Erbzine.com Homepage
Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site
Since 1996 ~ Over 10,000 Web Pages in Archive
Volume 1722a

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

.
Part V

     Lu-Gor sat down dazed on the log that the boy and girl had been sitting on a moment before. His poor, damaged nose still throbbed with scarlet agony. The whelp had quite possibly broken it. What he would do to Jarn when he caught him! He would make the boy beg for his life before he killed him. And he would make the girl watch. That would teach her that he was fit to become her mate, and not a man to be trifled with. He imagined her throwing her arms about him, her lips ravishing his, after he had pounded Jarn to a pulp.

    How she had ever fallen for a slacker-brat like Jarn in the first place was beyond him. But soon she would realize her mistake. He thought of pursuing them now, trying to pick up their trail on the other side of the river. But by the time he did, they were bound to be far from here already, and they doubtless intended to put O-lar as far behind them as they could. And there were dangerous beasts in the forest, like the tarags the ryths, not to mention the great carnivorous reptiles. No, Lu-Gor reasoned, he dared not pursue them alone, for he was only a lone warrior.  This required a large party.

    There would be no problem in assembling one, he realized. He already had Queen Nuvia’s ear. And he had easily persuaded her to marry him to Jarla, once the girl had struck his fancy. The girl despised him, recognized him for the coward that even Lu-Gor himself realized that he was. But the queen was very much on Lu-Gor’s side, as Lu-gor was the son of two of the greatest warriors in the village. To-lar and Zhara, both veteran warriors had mated and produce many strong children, most of them brave as well. But somehow Lu-Gor, even though he was their first born and favorite, was very unlike the rest. He had been oversized even as a child, and used his size to intimidate and bully other village children. He was stronger than most other village boys, but those who were able to test his courage found it utterly lacking. Lu-Gor avoided bullying boys his own size naturally. But he was no dullard, and always found ways to scheme or cheat others to get his own way whenever he could. He was unfailingly loyal to the Queen—at least he pretended to be. And when he came of age, he made certain that he observed all tribal rites and rituals, flawlessly. When the time came for Lu-Gor’s test of manhood, he had formulated excuses up until this time, when he was the rough equivalent of eighteen, for he terribly feared taking on one of dreaded beasts of prey single-handedly. He avoided accompanying even parties of armed warriors whenever he could. Nuvia at first granted him privilege over the other youths, but at last Lu-Gor was forced to go.

      Still, most had high hopes for Lu-Gor, as he was the first born of such honored parentage. All of his younger siblings had already succeeded admirably. And Lu-Gor was now an imposing and broad-shouldered man. But those who knew Lu-Gor whispered secretly behind his back that the man was likely to panic and run on his test—and subsequently be killed. Some warriors even put up bits of shells and bits of carved bone as to whether Lu-Gor would return to the village alive.

    Lu-Gor himself dreaded encountering a tarag or ryth, and began formulating a plan with which he might be able to fake his death, and then flee form O-lar to some other land. Yes… that would not be a bad idea. If he could pull that off, make it look like the beast had killed him, he would be mourned as a hero in the village. Then he could find the carcass of one of the great beasts, and take it some other village, where none knew him, and claim he had killed it. He was huge and hulking, and it would be without difficulty he could get others to respect him and treat him well. They would think it wise to accept him, as such powerful warriors as himself were always in demand, even if he were a stranger.

    They had gone for about a league through the forest without encountering any dangerous wildlife. Then, seeking better luck, they changed course and entered the vast plains region to the south. They had not ventured far out onto the plain when an enormous stampede ensued. It started slowly at first, with small animals like plains-hares and rodents. Then the antelope, red deer, and then even the largest species-- the mighty tua, great primordial stags whose magnificent racks spanned twelve feet. The mighty thags, or aurochs, and even the mighty plains thag, a giant species of wooly bison with mighty sweeping horns began to charge across the plains their hooves shaking the earth with their thunder.  Finally, even the mighty tandor and the maj were fleeing, apparently for their lives. They bellowed mightily as they thundered over the plain, joined even by the few species of great herbivorous saurians.

