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Volume 1722b

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

.
Part VI

     The great az-dyryths sliced through the turgid depths of the great ocean of Korsar-Az. The mighty ichthyosaurs were among the top predators of their deep-sea realm, and as there were a great school of them, the other oceanic predators—other saurians, monstrous fish, giant sea-scorpions and nautileds—all gave them a respectful berth. At last a vast domed city rose into view. The city was raised upon a mighty reef of coral. A great building complex stood at the base of the reef. A series of great pipes traveled up and into vents in the coral, creating an underwater supply of oxygen breathable to surface dwellers.

     The city of Az-al.

    Before the great domed city there stretched the farmlands on a massive coral shelf. Had Clive and his companions had the opportunity to see them, they would have seen acres of undersea croplands stretching away in neatly cultivated rows. These consisted of edible kelps and planktons. The crops were being tended to by field hands. Some of these were Az-al themselves, but others were slaves of the land dwelling races, chiefly gilaks. Currents of bubbles rose from the mouths of these slaves as they gathered the crops, arising from devices secured over their mouths to allow artificial breathing. In other fields there grazed the Az-al livestock: long-extinct relatives of the dugongs and sea-cows of the surface oceans, sporting short tusks on either side of their upper jaws. Only these, like the sentient Az-al themselves, had evolved gill-slits for breathing under water. The herd of mammals grazed placidly upon the field ocean kelps, much in the manner of a herd of dairy cows. They were guarded on all sides by Az-al warriors bearing their double-pronged spears to protect their livestock from the predacious marine saurians which ruled the ocean. At their sides, az-slurgs, small three-inch aquatic reptiles with bodies like salamanders and beak-like jaws crammed with needle-like teeth patrolled with them. The az-slurgs, better known to surface-world scientists as the mesosaurus, were trained in the manner of sheep-dogs, and would swarm to the attack if any predator dared threaten the herd. These too had been fitted with artificial breathers.

     The school of az-dyryths broke apart into single file, and entered a gapping fissure in the side of the coral cliff. They swam through the green-black gloom of a mighty tunnel cut into the living coral. Up and up they swam, the great tails undulating side-to-side.

   At length, they broke the surface. The light of an artificial sun poured down on the reptiles’sleek hides. The mighty, beak-like jaws parted.

    Clive and his companions rose dizzily to their feet, and stood blinking in the light. Before them rose the towers of a vast under water city, the battlements shining in the light of the sun.

      The Meran guards prodded their backs, as they were forced out onto the shore. “We are here gilaks. Welcome to Az-al, slaves.” One of them said. “Soon you will meet our ruler, king Sark.”

     For a moment, the men stood there, blinking, surface men and Pellucidaran natives alike.

    The city was like nothing any of them had ever imagined.

    Clive first supposed they had emerged on the surface, that the Az-al city must be on some continent or island in the Korsar Az. But it occurred to him that the sun was not that of Pellucidar, and he had a very brief notion that perhaps they had emerged through some subterranean sea passage back on the surface. But the “sun”, small as it looked compared to the one of the inner earth, was somehow unlike the one he was accustomed to from the world of his birth.  He saw that the light source was located near the top of a vast dome. And the “sky” overhead was water—the deep sea of Korsar Az. He could even discern the shimmering of vast schools of fish passing above and the sinister, gliding forms of predatory reptiles. As for the city itself….

     It appeared to have been hewn form the living coral which served as the foundation for it. The “rock” was of a translucent pink color. But the artistry was hardly rough or crude as one might expect from a city built from coral. There was an abundance of towers and lofty battlements, some of them tapering to needle points. There were roof top balconies and arches, all adorned with intricate friezes. It was evident city was massive and extensive.

     Clive was still gaping at the marvels when he felt his captor prod his side gently with his spear. “Get moving, gilak. Sark is not one to be patient.”

    They continued into the undersea metropolis. Clive was amazed at the marvels of the Az-al race. These people were evidently great appreciators of art. The ornamental friezes decorating the sides of the buildings depicted stylized versions of fish, crustaceans, and coiled squid-like nautileds, as well as leaping icthyosaurs (az-dyryths, that was), and tandor-azes, their swan-like necks sweeping or intertwined. They passed a number of statues in the city squares, sculpted of some type of bronze-like alloy, apparently the same as the spear-like weapons borne by their captives. Some of these also depicted shoals of leaping az-dyryths and other sea-monsters, some of these spouting fountains of crystalline water out of their jaws. A couple of these statues depicted nude, voluptuously curved maidens posed as though swimming amongst the sea beasts. Other statues depicted male Az-al, evidently warriors from their weapons and armor. Perhaps they were champions or heroes form the history or myth of these people. There passed a few parklike gardens as well. Strangely enough, these were of land vegetation—great tree-ferns, weird clubmosses, squat cycads, along with a profusion of orchids and other blooms. There were booths and store fronts everywhere in the city, from which Az-al merchants were busily hawking their wares. This was almost entirely the bounty of the sea, consisting of bins and bins of fresh shrimp, crustaceans and kelps, sea-cucumbers and all other seafood. There were also carts stacked high with branches of coral, the shells of nautileds and other sealife, and all manner of tools, weapons implements and wares fashioned therefrom. There were slaves for sale as well, Clive noted unnervingly blacked haired representatives of the gilak tribes, hawked for sale by their inhuman masters.

