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Volume 1723

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

.
Part VII

      The market place was vast and sprawling. There were merchants, mostly of the Az-al race, hawking their wares; most of it was edibles grown in the sprawling undersea fields outside the city itself. There were also a great amount of seafood freshly caught shrimp, trilobites, a smaller variety of sea-scorpion, grotesquely piled and stacked, and many of various species of freshly caught Devonian fish. There were also weapons for sale, some of them fashioned from the lower jawbones of ichthyosaurs. There were bins filled with gleaming pink and white pearls. Some of these had to have been produced by oysters truly Titanic in size.

    And, of course, a great many female slaves.

   Clive and his companions moved warily among the other market patrons, flanked on either side, by Skurg and another of Sark’s palace guards. There were a great many Az-al men and women folk about, some even with children. Some cast wary eyes in their direction. The two humans, apparently didn’t arouse much apprehension, though Clive noticed that the presence of Jal-mar and the sagoth drew more stress than Tarok and himself. Perhaps sagoths were rarely seen in the city, and he had doubts that a member of Jal-mar’s tailed race had ever been in the city at all. But the armbands each of them wore designated them as gladiators, and no one gave them trouble. And, of course, the two guards were there.

    The reached the sector where the female slaves were being sold. They had already past some merchants with male slaves for sale—these were sold for labor. But the sector reserved for the female slaves was very large in comparison, roughly a full quarter of the entire market. And there were dozens of females from which male eyes to choose, all of them breathtakingly naked. Clive had never before seen such a spectacle of ripe girlflesh. There were even a few comely females of the Az-al race among them, their softly curved and rounded forms the unearthly shade of the sea, their free tresses the rich emerald of seaweed. There were others whose origin was unknown; they passed a grouping of slaves with dark ebon skins of a glossy shade, with breasts like plump dark fruit, capped with chocolate-colored nipples. Though seemingly of some primitive race, their features were finely chiseled, their almond eyes dusky and wild, framed by long and sooty fringed lashes. But most the astonishing feature among these women were their long and pendulous tails! They were not of Jal-mar’s race, whose women were too unattractive, Clive guessed to be sold here, but belonged to one he had yet to encounter. There were others that caught his eye which must have belonged to other aquatic races—apparently the Az-al was not the sole sentient species to persist within Pellucidar’s vast oceanic realms. There were a number of exotic females whose hairless skulls were crested with shark-like fins, and whose lithe, curvaceous spines were adorned with a series of dorsal stripes of glossy ebony. These girls had tanned flesh of an exotic umber shade, and were as curvaceous and softly formed as the rest. Other women they spied had skins of a deep indigo blue, and tresses of a rich dark purple. Other women had glossy apple-green skin, and weird, spiky protrusions in place of hair which were not unlike those of a sea urchin or anemone. All of these female types, and others, had gillslits on either side of their elegantly formed necks, though, like the Az-al themselves, of both sexes, they were apparently equipped with lungs and fully capable of breathing air.

       But by far most of the female captives were of the gilak race. Most were of the race that was most universal within Pellucidar, with jet-black hair, firm, rosy-white skin and blue eyes. But there were others too, some from blond-haired tribes and even a few with tresses of reddish gold and bewitching green eyes. All were sleek-limbed, lithe, and girlishly rounded in all the right places. All were fair of face as well as figure to gaze upon, and some, perhaps princesses in their native lands, were ravishingly beautiful. Within the realm of Pellucidar, feminine beauty was not at all uncommon. As members of the human species within Pellucidar fell constant victim to the fangs and talons of terrifying primordial beasts on either hand, finding and attracting a mate were imperatives to the continuation of any species. Perhaps that was another reason they colors and textures within this lost realm appeared magnified tenfold in comparison with their surface world counterparts. Everything from the riot of Pellucidaran vegetation, and profusion of vibrant flowers, to the stunning patterns of tarag’s shaggy coats shrieked visually. The dimensions of curves and roundures among the younger members of the fairer sex, were equally striking, particularly to the vision of prospective mates, female forms of the type such as are envisioned by poets, sculptors and dreamers. Yet here they were not chiseled and honed from alabaster or ivory, but here in the vibrantly living flesh. And there was much of it, very much, on all sides of the male gladiators as they passed amongst them. They were a great delight to behold, to all save Jal-mar of course.