    The warriors of O-lar had seen such stampedes before. They were usually the result of a large hunting pack of tarags, the great saber-toothed tigers, which in unison could overwhelm even the largest grass-eaters. But what made this particular stampede exceptional-and unnerving-was that even the predators were fleeing along with their prey, including the mighty tarag themselves. There are few things within the inner earth that are cause of a tarag to flee, and the O-lar did not welcome the sight. Occasionally, such stampedes were the result of brush fires, but they could see no plumes of smoke rising in the distance, nor could they make out the slightest tinge or arcid smoke on the sweetly blowing breeze.

    Immediately, the warriors knew what they were facing.

    “It is the zarith.” said O-lag, a bushy bearded man who was their leader ominously. “The largest flesh-eater.”

    O-lag was a veteran warrior, and had seen this phenomenon once before. The zarith were rare within the inner earth. Their numbers were few for the necessity that they would destroy all other life within Pellucidar had they existed in large numbers.

     “What shall we do?” asked Tor-lar, Lu-Gor’s father.

     “The same as the animals. We run. We must run now, or all may be lost.”

     The O-lar ran, still skirting the edge of the herds, away from the bulk of the thundering horde of primordial behemoths.

     But then it happened. One of the bull tandors trumpeted in agony. The great predatory saurian was already among them, and had selected its target for the kill. The target was an aged bull, not quite as fleet as the rest. The tyrannosaurus lunged down upon it, felling it with one mighty bird-clawed foot. Then the tyrant lizard commenced to devour its still-living victim, gouging out a great slab of juicy mammoth-meat with its great jaws. The tandor screamed again in terror and agony, curling its mighty trunk into the air. The strength of eleven men resided within that trunk, but even this could avail it not.  It attempted to gore its reptilian foe with sweeping tusks, but the dinosaur was already ripping loose another scarlet-dripping chunk from the animal’s flank, feasting while its hapless prey was still alive. The tandor collapsed in a welter of its own life-fluid, drenching the dense plains-grass crimson. The zarith bolted down the slab of mammoth meat, then through back its hideous head and bellowed in ghastly triumph at the misty sky.

      The drama had occurred less than one hundred feet from the massed warriors. The zarith’s unearthly scream yet rang in their ears. They stared in horrified wonder as the monster began once more to feast.

     The other inhabitants of the plains had calmed and gone back to their incessant grazing.

     “Move back slowly.” said O-lag, in a soft though commanding voice. “We must do nothing to disturb the beast. Let him feast, and we will leave him alone.”
    The party of warriors began to back up, though all of them faced the zarith, spears at the ready, in case the beast attacked.

     Then a terrible scream sounded out. It was Lu-Gor.

     The young man had been in a state of shock at the sight of this beast, unable even to cry out. Then his terror overwhelmed him, and he could no longer contain it.
    Lu-Gor broke form the party and ran, screaming very loudly, in the direction of the distant trees.

    At first, the tyrannosaurus took no notice, still preoccupied with his feast of tandor-flesh.

   But then its blunt, reptilian muzzle rose from its kill, as it caught the scream, and then the sight, of the lone man-thing fleeing across the plains. The zarith began to lumber in pursuit, its great strides making the ground shudder. The beast was drawn more out of curiosity than hunger, though the O-lar were naturally fearing the beast would snatch up the unfortunate Lu-Gor as an extra appetizer.

    The great zarith strode through the thick grass in the wake of the fleeing caveman. The reptile was not particularly fast, but its stride was gigantic, clearly capable of overtaking Lu-Gor in short order.

     Fortunately for Lu-Gor, he was able to reach the distant trees before the monster. Perhaps if the he had managed to get a head start on the beast, it might have numbered back to enjoy its feast. But the reptilian brain is scarcely capable of containing one thought at a time. And with the zarith already gaining, its Volkswagen-sized head already lowered and mighty-fanged already starting to gap in hideous and frightful anticipation, it crashed on into the trees after him. Lu-Gor ran on, his brawny arms flung out in front of him, as the tyrannosaur crashed forward in pursuit of its hapless mammalian prey, its mighty bulk snapping the trees in it path to flinders.

    At last Lu-Gor, realizing he would soon be gobbled up, through himself into the mold of the forest floor, and curled up, knees against his chest, whimpering.