     The streets were thronged with milling citizens, going about their daily business. There were other groups of armed warriors pattroling the city, such as those who were ushering them, perhaps as an armed guard or police force. But what most astonished Clive about the inhabitants of this strange undersea metropolis were the appearance of the girls and women among Az-al’s populace. At first, he assumed them to be members of some other race, perhaps captives or slaves of the hideous Az-al.  But the more he observed, he began to suspect they were free citizens, perhaps female members of the same race as their captors. While the visages of the male Az-al looked an unlovely mix of fish and walrus, the Az-al females—if indeed that is what they were—were quite comely to behold, some every bit attractive as those of Pellucidar’s land-dwelling tribes. All had skin of a light sea-green, and an abundance of emerald tresses. They tended to be lithe of form, with firm hips ample bosoms. These women-folk had adorned their emerald locks with an abundance of dyed seas shells, starfish, and other ornamentation, as if this were a fashion statement among them. Their ripe breasts were often uncovered, though some were adorned with bronze breast-plates, often molded to resemble sea-shells. Some of these girls were indeed lovely, as Clive noted when he caught sight of their faces, some of them bewitchingly so. As these women were often seen in the company of Az-al males, and others chatting freely in gaggles, as girls of any land or tribe are want to do, Clive guessed they had to be of the same species after all.

      Clive and Simmons had seen cities before on the surface, but Tarok and Jal-mar had not. They gazed about in awe-struck wonder.

    “I have heard tales of this place.” Tarok murmured to Clive. “But I now realize I had no idea such a place really existed.”

   “It is truly wondrous.” said Simmons. “A culture existing here, thriving beneath the very ocean of the inner-earth. And the technology! Compared to the other cultures we’ve contacted with so far, Clive, you can see that their level of technology far supersedes them.”

     “It’s an incredible place, I must admit.”

    “I’m not only talking about the architecture of this city,” Alistair told him. “But you see that?”

    Clive nodded. “For a moment it had me fooled. I thought we must be back on the surface.”

     “Exactly. What it is, I’m not sure. Some kind of artificial sun. It must give out heat as well as serve a light source for this fantastic undersea realm--”

     The guard on Clive’s right interrupted them “We have arrived at the palace.”

     The palace was a huge and imposing edifice of pink coral. They entered a vast hallway supported by fluted columns. At the end of the hall, they found themselves in a great throne room. There were several other guards here. On a great chair fashioned of the same coral Sark, king of Az-al sat, an imposing figure, though one grossly obese with layers and rolls of walrus-like fat above his bulging paunch. His whiskers were of great length, his sagging jowls flabby,  his eyes were small, squinty and black. He surveyed the captives as they were brought before him.

     “What have you brought, Skurg?” the king addressed one of the guards in common tongue. “More captives from the surface? They look useless to me.”

      “We found them in a small raft on the borders of our country.” The guard addressed as Skurg was the same one who had behaved so belligerently toward Clive and his fellow prisoners. “I thought that they would bring a high price as slaves. The tailed man is a suberb specimen of his race, and the gilaks are fairly good examples of theirs as well.. I know the other man is a bit aged, but perhaps he would do well in some kind of menial labor.”

    Sarak waved a taloned paw in derision. “We need no more slaves. I do not know why you bothered capturing them.”

     “We lost no men in doing so,” Skurg said in attempted defense. “I am certain--”

    “Be silent.” said Sark. “The elder captive I believe I might be able to use him as a palace servant. The younger man and his companions I have no use for, but perhaps they shall provide some entertainment in the arena.”

     “Can we not speak for ourselves?” Clive spoke suddenly.

    “Silence when in our king’s presence, captive!” Skurg ordered.

   “Let him speak.” said Sark, narrowing his eyes at Clive.

     “Why do your people hold us captive at all? Your city is down here, beneath the ocean, and we were merely passing over the surface.”

    “You were in our land nonetheless.” said Sarak. “I did not wish for you and your companions to be brought here. But it is Skurg’s right to capture you if you were intruding. No outlander can be trusted.”

    Clive realized that there was still no trust among Pellucidar’s tribes, even among these people, who were so far removed from the others. “We did not mean to intrude. We were merely searching for a girl, my mate, who was lost to us.”

      “There are many women in Az-al, of many types and races.  If you please me in the arena, you may have as many as you desire.”