        Clive’s roving gaze caught hold of one nude girl, small shoulders, an infantile, pubescent face, her breasts small but full and plump, slender waist and flaring, mighty hips. The merchant who was her owner was showing her to a client. The buyer was inspecting the girl. The girl’s face upturned on her slender and queenly neck—Clive saw that it was gorgeous, the enchanting, the equal of none but the most beautiful of the other Pellucidaran women on display. The small chin, the elegantly slanted almond eyes the hue of indigo-violet, the finely arched pencil-thin eyebrows, the plump and crimson curves of her lips—all these the surface man recognized at once. And his hear leapt with unbounded joy. For the Callipygian beauty was none other than Jahlanna of Nu-al, his own beloved primeval sweetheart!

         The beautiful cave maid fairly radiated pride. She held her chin aloft in an air of proud defiance. Her bewitching gaze flashed with utter contempt for her ogglers, not affording either the dignity of looking at then, as they prodded and examined her.

          “So are you ready to buy her or not?” the Az-al merchant asked.

         “I might,” the prospective buyer mused thoughtfully. “She is a most beautiful she.”

          “Indeed she is.” replied the merchant. “A princess in her native land. Or so she never tires of reminding us.”

         “Really?” laughed the other in an air of wry amusement. “She’s a proud lass, alright, but none too talkative one.”

         “She made quite a lot of protest for a while,” returned the merchant. “Until she finally must have realized it would get her nowhere.”

     “I see.” The buyer reached out to touch her, but the girl slapped him away.“Do not touch Jahlanna  with your lowborn paws! She is a princess! She is not to be bartered and sold by crass beasts such as yourselves. It offends Jahlanna for her to even look upon you!”

       “You will hold your tongue, slave-wench!” said the merchant. “And only speak when you are addressed! You might be a princess in your own country, but you are a property of King Sark, as is everything else in Az-al. You are now merely a pretty ornament to be sold for pleasure.”

      Jahlanna did manage to hold her tongue, but both the Az-al could see that the girl was beyond furious. Her high rosy cheeks flushed fierce crimson; not the demure blush of a maiden, but one of royal indignity. Her imperious gaze would have struck both of them dead as mackerel if it could.

          “Do you wish to buy her or not?” he asked.

   “She’s comely enough.” He held up a pouch of miniature shells that served the Az-al as money. “I will buy her for a dozen passels, if you are willing.”

      “And I refuse to be sold!” cried the girl.

       “Hold your tongue, lass!” This time the merchant seized a small blunt cudgel that he had at his side, and raised it threateningly toward the girl. Jahlanna flinched, drawing back her lithe torso, but her royal eyes spit violet fire at her loathsome captor.

     “Perhaps it’s time you learned a lesson, girl! It seems you’re still confused as to who’s giving the orders in Az-al!”

     The girl’s eyes widened in momentary shock.

    The Az-al turned in shock and the orbs in his flabby face widened as a gazed into the stony visage of Clive Neville.

    Skurg said, “Do not touch an Az-al, gilak! You may be a gladiator, and are too valuable to be killed. But you are a much as slave as the girl here! Rebel, and the king has ways of inflicting pain you do not which to discover.”

     “He was threatening her.” Clive replied simply, not bothering to look at the other.

    “So what? She is his property, not yours.”

        Clive released the man’s wrist but did not answer. The merchant staggered back. “This girl is too proud for her own good. She needs to learn manners.”

     “Not from anyone who tries to hit her.”

     “What is done to her is not your concern, gilak. Unless you wish to buy her.”

          “I will buy her.” Clive said. “For the full price.” The men looked up to see Clive and his companions. He saw from their eyes that they had noted that they were gladiators and commended respect.