    The massive scram of the zarith filled his mind. The screaming and bellowing continued on and on. Finally, through the haze of his own terror, Lu-gor realized that the monster was screaming out its death agonies, and he ventured to look.

    The zarith had somehow managed to skewer itself through the belly-plates on the massive end of a fallen tree. The great mossy log was propped upon another at an angle, its end had worn to a point that was nearly dagger-sharp. Like a massive Ttian’s spear it had slain the primordial dragon. Only the beast had not the capacity to yet realize it. It writhed and flailed, crashing more trees and saplings around it, screaming like a steam-engine gone mad. At long last the beast’s throes ceased, and Lu-Gor, still quaking, got to his feet.

    The O-lar had already found him. They had gathered at the side of the body of giant reptile. All were gaping at Lu-Gor in a mixture of amazement and awe.

    “Never have the O-lar witnessed such a mighty feat.” said one man.

    “Yes,” answered another. “At first we took your flight from the zarith for cowardice but we now see you intended to lure him into this trap.”

      “You made the beast impale himself on a tree.”

     Some of the other warriors were looking skeptical though, and O-Lag was scowling openly.

    But Lu-Gor then realized his opportunity and seized on it. “The beast did not fall on the tree. I ran to lure him into the woods, yes. But only so that I could find a heavy log with which to kill him. I lifted the log which pierced the beast’s heart! But he almost had me, in another moment--”

   A great cheer went up from the warriors. The female warriors were now gazing at Lu-Gor in admiration. And the male warriors were clapping him on the back in open comradery. Most of them anyway. Some were still not entirely convinced his flight from the zarith had all been a ruse. And O-lag still looked skeptical.  But  they returned to the O-lar village with Lu-Gor’s story, along with great steaks of zarith flesh which were supposedly Lu-Gor’s kill.  It grew even wilder in the re-telling, and soon practically everyone in O-lar was believing Lu-Gor’s tale.

    He had been an even greater favorite of the queen after that. Except that Lu-Gor sometimes suspected that the queen had some misgivings about the story underneath.

      Lu-Gor returned to the O-lar village. The other men and boys moved out of his way as he made his way toward the hut of Queen Nuvia. Some of them whispered to each other when they saw that Lu-Gor’s nose had been damaged. But they all knew better to laugh at him or insult him openly.

    At last Lu-Gor reached the hut, and demanded the two guards admit him. He stalked into the large hut.

    Queen Nuvia of O-Lar reclined majestically upon her throne of saurian bones. A stuffed pterodactyl crowned the throne, its stiff lether pinions outspread. The queen was in the equivalent of her late twenties, still lithe, and athletic as were all warrior women. The queen tossed her abundant auburn tresses, then fixed her imperial gaze on Lu-Gor. The fiery green eyes in her lovely though savage face spit fire at him as she regarded him with an air of cold haughtiness.

    Observing this, Lu-Gor felt his heart sink. “My queen…” he began.

     “I see someone has damaged your face, Lu-gor.” Queen Nuvia observed. “I hope this is not because Lu-gor is not such a mighty warrior as believed.”
      Lu-gor gulped, blushing fiercely. Never before had Nuvia spoken to him in this manner. He cleared his throat with some difficulty, then began. “It is a matter of much importance, my queen. It is your niece, the girl Jarla.”

    “Yes. I already promised you the girl.”

     "Of course. You see, that Nu-al boy was here. He is in O-lar now—"

     The queens eyes sparked with rage. “What! Jarn? Jarn of Nu-al? That little slacker boy my niece took a likening to?”

     Lu-gor was relieved. If Nuvia knew Jarn had fled with her niece, she would be putty in his hands.

     “Yes! Jarn! That is the lad’s name. He was with Jarla! I found them sitting together outside the village. I tried to stop them, but the boy escaped me, and he took your niece with you!” His tone was now one of feigned urgency, for he cared nothing for Nuvia herself, or Jarla either, other than that she would be his mate.

     He expected the queen to side with him immediately, but instead the queen only gave him a cold and half-mocking smile.

     “And I don’t suppose he’s the one who did that to you?”