   Clive himself was now angry, but did not show it. “Who are we to fight against?”

   “It depends. You may fight some of our champions, or some of the beasts.”

   “If you try to make us fight each other, I will tell you now that we refuse.”

   The king chuckled in cruel amusement.” You are in no such position to decide. But you will not be fighting each other—at least not at first. You must first be tested.”

     “If we pass your test, may we have our freedom?”

    “You may not. You will have to be trained in the arts of the arena. You will face many more challenges. But if you do well, your life will be a most long and rewarding one.”

      Clive and his companions were taken away. They were led down a long hall, and down a flight of broad stairs to a dungeon area. They were locked in a large cell with a number of other prisoners. Most of these other prisoners were gilaks—humans, who had somehow had the misfortune to fall in the Az-al’s clutches. They may have been members of the various tribes who lived in the vicinity of the Korsar-Az, and who depended on the sea as fishermen. Some were perhaps members of the Korsars, others perhaps runaway slaves. They were a scruffy-looking lot of men with black, blond or reddish hair. Most did not look like veteran fighters, and were perhaps new recruits such as themselves. But there were some Az-al warriors there as well; Clive guessed that these were criminals of some sort, or else they were decent enough members of their race who happened to have displeased their ruler. But he noticed almost immediately that oen of their fellow prisoners was a sagoth.

    He was a burly, thick-shouldered gorilla-man, with glowering eyes beneath a heave brow-shelf. The fur which clothed his massively-muscled arms was thick and sleek and bluish black with strains of cobalt. Like most other members of his race, this particular sagoth was over six feet in height. But he wore a woven vest and kilt that did not appear of sagoth manufacture.

     The door clanked shut behind them. Clive heard a rattling of keys as the guards left them.

     “What do we do now?” Jal-mar asked of his human companions.

     “I wish I knew.” Clive told him.

     “What do you think?” Tarok said. “We will all be trained to fight in the arena. We will fight until we are killed. As we are seasoned warriors we will hopefully last long.”

     “Ah, yes…”said Jal-mar. “My people have a similar custom. “Two warriors must fight one another to determine which will mate with a number of females in the tribe.”

    “Yes, I remember.” Clive said, remembering the Baraboo village. “But there has to be some way we can escape.”

   Tarok sighed.  “I almost admire your optimism, even in such a dire predicament as this, my friend. But we are captives in Az-al. We are now gladiatorial slaves. There is no escape for us. Perhaps if we fight well and prosper, we will be rewarded by fine food and women. I should perhaps forget about the girl you took as your mate. She is lost to both of us now, but as the king told us, there are many beautiful women among the slaves here.”

    Clive was about to reply, when the sagoth glowered at them. “So.” said he. “The king has sent us more champanions for the games has he?”

     Clive and his companions each sat down against the wall of the cell opposite the sagoth and three men next to him. Jal-mar brushed his pendulous tail out of the way.

  Clive stared at the sagoth squarely. “Who might you be?” he asked.

     “My name is Mogor.” he said. “I was recently captured too. King Sark told me he had need of a strong warrior and fighter such as myself. Pah! I agree. There are far too many weakling gilaks here as it is.”

     “So gilaks are weaklings, are we?” Tarok said, as glared at Mogor’s unlovely visage with narrowed eyes. “Perhaps we can teach you different. We are warriors of Nu-al!”

     “I have heard of the country of Nu-al.” said the gorilla-man. “It boasts many strong and brave warriors. But if you are suggesting that either of you is a match for one such as myself, you are wrong.”

     Tarok glowered at him, but held his tongue for a moment, as he remembered that sagoths were, on average, far surpassing in brute strength that of the average human warrior.

     “How did you come to be here?” Clive.

    “Yes,” Tarok agreed. “Tell us, if Mogor is great a fighter as he boasts.”

    “Until about two sleeps ago, I was second in command Borak, the present Cid of Korsar.”

    “But you are a sagoth.” said Tarok. “Do not lie to us. Sagoths have nothing to do with gilaks, as you yourself have as much as said. We are all weaklings, remember? Your people do nothing except sell human captives into slavery to the Mahars for weapons or goods.”

      A low growl issued from deep within the gorilla-man’s throat. “The Korsars raided the village of my people when I was but a cub. It was for female slaves who were already captives of my people. The chief of my tribe refused to give up any of the slaves, so the Korsar decided to take them by force. My entire tribe was slaughtered.”

    “Except for you?” Clive asked.

   “I, too, would have been killed, as the Cid’s warriors spared no one, not even our shes, and my fellow younglings. I still remember the swarthy, hawk-faced warrior who seized me, and made to slash my throat. I struggled all I could, bit his arm clear to the bone. He screamed, and was about to cut me down. But the Cid himself halted him, and ordered my life to be spared. Because I was a feisty youngster mayhap, and he saw some use for me.

