
avian—or at least avian-like. But all of them have teeth, which undoubtedly
proves their relation to the archaeopteryx, the celebrated link between
reptiles and modern birds. But these skulls show definite variation, proving
the existence of many species of reptile-bird, not just one. The feathers
are even more remarkable indicating at least one entire family. I could
go on and on, I suppose, but I wouldn’t want to bore you. Suffice to say
that these Mahar made implements have proven extremely useful, especially
in examining tissue and blood samples.”
“What is it you are looking at now?”
The professor grinned, the smile of a child who just
has happened upon something wonderful. “This is the most remarkable sample
of all. A blood specimen of a very remarkable species of pterosaur. I was
a bit leery of actually obtaining it of course. But remember we had those
mind-crystals on hand, and I was able to take it without difficulty.”
Clive was astonished. “Are you saying that’s
a sample of Mahar blood?”
“That is precisely what I saying. They warriors
just captured one while you and the young miss were out enjoying yourselves.
We have her right here in that other tent. I’ve been waiting to show you.”
“I have already informed Clive of the monster’s
capture.” Tarok said. “In fact, that is chiefly why we are here.”
“Allow me.” said Simmons, getting up from behind
his makeshift desk. They followed the professor out of the tent and across
the village street. Some laughing, playing children giggled shrilly and
raced out their way. Clive noticed that the tent which held the Mahar was
guarded by two stern-faced Nu-al warriors. They obviously had ordered not
to allow just anyone entry.
Clive felt Jahlanna stiffen close to him. The girl’s
fingers tightened around his, and he felt her shudder.
The warriors withdrew their spears as they saw Simmons
and the others approach. Clive and Tarok were both now respected warriors
of the people, and of course they recognized the chief’s daughter at once.
Simmons drew up the tent flap and they entered. Again Jahlanna shuddered,
for she dreaded and hated the Mahar, and besides, she had the characteristic
feminine loathing for all things reptilian.
The interior of the tent did nothing to allay
her fears, for it somehow appeared cloaked in darker shadow than the professor’s
work tent. Since a child, she had always hated the dark, whether it was
the dark in the deep of caves, of the deepest gloom of the forest. And,
of course, there was her recent and most mind-numbing experience with the
shudder some gorags amid the caverns beneath Zhuma. She horridly recalled
her encounter with the deepest, most impenetrable darkness she had ever
imagined within those tunnels, and then her meeting with the groags themselves….
Not more than a few yards from
them across the dirt floor, hunched the monstrous captive. The foul winged
reptile was slouched forward in the gloom like some loathsome gargoyle,
her monstrous wings folded demon-like at her sides, her beaked visage like
that of some hideous saurian vulture. The thing’s eyes burned redly at
the gilaks as they approached like twin lakes of hot poison. Jahlanna gasped
and clutched tightly to her mate’s shoulder, her pretty nails nearly drawing
They approached the huge sentient reptile cautiously.
The hellish reptilian slits burned malevolently down upon them. Just
in time, Clive reminded himself not to look into the reptile’s gaze. He
pulled his eyes away, instinctively covering the eyes of his mate as well.
What had he seen in that gaze? It wasn’t easy to discern what cold emotion
might be lurking within the alien visage of a reptile, but he could almost
swear he’d glimpsed a stab of pure hatred in that crimson stare.
“It wasn’t exactly easy drawing her blood,”
the professor was explaining, a trifle too nonchalantly. "I believe she
resented having lesser beings such as ourselves obtain a scientific sample
from her. But I’ve been comparing her red blood cells with those of the
closest related species, the rhamphorynchus of the lower Jurrassic. And
I can tell you, my boy, that they are indeed remarkably similar—"
Clive wasn’t really listening. Nor was Jahlanna.
Nor was Tarok, who, like all other warriors of Nu-al hated the Mahar race
with about as bitter and intense loathing as possible. “We should not keep
this thing alive, friend Alistair” Tarok said. ‘When we captured her, I
thought it was a mighty feat, for none have ever captured one of Mahar
before. But we should kill the thing now, before it can do us harm.”
“Rubbish!” said Simmons. “We’ve made certain she
cannot escape, remeber? And she’s beyond harming anyone, so long as we
have the mind-crystals.”
“I still do not trust this beast. We should
kill it, before it kills us.”
“Yes,” Jahlanna agreed, “We should kill
it. It would do the same to us, if given the chance.”
“I assure you, my boy, and you too, girl, that
it cannot do so.”
Tarok gave the professor a coldly serious stare.
“Certainly it would not hesitate to kill us if it could, for there can
be naught be enmity between these monsters and ourselves. What about its
mind-powers? Even if does not use them to harm us it might use them to
signal others of its own kind, or perhaps sagoths or groags! Imagine if
a flock of these monsters were to descend on our village!”
The professor began to reply, but stopped
short, the words catching in his throat. And Clive realized suddenly that
Tarok was right; why hadn’t they considered that possibility before?
And then a mind-numbing wave of mental current
hit each of them, causing them to jump. An alien, oily seeming voice
invaded their minds—the voice of the Mahar.
All of them stood rooted and numb while they listened helplessly.
Foolish gilaks! The young warrior is right—you
should have killed me while you had the chance. But now it is too late,
for I have already sent my brain waves forth to summon others of my kind.
But they do not seek to harm this pitiful gilak village. Oh no! We need
not bother with it. Why should the Mahar race concern itself with the burrows
of beasts? And I am expendible—my sisters will let me die if they must.
Red-Hair, one who led the raid on our city, I have probed your mind and
found its secrets! I know that you and the one called Simmons are from
a world far, far above our heads. The scientists of Zhuma have long regarded
the place as a myth and a rumor—though a few have explored the possible
physics of such a world and found it to be at least theoretically possible.