     “He..uh…well, he did, but I was trying to restrain him from taking the girl, you see, and—"

    “How could such a brave strong warrior such as Lu-Gor be overwhelmed by a mere stripling?”

    Lu-Gor blushed scathingly crimson. He realized he should never have admitted it was the boy you had broken his nose. But it was too late now.

    “He is small, and quicker than I!” the man stammered. “I tried to grab him, but—"

   Nuvia waved long-fingered hand to silence him. “No matter about your precious nose. I am certain that even the bravest of warriors has difficult situations. But my concern is that you did not stop him! She is to be your mate, Lu-Gor! If they escape, it will be your fault if my niece ends up with that Nu-al whelp!” Her tone was now one of deadly fury. “Were you not a trusted warrior, and the son of the bravest of O-lar, I would have you killed, and your head decorating a pike outside my hut!”

     Lu-Gor had fallen to his knees. “Please, my queen! The boy outwitted me, or I would have killed him!”

     “Then do not try my patience again! I will give you a chance, Lu-Gor. Since you need badly to gain my good graces once more, you can make this up by leading our warriors to return my Jarla to me!”

     Vast relief flooded through Lu-Gor. He scrambled to his feet, thanking his queen and pouring out blessings.

     “Guards!” cried Nuvia imperiously. “Rouse our other warriors! Now!!”


    By this time, Jarn and Jarla had traversed deep within the jungles to the north of O-lar. Jarn was certain what would happen if he were to return to Nu-al. Ju-Kar, though he did not relish the idea of the girl’s marriage to Lu-Gor, would doubtless send her home. And doubtless the Nu-al would be alerted anyway. For the moment, he knew they must concentrate on outdistancing their pursuers, even if it took them both into regions unknown. It would not take Nuvia’s warriors to pick up their trail.

   Traveling in a northeasterly fashion, they found themselves heading into the deepest, most secluded portions of the great jungle. They kept to most remote jungle trails as they could, scurrying through the emerald depths of the mighty forest, under the bulks of fallen forest giants, and through winding, narrow ravines.

   Finally, exhausted and out of breath, they sat down on a rock in a deep creek basin. They had already ventured far, having not stopped to rest until now, and were by this time deep within the vast wilderness. Both boy and girl realized that they needed more than rest; they would have to find food of some kind, and they would need to sleep soon. And this meant they would need to make weapons to kill their own meat, and would have to find a place of shelter for resting where their pursuers could not find them.

      “Maybe they’re not following us.” said Jarn, “I haven’t heard any sign of them.”

      “They are following.” said Jarla. “Nuvia will not give up once she learns I am with you. And her beast trackers have undoubtedly picked up our trail.”
    Jarn looked around them. They were deep within territory that unfamiliar to him.  Strange hoots and shrieks sounded throughout the gloomy aisles. He strained his ears into the distance, but could pick up no sounds indicating pursuit.

     “Do you think we’re safe here?”

     “For a while perhaps. But we need to lose them.”

    “We’ll cross this stream” Jarn said. “Then find another, and cross it. Then we’ll rub out our tracks. That will fool them.”

     “I doubt it. Nuvia’s trackers are not that easily fooled. We might lose them for a time, but not forever.”

      “Then what do you suggest?” the boy asked, slightly irritated. “That we give up?”

    Jarla appear to consider this for a moment, then shook her head. “No. There is no pointed in returning to O-lar. I will not be Lu-Gor’s mate. You already know how much I despise him, so there is no point pretending.”

      “What then?”

      “I think we should cover our tracks, and then hide. Let them go off in the wrong direction.”

     Jarn nodded, thinking of nothing better at the moment than to follow the girl’s advice.

    They searched about the narrow creek bottom, eventually locating a tunnel into another, more shallow ravine. They followed this new ravine to a place where the great forest giants grew close around the lip. Some of their massive roots extended over and into the chasm. They were so large that the youngsters had no trouble walking upon them.

      Jarn suddenly cried, “Jarla! Look here!” He pointed to a narrow gap in the massive twist of roots. They both peered in, but the blackness was utter.

    Jarn descended into the opening first, sliding his feet through, then his legs, then his waist, followed by the rest of him. He still clung there, not feeling any ground below, and he had the brief, frightening impression of hanging over a bottomless pit. But he let loose, and was gratified when his feet hit a solid, if moldy, floor. “Come on, Jarla.”