    “The Cid took me, dazed and bewildered, under his wing. I grew up in the place of the Cid in Korsar. I had never seen a city before, and I was awed upon my first arrival in Borak’s homeland. But I soon grew used to my surroundings. Borak himself became my father. He taught me everything about his people. I learned to read and write. At times I was belligerent, and he ordered me beaten. For the most part though, I believe that he developed a liking toward me, and actually treated me as though I was his son. He had children of his own. But his harshness toward me at times was not without reason. For as you might imagine I hated him. I hated him with all my heart for what he had done to myself and my people. I remembered forever what had happened to my real father and mother, and I swore that I would repay Borak one day. Still, I grew to relish my new life in Korsar. It was much more comfortable than the life I had known in my home village. Borak gave me my own bedchamber with silken pillows. But he had his most trusted warriors train me in the art of fighting. They, too, could be harsh. But I learned quickly became a master of swordplay. I wielded their strange metal weapons better than any of the Korsar themselves.

    “My people grow more swiftly than yours, and I was the equal in strength of any of the Cid’s warriors when many of my former peers were still striplings. I soon could best any of Borak’s finest, as I have said, gilaks are weaklings by comparison. As you might expect, some of the Korsar younglings chided me for my race while we were in training. But I had long put a stop to that. There was a time when I killed one of my young peers, one who was particularly obnoxious, so I tore his throat out with my fangs. Then I and one of my young friends hid his body in a barrel. It was discovered of course, and everyone knew who did it. I would have been killed then, had the Cid not come to my defense. I should perhaps have been grateful to Borak, and as I grew I perhaps even developed some sort of grudging affection for him. But the memory of what he had done to my tribe still remained a fresh horror to me. I remained true to my vow that I would kill him.

    “I was a veteran warrior by now. The other Korsars now accepted me as one of their own. I now had many friends and companions among them. I learned the pleasures of Korsar rum, ten times stronger than the crude brew made by my own people….and of gilak women. In fact the thought of females of my own kind was by now repugnant to me. I accompanied Borak and his warriors on his raids now, and grew accustomed to life on the high sea. He ventured unto many far lands along the shores of Korsar Az. We raided many human villages, and brought back many comely shes. There were some tribes that had a pact with us, and traded with us captives of war and other goods. My presence helped assure them that Borak meant business, and would not hesitate to use force to persuade them, if they ever thought of refusing us. And I had heard of a not-too-distant land called Sari, whose inhabitants could make strange slivery weapons like steel war clubs, but could spout fire and could kill foes from a great distance. But of that fabled land we never saw, for I was told the former Cid was once defeated by the Sarians, and he did not wish to repeat that same mistake.” The gorilla man fell silent for a moment.

    Alistair Simmons, who had been taking all of Mogor’s story in, said abruptly, “You still haven’t told us how you wound up here.”

     Mogor looked at the old man squarely. “We were on another of the Borak’s raiding parties. We had landed on a distant shore, and set out searching for slaves to for Korsar, or to sell to other tribes. We knew there were a number of gilak tribes in the area, and Borak sent me out to find any gilak females that I could. I was to then report to him, or steal one or more women if I could. My skills at tracking are stronger than those of my human companions you see, and Borak knows this well. I am also strong enough, that once I was even able to bear off two strong young girls, one female under each arm.” Mogor gave chuckle at this. He paused for a moment of reflection, then continued. “But this time I happened upon the most beautiful young woman of your puny race I had yet looked upon.” He gazed suddenly at Tarok as he said this last, as though deliberately attempting to goad him. The young Nu-al warrior turned fiercely red, but he said nothing. “As I told you, I am an expert tracker, and the girl knew nothing of my presence-until it was too late, of course. But I was still admiring her beauty when a zorag set upon her.”

     Zorag. The word sliced through Clive Neville’s memory. He had heard the Pellucidaran word before, and recently, but for some reason, he couldn’t place it. But it somehow had made him suddenly uneasy about the sagoth’s story. Why?

        “The beast would have killed her too,” Mogor continued. “Had I not shown up in time. Just as the zorag was upon the she, I killed the beast by jamming my spear up into its brain. Of course, the girl did not appreciate entirely what I had done for her—"

    And in a flash, Clive knew, saw the entire story before his eyes before Mogor had even finished telling them his tale.  Zorag—that was what Tarok had called the beast they had dead, slain by a warrior’s spear when they were searching for his mate, the Princess Jahlanna. They had located the fleeing girl’s prints, had identified the beast pursuing her as a zorag, one of the brutes which prof. Simmons had identified as a missing link between land mammals and whales. The beast had indeed been slain in the very manner Mogor had just described. And the tracks indicating the slayer had then pursued and abducted the Princess had indeed looked like those of a sagoth.