When our ancestors fled to this continent, we took with us knowledge of
David Innes, the usurper who supposedly heralded for a world beyond our
own, and who drove us from lands that were rightfully ours. None
of us had ever read his mind, but now, upon examining you, we know the
truth of that realm. We know about your intentions to reach Sari.
And now your journey will be monitored closely. But more importantly, you
and the professor have given Tah-ru the great ruler of our emporer the
means to invade the surface world. We now have glimpses of your surface
technology, and out scientists shall build upon it. Soon your entire race
will be subjected as the animals you were created to be. So kill me if
you will! It will do you no good.
The numbing mind-messages suddenly ceased, and Clive
and his companions felt their neurons fairly sigh in relief.
The Mahar had fallen silent. It only glowered horridly
“Why are you telling us this?” Clive demanded,
bracing his mind for a reply, perhaps even an angry metal-blast. But there
with none, only a hateful silence, punctuated only by the steady rise and
fall of the thing’s sides as it breathed.
A Mahar invasion of the surface? Clive didn’t
think it seemed possible. Especially in light of the fact that the Mahars
were too few in number. They might seem formidable with their wings and
terrifying mental powers, but once united, even a few tribes of cave-people
had managed to over through their rule more than once. But somehow he got
a dread feeling in the pit of his stomach that this time it would be different.
Something the Mahar had said about technology.
But it wasn’t just that that had unnerved him. He
had gotten the clear impression that this particular Mahar represented
the worst among her kind. It was not that she was a member of cruel race
that the Pellucidaran natives naturally looked upon as monstrous. As a
sentient race, there were possibly some among the Mahar that could be persuaded
to be more liberal minded in regard to their treatment of the “lesser”
But not this creature. She had only spoken within
Clive’s brain for a few seconds, but Clive had gotten a few vague impressions
of his own. One was that this Mahar was not among Zhuma’s scientists. It
had not received a clear impression whatever office she might have held
within the city, but he got the idea that she had been a kind of chancellor
or something along those lines. But mostly, his impression had been one
of pure, overwhelming evil, more so than any other member of her race whose
mind had touched his.
Suddenly, Jahlanna screamed.
Clive started back. He gripped the girl’s shoulders
and shook her.
Jahlanna continued to wail. “My mind! She’s
in my mind!”
Clive turned hatefully upon the Mahar. But he had
no weapon with which to defend his mate against the sentient reptilian’s
horrid mental onslaught. He had not his pistol, nor even a spear to use
against the beast.
But Tarok did. Gripping his spear, the
warrior charged the mighty reptile, and drove the point of his bronze-bladed
upon deep into the Mahar’s heaving breast. A horrid shriek erupted from
the beast’s fanged jaws before she collapsed in death.
Hatefully, Tarok yanked his spear from the dead saurian, its bronze
head now beslimed with reptilian gore.
“You did not need to do that!” Simmons said.
“”We had the mind-crystals.”
“The monster could have ruined the girl’s mind!”
Tarok said angerly. “Would you have the princess of Nu-al live out her
life as a drooling idiot? I’ve seen the Mahars do that to slaves who have
displeased them in some manner, gilaks and sagoths both!”
The professor opened his mouth to reply but found
he could not. “I…I’m sorry. To all of you! I suppose you are right.”
The look in Clive’s gaze told the professor of his agreement
with what Tarok had said. Jahlanna had pillowed her head against his breast,
and was sobbing terribly. “I don’t know you to thank you for acting as
you did.” Clive told him. “But I have an idea the beast attacked her hoping
you would do it. Jahlanna is the only female here. The monster doubtless
understands enough about our behavior that she figured by attacking her,
she could get us to react in her defense.”
“Even if that is so,” growled Tarok. “I’m glad
to have put the beast out of our misery as well as her own.”
Clive nodded in mutual agreement.
Sometime late in the village’s “sleep”
period, Jahlanna lay in the new hut that she shared with her mate.
Some small, unobtrusive noise had caused
the girl to come suddenly awake. She had since recovered from the Mahars
mental attack. But the memory would live long with her. It was the first
time in her life she had experience such an attack directly. She had heard
of the Mahars horrifying powers, of course, and the effects they could
have upon their victims. It had been like a bolt of ice stabbing through
She saw that Clive was still sleeping on the woven
mat next to her—soundly it seemed.
What had awakened her? Perhaps it was a small sound—perhaps
it was a woman’s sixth sense.
In any event, she looked toward the front of the
hut. She drew a small short gasp when she Tarok standing there.
“Oh!” she said. “Tarok! I did not at
first see you.” Then she remembered that Tarok had guard duty. Then what
was he doing here? It doubly puzzled her since she had not spoken with
Tarok since she and Clive had become mates.
“I ask your pardon, princess. I did not wish to alarm
“What is it? Is the village under attack?.”
“No indeed, my love. I came only to speak with you.”
“Then take care how you speak. You flatter your princess,
but remember that Jahlanna already has a mate. So do not ask her to become
yours. You must find another.”
"So you have found a mate? Then stay with him. For
now. Times will change, my sweet. You believe you are in love with the
red-haired stranger. But I have seen that look in your lovely eyes. You
have feelings for another."
“What other could Jahlanna desire?”
Tarok smiled. “That other is me. Do not deny it.
I have seen you glance in my direction.”
“Tarok lies!” exclaimed the girl, indignantly. “I
do not love him. I only love Clive, my mate, who rescued me from Zhuma.
And I might remind you that he defeated Tarok in mate-battle.”
She expected him to become angry. Instead, a smile
creased the warrior’s not unhandsome face. “Times will change.” Then he
turned and left.