    The girl followed Jarn’s example, sliding her legs into the gap. Her hips presented a problem as the gap was narrow, and she was becoming wide in this region as is the case with all girls reaching puberty. She turned herself to the side, and managed to wriggle herself through.

     They found themselves in small, smug enclosure, with a slightly moist floor packed damp leaves. Its walls were formed of the dense layers of twisted root.

     They tested the hole, seeing that they could exit it easily. They then made certain to cover their spoor leading to and from their hiding place. They slipped back through the opening and prepared to sleep.

     Then they each snugged up against the wall and promptly fell asleep.

    It was not very much later, that Jarn felt the girl’s hand shake him on the knee. “Jarn!”

    The girl’s voice was a hoarse whisper. Jarn blinked himself awake.

    And heard the voices.

    They were coming from somewhere outside their enclosure, not more than several feet away! He heard the voices of two young women talking, but it was not the often careless banter of girls. He knew immediately that these were young warrior-maids, possibly for Jarla’s tribe.

      “Are you certain they came this way, Ula?” one asked.

     “Yes!” exclaimed the one called Ula, in a fierce tone. They undoubtedly crossed this creek to cover their scent.”

    “Then where are their tracks?”

     “I have not found them yet.”

     “I thought you were a tracker Ula.” This voice belonged to a man. “It seems you’ve let two mere youngsters get away from you.”

   Jarn recognized the man’s voice at once. Lu-Gor!

    “Be quiet! They are around here somewhere.”

     Jarn and Jarla squeezed themselves up tightly against the wall covering themselves with the damp leaves in an attempt at camouflage. Each feared dreadfully one of the warriors would take notice of the gap in the roots, and venture to look inside.

    “I do not think they even came this way.” Lu-Gor’s voice said. “The last of their spoor is on the back of the other creek.”

    “They could have vanished.” Ula said. “This ravine is the one other place they could have gone.”

     “Then they are not here now.” said Lu-Gor

    “They probably escaped out the back of the other ravine, and into the forest again.” said the other woman. “And rubbed out their tracks.”

     There was a silence. Jarn felt himself biting his tongue.

     “I suppose you are right, Varna.” Ula said. “They are not in this ravine, and there is no sign they left it by the other side.”

     There followed the footsteps as the party of warriors left. But for several moments longer, Jarn dared not even to breath.

    At last, he whispered. “They’ve gone.”

     It was a long time before they were able to sleep again, but they made sure to cover themselves up with the moldy leaf-litter.

   After their sleep time had passed, they again set out, this time traveling in the opposite direction as Nuvia’s trackers.

    Deeper and deeper into the forest the youngsters fled. Jarn hoped fervently that they had at last given their pursuers the slip, or that Nuvia’s had given up.

    This latter possibility he doubted, but they encounter no more of Nuvia’s warriors, so perhaps they were free.

    The next time they stopped to rest, Jarn and Jarla fashioned themselves spears. They had had nothing to eat so far besides edible roots and fruits they were about to find. Jarn showed the girl how to break open wild melons, which they both found to be delicious. But they badly craved meat.

     Jarn was able to spear a small orthopi, which is diminutive species of horse considered to be the eohippus by science. The orthopi were very numerous throughout the forest, forever scurrying for cover in the underbrush at the youngsters’ approach, but they were also very swift, after the manner of most small animals, and it was a while before the boy was able to catch one.

     After some debate, they decided to build a small fire to cook their meat. They would make certain to keep the flames low, and they had camped within a craggy orifice under a shelf of rock, so as to provide concealment on the chance that any of their pursuers had managed to track them here. They skinned the orthopi carcass, and Jarla fashioned a sling for herself from its hide.

   They skewered and roasted the dawn-horse. The meat of the orthopis is delectable, so much that some tribes take to farming them, but there was not much meat on the single animal.

     “I’m going to try out this sling.” Jarla announced, while the boy was still munching on a leg, the juices dripping form the corners of his mouth. “I’m pretty good with these. I think I can kill us some zintroks.”