     “—and she resisted my advances. Of course, I had been ordered by Borak to turn over any female captives I might find to him at once. But this particular girl I intended to take for myself. This much I told her, but still she resisted She did not outdistance me for long, however. But the Borak and his warriors found us before I could recapture her, and I was forced to abandon my plan. But not for long. I had by then decided to take the girl as my own, even though the Cid himself decided to make her his personal mate. But the Cid’s former mate, a fierce and pantherish lass named Korsar lass named Nasheema, was very jealous of the girl. Then, during one of the sleeps, I lay awake, and patiently waited for Nasheema to try to gain her revenge on the girl. I took advantage of the situation, and the girl and I fled the ship in one of the boats.”

    Clive Neville felt rage suddenly surge within him. But he struggled to keep it from his voice. “What happened to her?” he found himself demanding suddenly. “Where is this girl now?”

    For a moment, he felt unsure whether Mogor had noted the sudden anger in his voice. But the man-ape’s leathery visage was impossible for him to read.

     “We were well away from Borak’s ship during the sleep period, and the ship was bound for Korsar. Naturally I made in the opposite direction, heading for a wild stretch of coastline where we could disappear into the forest without fear of capture. Still, the young she let me know that she utterly despised me, as she would have despised any member of my race. But I would have made certain she would come to appreciate me, know you that! Hah! The two of us would begin a new tribe, a whole new race once we had fled far enough. My own plans to kill the Cid who had murdered my tribe were gone. Jahlanna and I would be parents of a new nation, and I would make her my queen.”

    Clive bristled as Mogor actually used the Princess’s name. He glanced at the others, and realized that they knew as well, had known ever since the sgoth got to the part where he had saved the girl form the zorag. He saw that Tarok was growing very red, doubtless at the mention of starting a new race with a woman of his tribe. What Tarok was feeling now went far beyond a mere rivalry over potential mate—it was his entire race against that of Mogor’s But none of Clive’s companions said anything. Jal-mar’s own primitive visage remained impassive, but Clive guessed he had begun to realize what had occurred at the same time the others had.

      “It was not to be, though.” Mogor said. “For a great Tandor-az attacked our boat. I fought the beast as best I could with my considerable warrior’s skill. I nonetheless believed both myself and my new mate lost, if a party of these sea-beings had not happened upon us at that very moment. They fell upon the thrashing saurian and slew it. The girl and I were captured, and taken to this city beneath the waves. She was taken from me of course, to be sold as a slave. These fish-faces underestimate me though, just as Borak and the Korsars did. I will escape soon, I will find the girl. And I will take her as my own once again.”

    Clive swallowed thickly, forcing down his rage. But then he thought of what Mogor had said--that Jahlanna was here in the city! She was here now!

      “What if some Az-al noble has already purchased this girl?” he asked Mogor. “Remember, she is to be sold as a slave.”

     “Hah!” the sagoth growled. “Mogor will find the weakling and kill him. I do not yet know how, but I shall find a way soon enough. As long as I live, nothing in Pellucidar or beneath the Korsar Az will keep me from her.”

    Clive remembered uncomfortably how Mogor had referred to Jahlanna as his “new mate”. Had this coarse brute actually gotten his grimy paws on her? If he had—"

   Just then there was a rattling of keys. The door swung upon, and the seated prisoners looked up at once as two Az-al soldiers entered. “Enough talk, prisoners! On your feet! It is time for your training!”

       The prisoners rose. “What about Simmons?” Clive asked, pointing out his friend, the aged professor.

      The guards looked at Alistair, noting that the man was too old to be of much amusement in the arena. “You are correct, my red-furred friend.” one of them said. “He must be the one the king sent for.”

      “What do you mean?” Clive asked.

      “He is beyond the age for combat, so King Sark has other duties for him to perform.”

    “What other duties?” Clive wanted to know.

     The guard shrugged. “Only the king knows. Perhaps he needs a new palace servant. In any event it is no concern of yours, slave.”

    The guards took hold of the professor, and gently prodded him with their spears. “Come along.”

     “Alistair--!”

     “Don’t worry about me, my boy.” Simmons told. “I am certain I will be fine. The king must have some use for me, and he realizes I would likely be wasted if I were in your shoes. Just remember to come looking for me when you find the means to escape.”

    “There is no escape, old man.” The guard opined. “For you or for your companions.” The guard led Simmons away. His companion turned to the other prisoners."

    “The rest of you new captives come with me—that includes you sagoth! And do not defy us again.”

    Mogor got to his feet. He was an imposing near six foot four inches. “I won’t—for now.”

    “Still your insolent tongue, beast-man!” said the guard. “I’ll have you know my spear is fitted with a stun-generator.”

    Mogor made no reply, but Clive could sense he was inwardly still mocking the guard. He had already developed more than a bit of respect for the shaggy gorilla-man.