    “That will be twenty passels, my friend.” he returned.

    Clive glanced at the sweet face of his lady love. He was rewarded by the sight of the girl’s lovely eyes widening with surprise, and her mouth gaping into a little “O” of shock, partially covered with the fingers of her right hand.

   The merchant must have noted this, and he replied suspiciously to the girl, “Do you know this man?”

    The fire had departed from Jahlanna’s cheeks, and her beautific face and gone quite white. “Er…no! I do not know him at all. It’s just that he’s rather…handsome. I would like to be sold as his slave.”

    The merchant scowled at her. “You did not seem at all eager to pleasure any of us, “Princess”. You are being sold as I found you rebellious.” He turned his blubbery face to Clive. “I warn you, she’s a haughty lass. But you look the sort of man who could tame her. My own harem has more than enough beauties in it.

      “I will buy her.” Clive said. He paid the merchant the twenty passels which amounted to five pieces of dark red coral and ten pink shells.

    Clive did not particularly like the look the Az-al was had been about to buy Jahlanna gave him as he left with the Princess at his side. He kept a wary eye on Mogor, but the sagoth kept his own piggish gaze away form the princess and did not so much as steal a lustful glace in her direction. In fact, it seemed as though this was on purpose, which he decided, it very likely was.

    They left the market, still escorted by the guards, with Jahlanna sauntering haughtily at his side. He had motioned the girl to be quiet, as she certainly would have known well enough to do. But he sensed there was a coldness in how the princess’s gaze remained averted from his.

   Once back in the palace in the quarters reserved for the gladiators, Clive and Jahlanna were left in his quarters. Once they were alone together, the girl turned furiously upon her former mate and slapped his face.

    The stinging blow so shocked Clive that he draw back for a moment, and stared at her stunned. “Jahlanna, what--?”

     The princess’s lovely face was contorted in hateful fury. Her lovely moist lips grimaced, and her eyes spit violet fire at him. “”Pig!” she shouted. “Traitor!”

    “What’s gotten into you Jahlanna? I came to the market to find you and save you, and I have! You’re safe now! I will not let those foul creatures touch you again—“

    “It is you who are the foul creature, Clive!” the princess raved. “You are worse than they! You are lower than vermin, and I did not know it!”

     “What’s gotten into you!”

    “You betrayed Jahlanna! When you and I were captives of the Mahars, I gave you my love, thinking you would fight and die for me. I even gave my body to you, allowed you become my mate! And what do you give me in return?  You have kissed another girl! That Valkara! You held a female other than your Jahlanna, and kissed her, and then went on kissing her! Do you really think her a fairer girl than I?”

    “I do not know a girl named Valkara.”.” he said. “And no other girl could ever please me more than you.”

   “So do you deny it, Clive Neville?” she asked, almost hopefully.

 Clive was at a loss for words. At first he remembered being with no other girl. But then he recalled that Jahlanna was right; he had kissed another girl! The fair-haired beauty he had rescued in the arena! Or rather, the other girl had kissed him. It had all happened so fast that he had no time to react. But Jahlanna had not been among the audience, and had not witnessed what had transpired. Or at least, he had not noticed her.

    He stared at the girl and said, “You mean the girl in the arena. The blonde girl.”

    Her eyes suddenly widened in dismay.  She flew at him in a pantherish surge, her fingers like claws, straining for his face. Clive grasped the girl’s slim wrist, held her securely, as she raved and spat at him. “You love her more than I and want to forget me!” she raved tigerishly “You think her prettier, more beautiful than I!”

    Clive, still holding the girl’s wrists captive forced her down upon the edge of the bed as she continued to scream at him. “Jahlanna, stop!” he ordered her. The girl calmed some, but continued breathing hard, her body shuddering with fury, like a child experiencing a severe temper tantrum.