     Zintroks are the native term for the archaeopteryx, the scaled and clawed predecessor of modern fowls.

    “You stay here and mind the camp.”

     Jarla went off. Jarn polished off the rest of the horse, then made sure to bury its remains in case they were still being followed. He did not break camp though, in case Jarla returned with a successful catch—and since he was still famished after their long trek, he rather hoped that she would.

     They had made camp within another small canyon overgrown with huge trees. Jarn sat down on a convenient root, and gazed down at the winding stream below. Where should they go next? This was a new stream they had not traversed before, and both of them wondered where it might lead them.

   Something down in the ravine, amongst the layers of fronds and creepers, caught the boy’s eye.

    Jarn blinked twice, to make certain his mind was not playing him tricks.

     No.

     The thing was there, he was sure of it.

    Still, the boy scarcely credited what his eyes kept telling him. Had the orthopi meat, or perhaps the water from one of the streams they had drank from been bad, and was now affecting his vision? Jarn doubted it. He could always detect bad water from a mere taste on his lips.

      The creature below crouched half-hidden in the jungle. Possibly its’ mottled, reptilian hide possessed some kind of chameleon-like properties which allowed it to nearly blend with its surroundings. But Jarn saw that it was solid, and frighteningly real. It stood well over nine feet tall. The back and neck were ridges with a series of dragonish serrations. The head, at the end of a serpentine neck was a toothy and elongated beak, not unlike that of a Mahar. But the huge grey-green body was more akin to the great dinosaurs than any of the flying reptiles, most notably, thought Jarn, the great Jalgor, a mighty predatory reptile which science identifies with the allosaurus. Jalgor were terrible beasts, larger than the horned xarg, but smaller and more numerous than the great zarith. Only a party of several armed warriors could possibly kill one. The jalgor had an armored hide decorated in gorgeous crimson rosettes, and it bore upon its prey in massive bounds, thanks it its enormous hindlimbs. This is what it was about this strange saurian that reminded Jarn of the jalgor; its hindlimbs were massively exaggerated and had the appearance of being incredibly powerful. Its forefeet were comparatively small, but equipped with huge grasping talons, after the manner of the flesh-eating dinosaurs. A thick, massive reptilian tail supported the creature’s weight. And folded across the things sloping back were what appeared to be a pair of tremendous bat-ribbed wings.

     The most astonishing thing was that Jarn believed that he could identify this beast. It was a trodon, one of the most dread monsters within the world’s hollow center. Only until now, he had not fully believed in their existence. The elders had warned him of them, of course. So had other adults. They were supposed to have four limbs and a pair of wings, just as the creature he was now observing appeared to have. Male trodons, it was said, only captured prey to kill and eat, as did any other predatory beast.

     The female trodons however, were for worse.

     They were said to paralyze their victims with a wicked, barbed tongue, that put the unfortunate man or beast in some sort of semi-consciousness. They had a flap of skin that served as a belly-pouch, and in this they transported their victims to their brood. The victims were kept alive but paralyzed, in the same manner that spiders will paralyze prey for later feasting, in order to feed their brood of hideous young. Victims of the fabled beast were said to lie in the lair of the trodon until the baby reptiles hatched—at which time they were devoured by the hatchlings alive and screaming.

     But no one that Jarn knew had ever actually seen a trodon, so he began to think they were only one of the lies grownups used to frighten children into safety and obedience. Even so, the beast he now saw crouching in the ravine, he was certain, was all too real. He had to warn Jarla as soon as the girl returned to camp. The monster had not seen or scented him, that much Jarn was sure. But if it caught their attention, and it really was a trodon, there might be very little they could do to escape it.

   But the beast’s attention was not upon him, but upon something further down the canyon in the river. Yes, he could it splashing. Some kind of wild beast was wading in the stream, an antelope or deer maybe, and the reptile had selected it for its prey. Jarn saw the beast’s hunched muscles tense, in an almost feline fashion, as though the beast were steeling itself for a spring. The reptile seemed possessed of intelligence more wily than that of its kin.