         The guard prodded their backs, and they moved out of the door and down the hall and then through more corridors. Clive found himself wondering about Allistair. Was the old man safe? He supposed that he was, but still he could not help but worry some about him. He and the professor had been through so much together.

        They came abruptly to a door. The guard unlocked it, and he and the captives entered a small deep arena. There were bleachers above for a small, perhaps private audience but all the seats were empty at present. There were all sorts of weapons laying around—maces, morning stars, swards, daggers, tridents, all fashioned from the strange copperish alloy favored by the Az-al. The new recruits were told to pick up the weapons. Clive chose a short sward which he thought suited him. Four Az-al soldiers entered the arena from a door opposite.

   Their training began. The arena served as a gym for training. They were taught all the arts of gladiatorial combat. Clive was forced to spar with his friends Tarok, and Jal-mar. And with Mogor. He found the burly sagoth’s strength, not surprisingly, to far exceed that of a human warrior. But all the time he could not help his thoughts straying to his mate, Jahlanna, and that she was here in the city at this very moment.

   The training continued for an interminable time, It might have lasted weeks, maybe months of surface time—who knew? In this hidden city buried deep beneath a fathomless prehistoric ocean in a world inside the earth’s core, it was impossible to tell. But during the period, Clive found himself growing stronger and fitter. Already since entering the realm of eternal daylight he had grown sleek and muscular through the hardships and adventures that had immediately occurred. But here his strength was tempered into that of a veteran fighter.

   They were forced to use the arts of all the weapons. How to thrust to merely wound or disable a humanoid opponent, or to kill him. How to the chain mail net to blind an opponent. How to affect shield and parry an attack. They were taught to fight on dry land, and immersed in water as well. This they found to be the most difficult. Jal-mar’s and Mogor’s fur was not waterproof, and it had to be sheared short before they could begin. Soon, however, they were able to maneuver themselves while swimming with great ease, thanks to their veteran instructors. Vents opened in roof of the arena, and flooded it with water. And they were taught the art of fighting beast and monsters as well. Once a marine mammal was turned loose in the arena—an az-lurg or danalystis. They killed the beast easily, but were told many larger and more ferocious monsters waited them.

  And then, a dozen sleep-times later, they were told they were ready, and would now perform before the city’s aristocracy.

      They were led to their training arena. The vents in the ceiling opened, and once more, streams of water cascaded down. Clive and his companions had been fitted with translucent headgear of clear crystal which served the same purpose as a diver’s helmet. On their backs were strapped the large, coiled shells of prehistoric cephalopods, which served as breathing tanks. Breathing apparatuses covered their mouths, and tubes ran from them from the headgear into the shells.

  Water slowly filled the arena. Once they were completely beneath it, the guards opened a small door, one they all that taken note of before, but never used. He opened this and the newly recruited gladiators were ushered through it and down its dim length. At the end of the tunnel was another Az-al guard, who subsequently opened the door into another, far larger enclosure. Light blazed from it.

   Clive and his companions swam into the light. They gasped. For a moment, he thought the source of the overhead brilliance to emanate from the noonday sun of Pellucidar, yet that was hardly likely this far beneath the Korsar Az. He could not really make out its source, but it was clear they arena they were now in was much larger that the once that had served them in training. Like the one they had just quit, the floor was smooth and sandy. The arena was circular in shape. But the slopes that rose smoothly lacked any visible tiers. Instead, what looked like huge, translucent bubbles packed together floated suspended above were the eats should be. Within these weird bubbles were the audience members, relaxing in laid-back sitting positions. Most of them were Az-al. There were families, children, men and women, and again Clive noted the striking contrast between the male and female members of this most extraordinary race—something his friend Prof. Simmons would have called “sexual dimorphism”, he thought. It expressed itself in both the men and the women, the boys and the girls. One particular bubble was larger than the rest. In it, there sat King Sark himself, surrounded by a mass of his courtiers and nobles. They were all draped resplendently, in silks of crimson and purple, and fantastic jewelry of shells and corals. Clive’s gaze roved amongst them to see is he could discern the fair face and shapely form of his love. But if Princess Jahlanna was anywhere among them, he did not see her. It did catch his eye however, that an attractive and shapely female of his species was positioned in the bubble next to the King of the Merans. She was shapely and well-formed, with smooth, tanned limbs. Her ample breasts were concealed with strips of tandor hide. Her face, even from this distance, he could see was proud and haughty, not unlike Jahlanna herself. But unlike the glossy ebon tresses of the Nu-al girl, this girl’s locks were the color of ripe and unshorn wheat. And they were braided in manner that reminded slightly of the maids of the Norse folk in his own world. Certainly, she was no Az-al. Even from his own postion, Clive could tell the girl was proudly avoiding any contact with the king, who was obviously her captor. She did not once glance at Sark’s bristled face. Clive could somehow sense, even from this distance, that there was a visible sneer on King Sark’s unsightly visage.