        Clive had not considered that his princess might be the type to become so very jealous, as she was so beautiful herself, so he was a bit shocked by her fury. He had appreciated and loved this ultra- feminine persona of the maidenly young princess, but now he realized Jahlanna could indeed be as savage as the world of her birth. “The girl you mentioned was in danger.” He told her sternly. “Sark through her to the beasts, and they would have torn her to pieces if I had not been there to save her. Would you have preferred I had not done so? Would you have wanted her to be killed?”

    Jahlanna looked up into his face. Her eyes shown with tears of rage, and now of remorse. “No…”she said in a quiet voice. “No, I would not have wished that. You were very brave.”

    Clive released her. Jahlanna sobbed for several seconds. “But you kissed her.” She said, some of the rage creeping back into her voice. “You cannot deny that.”
     “She kissed me.” said Clive. “What could I have done?”

    “Hummmph!” the girl retorted. She rose form the bed and swung her back on him with a magnificent flurry of her long ebon tresses. She stalked furiously away. To stand in one corner of the room and said nothing.

   “Jahlanna…” Clive started. But he found he could say nothing more. He came forward, and attempted to place his hands upon her small dainty shoulders, but the girl flinched in rage. “Don’t! I do not wish to speak with you. Not now.”

    The man sighed, paced around the room, and sat down on the bed. He remained there for a long while, while Jahlanna continued to seethe out her rage at him in silence.

    Finally, she turned back to him. Clive looked at her. The girl held her chin raised to him, and her gaze regarded him with an imperious, impersonal light. “Perhaps I was a bit harsh with you.” She informed him in a proud voice. But you have betrayed me, Clive Neville. Betrayed your mate and your princess. And as your Princess, I order you to return me to my homeland. I will make certain you and your companions are not harmed. But after that, you will never see me again. You are no longer Jahlanna’s mate and lover.”

     “But Jahlanna—"

     “Jahlanna thanks you for helping to liberate her people, and for rescuing her on more than one occasion. But that is behind us now, is it not?”

      Clive said nothing, but her impersonal tone cut through him like a knife.

    Clive and Jahlanna spent the rest of the time in his quarters, neither one speaking to the other. Clive realized that the girl had to get over her anger with him. He knew his Jahlanna to be a sweet natured girl, too much to wish harm on even a female she saw as a rival. But she was still a spoiled princess.

    When he met with the other men in the common room, Jahlanna did not accompany him. When they asked why, he told them everything. “But I did not see her in audience when I saved the other girl.”

     “I doubt that mattered.” Mogor told him with a laugh. “Do you not know the minds of females, my friend? The girl was doubtless penned with other harem girls. And word got around that the red-haired gladiator had saved a girl’s life. And nothing flies faster than word on the tongues young shes! Your Jahlanna would have found out in no time. Perhaps now she will learn to appreciate me.” He chuckled.

    Clive glared briefly at him, but said nothing. Of course, Mogor had recognized the she he had abducted from the Korsars! He had to have noticed her at the time he had pushed her. But apparently the gorilla man did not intend to kill him. They were still all prisoners in this strange underwater city, and they had to escape. The fact that three of them—himself, Tarok, and Mogor, were all in love with Jahlanna was probably not going to help things.


     Things had still been going from bad to worse for Jahlanna of Nu-al. First had been her capture by the brutish Mogor and the dreaded Korsars. Then she had been threatened by Borak’s jealous mate Nasheema. Then was her capture by the sagoth once more and their flight from the Korsar vessel. And finally, her captivity here among this grotesque race of underwater beings. Kyeera, the girl whom she had befriended during her captivity under Borak, had saved her from drowning. It had turned out that the Az-al warriors who had liberated Kyeera from the Korsars were in the process of escorting her back to her city, when they took noticed of the rowboat on the surface. They were going to investigate, when the tandoraz had attacked. At first the Princess’s heart had sunk once she realized that Kyeera was accompanied by males of her race. Kyeera had saved her, but once the males realized there had been a surface woman on the boat, they had captured her at once, and bore her away to the city. Jahlanna had at first supposed that her bestial captor had drowned or been eaten by the tandoraz, but the Az-al had stabbed the plesiosaur to death before this had happened. It turned out the sagoth was a captive of the fish-men was well. She and her former captor were borne off into the deep, but before they had swum much further, the warriors had blown a small whistle that drew their pets, the mighty az-dyryths, to them. The creatures swallowed them whole—Jahlanna nearly fainted with fright, for she assumed they were about to be devoured. But it seemed the Az-al had some sort of strange power over the huge saurians.