    Jarn rose to his feet and moved down a little further on the ledge. Still, he could not make out the trodon’s target. He realized that he should retreat back to the campsite, but something compelled him to venture cautiously down from the rock shelf and sneak through the tangle of vines in the direction of the stream. Jarn had a way of taking foolish risks, but it was no thrill-seeking or bravado which then prompted the lad to steal through the thicket toward the floor of the canyon. It was only that he had a feeling.

      Jarn gasped. Just as the boy had feared, the trodon’s intended victim was no beast. It was instead a shapely human female, apparently fishing with a long spear in the stream. She appeared to be about Jarla’s age, perhaps a bit older. She had long, slim tanned legs, and sturdily curvaceous hips, and she was a full-breasted for a girl her age, though there was definitely a supple, athletic look about her, that made Jarn want to go on looking. There was a sound to their left, and the girl cast her gaze in its direction. She had high cheekbones, a full mouth with lips the tint of wild berries. Her eyes, a brilliant green, and almond-shaped beneath elegantly arched eyebrows flashed with tigerish alertness.

   At first, Jarn supposed she must be a one of O-lar’s warrior maids, probably one of those who pursued them, who had gotten separated form her companions. But this girl had tresses that were of glossy, midnight black, as was typical among the tribes of the inner earth. That meant she probably she not an O-lar after all, but of an unknown tribe endemic to this region.

   But at the moment, Jarn was beyond caring what tribe the girl was from, or even if she had been among those pursuing them. Something compelled the lad to clamor up a gnarled and curving limb that stretched out over the stream.

     And not a moment too soon. As Jarn crouched upon the limb, the trodon launched itself at the girl with a horrifying shriek!

    The girl gave a short cry, then whirled to defend herself as she faced the oncoming beast, spear poised at its underbelly.

    And at the same moment, Jarn launched himself off the branch with a wild cry! He landed smack! onto the ridged back of the enraged saurian. The horny spikes knifed into the skin of the boy’s chest and belly, but Jarn had wrapped his limbs about the creature’s neck, where the mighty wings joined with the torso.

    The trodon was thrown off-course by Jarn’s attack. It careened to the side, its terrific screams blasting the lad’s eardrums, its leatheran wings, thirty-feet across, thrashing thunderously. But the boy held on, teeth gnashed together, the nauseous, reptilian stench filling his nostrils. The flying beast bucked and wove, nearly succeeding twice in throwing the clinging boy-thing from its back.

     The girl stood back, for an instant gaping at the incredible scene.

    But for an instant only. The warrior-maid steeled herself, her eyes narrowing to feline slits. She held her spear at ready, her smoldering green and catlike gaze trained on her reptilian adversary, as the monster bucked and hove in the air thrashing the trees over the stream in its mad efforts to dislodge its tormentor.

     The beast launched high into the air giving vent to an ear-piercing shriek. Then it plunged down, nearly throwing the lad from its neck one more time. The mighty body swooped low over the stream, the branches on either side swaying with its vast passage.

   The warrior-girl positioned herself directly within the beast’s path as it hove down at her.

   And plunged home her spear in the vulnerable portion of the monster’s belly, where the mailed torso and neck met.

    The girl shrieked as the headlong inertia of the monster swept her off her feet and carried her along with it. The girl held on, and as the creature, possessed of the dreadsome vitality particular to its kind, hove upward, she hung on and managed to work her weapon deeper into the beast, until she felt the spear puncture the thing’s spinal chord.

    The trodon swerved, and crashed headlong into the trees, carrying the boy and girl along with it. Jarn, miraculously, had managed to hold on through it all, and was still clinging as the monster thrashed, jammed into the fork of a massive forest giant.  Reacting on instinct, the boy slid from the great neck.  Perched on the creature’s back Jarn flung down an arm to assist the girl, who was still clinging to her embedded spear which jutted from the reptile’s mailed chest. She was dangling in the air over the chasm.

    The girl needed no coaxing to reach out and grasp the boy’s hand. Jarn helped to pull her up onto the back of the beast, and they made their way down the tree to the mossy turf.

    They looked up at the monster’s death throes. Smaller winged saurians, pterodactyls and rhamphorynchii, were converging upon the trodon, tearing into it, as though the smaller beasts were not merely scavengers but seemed to share some sort of instinctive hatred for the beast.

     The two youngsters sank down on the steam’s bank, trembling with exhaustion.