   The light from the unknown source flooded the arena, and everything was lit with a wavering, sea-green luminance that bathed everything from the sand to the arena walls to the massed spectators.

     There was a signal from King Sark in the form of a raised finger. On the far side of the arena, another door slowly slid back.

    The new combatants tensed. What new horror was to emerge to meet their challenge for their captor’s callous amusement?

   There was a moment of tense anticipation, as all their eyes focused squarely on that patch of blackness.

     And there glided forth into the arena thirty feet of scaled reptilian horror.

    Clive’s blue eyes grew wide above his breather. At first he assumed the beast to be a monstrously large crocodile. But he saw this was no croc such as the surface world had known in many millions of years. For one thing, it was quite a few feet longer than any  croc ever had a right to be. For another, every thing from the sleek celerity of its movement, to its stunted limbs which had atrophied into flippers and its thrashing shark-finned tail told him here was a crocodile that had given up land-dwelling in some remote age, and taken on a life that was entirely aquatic. When told of this adventure, Professor Simmons correctly identified the beast as the metriorynchus of the Triassic age, one of the first true sea-crocodiles, an order of crocodilian that had returned to existence in the deep.

    At the moment, however, Clive cared nothing for whatever the reptile’s scientific nomenclature might be; his only instinct was to make certain he and his comrades survived. Even though he had little love of Mogor and vice versa, all of them were into the same fix.

    Clive sense an inaudible murmur from the audience as the beast slowly circled them. Its miniature brain had already classified them as either potential threats or as possible edibles, and he could tell the monster was sizing them up. The sheer size of the monster reptile was unnerving. Clive had seen sharks in an aquarium once, and he was reminded of that here, as the monster glided before his awed gaze through the wavering translucent jade. Only there was no secure glass pane separating himself from the scaled behemoth. The thing’s snout alone was nearly six feet in length and it gaped to reveal a very large array of savage teeth set in rows.

    Clive held his spear at the ready, waiting for am attack.

    And then, of a sudden, it came!

     The beast struck, flashing through the water toward him, fang bristling jaws wide. Clive maneuvered out of reach. The beak-like jaws of the saurian snapped shut, disgorging a chain of watery bubbles. Sensing the sudden opening, Clive paddled forward furiously in a sudden lunge, thrusting his spear deep into the monster’s side where the neck met with the shoulder. This, he remembered from the training, was the most vulnerable portion of a saurian at close range.

     The beast bellowed in fury, disgorging a cloud of bubbles. Its mighty finned tail whipped about, its dorsal spade slamming into Clive, sending the man off-balance. He was sent hurtling toward the far wall. The man shook his head to clear his senses. His spear, it seemed had merely partially wounded the leviathan, and it had been knocked from his grasp. It lay on the sandy floor, a few feet from him.

    Realizing the utter vulnerability of his situation, Clive dived forward for it. He regained his weapon, and looked up. Thick, oily purple-mauve blood was pouring from the monster’s wound, clouding the arena. He had half-expected to see the huge reptile lashing down upon him once again. But the beast had turned its attentions upon his three companions who were now fighting for their lives. Mogor had managed to drive the tip of his spear into the beast’s underbelly. The mighty sea-croc was lashing terrifically sending waves shuddering through the arena. Jal-mar and Tarok had just been thrown clear be the beast’s convulsions. The sagoth seeded to have located a vulnerable spot on the reptilian. Given the massive strength of the gorilla-man, Clive reasoned dazedly that perhaps the reptile had met his match, and in a few moments Mogor would prevail.

    But something made Clive’s eyes stray to the arena door. Once again, it was sliding back! Apparently Sark had decided the match was at an end and had already decided to loose some fresh horror upon them.

     Into the Meran arena there undulated fantastic terror. Clive had seen nothing like it on earth or within it; it was not a reptile, though he had expected another of Pellucidar’s huge marine saurians. It resembled a monstrous insect or arachnid more than anything he could place. It had a long tubular body, segmented like that of a millipede, terminating in a single fearsome pincer-like claw.  A series of jointed legs tipped with paddles sprouted on either side, six on each. Huge compound eyes like weird clusters of facets of green jewels were set on either side of what passed for its head. Fearsome claws, as of some colossal scorpion thrust out in front of it, obviously the function of which was to rend and dismember prey. Dizzily, Clive actually thought he half-remembered seeing a restoration of a monster such as this one in his boyhood, pictured in a schoolbook illustration of prehistoric life—something that was supposed to have lived millions of years before the dinosaurs, at a time when all life was still confined to the sea.  Had Professor Simmons been present at that moment, he had have identified the creature as megalatraptus, one of the species of true sea-scorpion of the Ordivician, a full four hundred million years in the surface world’s primordial past.

    But at the moment, none of that mattered; the beast was zooming straight toward the enbattled sagoth and thrashing reptile.