    What became of Mogor once they entered Az-al itself, and she and he were brought before the king. Jahlanna had not known until recently. She initially supposed that they had killed him and fed him to their az-dyryths pets.  She herself was taken to the king’s harem before Mogor’s fate had been decided. Once again, the girl found herself a captive because of her great beauty. But this time, king Sark had not shown a generous amount of  personal interest in her. He called her a worthy addition to his personal collection of shes. But he did not attempt to force himself upon her, or anything of the like. Apparently, there were a couple of other females in his harem that he favored at the moment. The rest he seemed to keep around his place mainly to show off his collection to other high-born males of his race, and just to admire their beauty. Jahlanna felt just mildly miffed by the thought that a male did not wish to mate with her; but in the main she was relieved.

     She had seen a number of human males in Az-al since she was captured. She secretly hoped that a male from her own race would buy her from Sark. But the men she had glimpsed were almost certainly slaves or captives. But then she had heard the news; four new male captives from the surface. They appeared to be warriors, and were to be trained for the arena. From their descriptions, she knew immediately who they were, and her heart sang with joy! The red-haired warrior had to be none other than her beloved, the man who had come form some strange surface world! Clive would somehow find her in this city, she knew it, especially since King Sark’s palace was directly connected to the arena.

    But then she heard the news. They had been pitted against two ferocious sea-monsters. Sark had been accompanied by four of his favored slave girls to the arena on that occasion. She herself had been left behind as usual with the other girls. It seemed that King Sark had hurtled Valkara, a girl he had no longer any particular use for, into the arena to see how the gladiators would surprisingly, the red-haired warrior had reacted at once and saved her. And the blonde girl had kissed him in the full heat of passion, and he had lovingly returned the embrace. At least, this is what Jahlanna was told by the other harem girls. Jahlanna had known Valkara, a strange yellow-haired girl whose tribe was apparently from far to the cold-steeped north. She had been there once Jahlanna had been added, but she and the girl had barely spoken. She found Valkara a bit distant and haughty. When she asked her friends why the Sark had done to her what he had, they replied that she was rebellious, and he had been planning to do away with her anyway, in some fashion or other. Valkara did not return to the harem. Jahlanna wondered if she had been killed, but it seemed she had been sold. Sold to who? Perhaps Clive himself? Clive, Jahlanna’s beloved mate, whom she had dreamed would be the one rescue her? The warriors were allowed to take mats, even purchase their won harems if they pleased the king enough. Was it possible?

      Then Jahlanna was told by the kind himself that she and a few other girls were to be traded to fat-bellied merchant in exchange for some other exotic females. She found herself on the auction block, before the gawking male patrons of the market. Apparently the Az-al fancied themselves more civilized then their ancestors in the world above. Apparently they had once been as human as the other Pellucidaran tribes, the sea had changed them, and so their culture and flourished and grown once they had become fully aquatic in some remote age.

      There had been no buyers for her, on the auction block either. Jahlanna was somewhat irked by this, but she was determined never to willingly give herself to one of their number. With Clive and his companions also captives in this weird undersea realm, it raised the princess’s hopes that they might find her. But her newfound rage at Clive overwhelmed her longing to be in his arms each time she thought of him. The very thought of him embracing another woman mad her insides cringe with rage. She felt guilty for her rage at him, for she knew that the other girl had needed rescuing. Her Clive, she knew ,would have saved her in any case. But kissing her, that was something else.

