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Volume 1721

Jahlanna of Pellucidar
A 115,000-word novel
by
Sean Edward Phillips

.
Part I

   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.”

     “Which are?”

       “First, one of the Mahars is here in the village.”

      “What?”

        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 them.”

    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 us.”

     “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 him.

     “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 might change.

     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 blood.

    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 at them.

     “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” races.

    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 her consciousness.

    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 you.”

     “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.
 

Jahlanna of Pellucidar: ERBzine 1720



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