     The sea-croc had in that moment, managed to cast the sagoth from him; even the brutish strength of gorilla-man gave out, and he was hurtled across the arena. The reptile, tenacious of life as was all his reptilian breed, would have doubtless have turned his frenzy upon Clive and other gladiators in that incident. But in that selfsame moment, the monstrous scorpion was upon him!

    Perhaps drawn by the scent of blood, the pincer-clawed monstrosity ignored the puny man-things, and clashed terrifically with the wounded saurian. The two primordial monsters locked immediately in furious combat, each seeking to rend and dismember the other. Clive and the others swam to a safe distance as the battle raged.

   The sea croc managed to wrench off one of the scorpion’s pincer-clawed arms. Weird, greenish ichor seeped forth from the severed limb to mingle with the reptilian gore of the saurian. The arthropod coiled it segmented body about the mailed length of its’ tormentor, and began ripping into its foe with its other claw.

     But then, at that very moment, something totally unexpected occurred.

     A motion above caused Clive to turn his gaze toward the audience. King Sark had unexpectedly thrust the blond-haired slave girl through the bubble. There was a strange popping sound as she was thrust through. Down, down into the arena the thrashing form of the girl drifted.

     Downward toward the enabattled monsters!

    Acting almost simultaneously, Clive paddled furiously in the direction of the girl. He seized her up in her arms before she could be torn apart by the slashing predators. The surface man felt the girl’s slim arms around his neck, his arms under her thighs. He streaked away, the waves incurred by the battling brutes providing push. Once at a relatively safe distance, he had the girl watched while the battle raged on, she still clutched securely in his embrace.

    The primordial sea-titans continued to slash and tear at one another, until each had succumbed to the other’s fury, and the arena was fogged by their ichorous blood.

     The girl looked up at Clive. For a moment, he was spellbound by the closeness and beauty of her face. For he could see that she was undoubtedly beautiful, this girl, with a face that might have belonged to an angel or a Valkerie, with small, softly delicate features, and wide, slanted almond eyes of a deep China-blue. Pencil-thin eyebrows arched elegantly over thick lustrous lashed. And she was gazing deeply mesmerizingly into his own, the male who had just snatched her from the jaws and pincers of doom. In a daze, he felt her remove his glass helmet, then felt his breather removed from his mouth.

   Then the girl placed each of her slim-fingered hands on either side of the face of her rescuer, and drew his naked lips to her mouth in a long, warm, and passionate kiss.

    Clive was suddenly caught up as within a dream. He suddenly awakened from his reverie to the realization that the girl was without a breather, that King Sark had thrown her out of the bubble—which doubtless contained air suitable for surface-breathers—on the supposition that she would be killed.

   He quickly drew her away, and placed the breathing device over the girl’s own lips. She tried to push it away, as though she did not wish to live, but Clive held it there securely.

     And above them, in the audience, a certain young princess felt her heart rent asunder.

    The guards came and used them out of the gore-clouded arena, through the tunnel and back into the training arena.

    They paddled to the surface, and gaped for air, Clive making certain to raise the girl’s head above the flood.  She gasped, drinking air through her pretty lips, her blond hair plastered on each side.

   The water drained from the arena. Clive was still clutching the girl in his arms. But then two of the Az-al guards came and wrenched her from him, dragging her off. He tried to stop them, but more Az-al halted him with upraised spears fitted with stunners.

    They were escorted back to their cell. Later, however, they were told that they had fought well, and to the great amusement of King Sark. The king had apparently enjoyed the last part he most, when he had rescued the slave girl.

    “Where is the girl now?” Clive asked.

    “That is not your concern.” Skurg replied.

    “It is, for I rescued her. Why did the king wish her to die?”

    “You will hold your tongue. But in answer to your question, no, the King did not wish her to die. He was merely testing your skill. I believe that he may have wished some of you to die. He often likes it when at least one man is killed. But your performance pleased him greatly nonetheless. You are to be rewarded greatly. That is the news I have brought.”

    Clive was still unsure what Skurg meant. “What news?”

    “Follow me.”

   They followed Skurg through a series of corridors until they arrived in a section of the palace they had not before seen. They were each given suite-like rooms, which, they were told, would be their new quarters as long as they continued to be good gladiators. There were still guards posted at the end of the hall, so they were, technically, still prisoners. But the rooms were each a vast improvement over their former confines. There were comfortable beds with linen like sheets, as well as chairs and other accommodations. In addition to their private quarters there was also a common room where they could meet, and socialize, and another spacious room that served as another gym for their training.

    They were also told that they could now have a mate of their choosing, if they so desired. They could choose among the many female slaves sold in the city market. When he asked if the yellow-haired slave girl would be there, he was told that no, she was a member of King Sark’s private harem.

   Arrangements were made, and they were ushered out into the bustling city of Az-al, and to the local slave market.
 

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