     Once Jarn’s dizziness had cleared, he and the girl faced each other.

     The girls’ pretty face had a wild fierce look that appeared to have been perpetually stamped on her features. But he could see that she was now regarding her with a kind of awe, and her emerald eyes widened a bit.

     “You killed the trodon!” she gasped.

     “I did not kill it.” Jarn corrected her. “You did.”

     “But I could not have done so, were it not for you! Never have I seen such bravery! And you…you are a boy!”

     Jarn felt suddenly a bit peeved. “So?”

     “Boys and men are all sniveling cowards. Only women are capable of real bravery.”

     “Who told you that!”

     “Zeera leader of our tribe! That is what she had told all of us.”

    “And who are your tribe?”

      “I am Zara of the Azeer warrior women. I thank you for saving me.” She gave Jarn a smile that was almost flirtatious. “Perhaps I shall take you back to my tribe as a prize. I’m sure Zeera would love to hear of your feat. You would be honored richly. Perhaps you could convince her some men are capable of courage after all.”

     “I’d be glad to go.” Jarn said. But then he remembered Jarla. “Wait! There’s someone else with me. A girl—"

      “A girl?” Zara arched one shapely eyebrow. There was no mistaking the cold jealousy in her voice.

      “Yes, a girl. We’re running away from her tribe.” Jarn would have preferred to fabricate a story, but could think of nothing else suitable at the moment.

     Zara’s gaze remained icy for a moment. Then she gave Jarn a sly, secret smile, her emerald eyes flashing. All at once, Jarn felt his cheeks grow very hot. “You’re the sort of boy after my own heart.” She said. “What is your name?”

      “Jarn of Nu-al.” the muttered, in a daze.

       “Jarn of Nu-al.” she murmured as she continued gazing affectionately into the boy’s eyes. “I suppose the name suits a brave boy like yourself.” She stroked his cheek. “Take me home.”

    Jarn drew abruptly away. “No!” He shook his head to clear it. “Not without Jarla.” He said. Ordinarily, the pubescent lad would have savored a moment like this for all it was worth, but he remembered his loyalty to the girl he was already in love with.

   Just then the ferns to their back parted. They gazed up to see four other armed female warriors. All were well-curved and athletic. Their raven tresses and tigerish glare of the gaze told Jarn that they were of Zara’s tribe.

     “Zara!” commanded one, an adult woman whose tone was haughty and commanding. “What are you doing with a boy!”

      Zara stepped back, bowed her head in subservience. “This boy saved my life.” She said. “From a trodon.”

     The woman through back her head and laughed. It was the most cold and contemptuous laugh Jarn thought he had ever heard in his life, so much so that it chilled him.

    “From a trodon! I have heard some fetching lies form you, Zara, but that one tops them all!”

    “He did! Zara insisted. “We can show you the beast’s remains.”

     “Silence, young miss!” The woman snapped, her voice cold and deadly again. “I will hear no more from your curling tongue.” She turned to the other women. “Lash the boy’s wrists! He is going with us.”

     The women pounced on Jarn, who was far too spent form his ordeal with the trodon to even resist. The women were very strong for their sex, and had him secured in no time.

     They then marched Jarn through the forest to a clearing.

     Tethered in the clearing were five gigantic birds. Each were nearly the of same bulk as an adult stallion, their crested heads eight feet above the ground, their massive beaks as fearsome and hooked as those of giant eagles. Jarn knew them for what they were; dyals, great flesh-eating birds that hunted on the open plains. It was at that moment that Jarn remembered hearing tales of a race of woman warriors who tamed and rode dyals; they were supposedly from a far-off country called Julok. But those women were reputed to be course and hairy, and of masculine appearance. These feamles, strong and imperious as were their manner, Jarn nonetheless found it a delight to look upon them.

   But it was clear that, save only for the girl Zara, they were somewhat less than thrilled about him. Jarn felt himself tossed crudely onto the back of one of the feathered mounts, and then secured in the manner of a kill.

    The warrior-women mounted their steeds and were off in the direction of their homeland.
 

BACK TO NOVEL CONTENTS PAGE


BILL HILLMAN
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2006/2010 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.