           Part of her, however, had entertained the vague hope that the rumors were false or at least exaggerated; Jahlanna knew only too well how her peers among her own sex could be. But when she had pressed him, Clive had as much as admitted it—and that look of stupid confusion on his face! At that moment, Jahlanna hated him with all her savage heart. She fairly believed that had it been it in her power at that moment, she truly would have imperiously ordered his head spitted on pike by her father’s warriors, or thrown live to starving tarags. She might never have lived with herself afterward. But even after Clive had explained that he had saved the other girls life, the thought of him returning her kiss, embracing her body, revolted her. She needed to be alone, at least for a time—let Clive fear that she hated him!

     She had been sulking all the time she was in Clive’s chambers. When next the guard came—with a meal of steaming seafood prepared by Sark’s chefs—The girl rose from the padded chair she had been sulking in and strode angerly over to the door.

    “Here is you meal, slave. Something Sark had cooked up for you and your little harem wench to munch on.” said the guard. “The king treats his gladiators better than I would! You are most fortunate.” Clive recognized the guard at once. It was Skurg.

    Clive took the plate and turned his back on the guard he set the food on the bed.

    “Guard!” Jahlannna said, her voice quiet, but each word filled with rage. “Please, if you will, move me to different cell. I do not wish to share mine with a slurg such as this!”

     Skurg gazed at her in disbelief for a moment, then laughed heartily in his croaking Az-al voice. “I do not believe that is for you to decide, girl. This man may be low as offal, but he’s a especial favorite of the king right now. He is your owner, whether you like it or not. I am not bound to obey the call of a mere female, let alone a harem girl!”

      “I hate him!”

     “That is unfortunate.” chortled Skurg. “I agree, he is indeed most ugly. But you must learn to put up with him, ugly and revolting as he is.”

     “No.” said Clive flatly, staring squarely at the guard.

    “What?”

     “The girl is mine, as you have said. I choose to give her what she desires.”

     “Surely, slave you jest. The lass clearly has no liking for you, and I certainly don’t blame her, for I loathe you greatly myself. But she is a comely wench, and if she were mine I’d teach her respect.”

    Clive thought he caught a flicker of guilt or uncertainty in the Princess’s haughty glare, but he wasn’t sure.

       Clive stared at him, ice in his frigid blue eyes.

        Skurg returned the gaze. Clive could sense that Skurg hated him, more now than before. Perhaps he resented his won status as a gladiator. Or perhaps he desired Jahlanna himself.

     Skurg continued to glare. But finally he said. “It will be as the girl wishes.”

    Jahlanna exited the room, accompanied by the Az-al guard. She did not even bother to glance at Clive as she went through the door.

      Skurg followed the Princess down the corridor. Ever so often he would prod Jahlanna lightly with his spear.  “Keep walking, girl. Your room is the last one on the right. It is not as luxurious as the others, but then you are merely a slave wench.”

    “Jahlanna is a princess in her native land.” she replied hotly. “If we were there, my father could have you killed for speaking to me like that!”

     Skurg chortled. “But we are not in your native land, “Princess”. Here you are merely a beautiful ornament. But perhaps I could share your room with you—I could make you a great deal more comfortable than that red-haired outlander.”

     “That is very doubtful.” said Jahlanna. “Merely because I hate him, does not mean I will have anything to do with you. I hate all of you fish-people equally.”

    Skurg made no reply, but Jahalanna could sense his hot gaze upon the heavy contours of her massive bottom as it shifted and clenched. “Do not get any ideas.” She warned him. “If you threaten Jahlanna in any way, if you even dare to touch her, the red-haired outlander will kill you.”

     “But I thought you hated him.”

    “He will kill you anyway. Am not his property, as Skurg himself has said?”

    They had reached the room. Skurg unbolted the door with his slick webbed talon. Jahlanna stepped within, surveyed her new quarters with her proud gaze. There was a soft bed in the center of the room, but no other furnishings, not even the combs fashioned from ichthyosaur bone, the vials of lustrous shampoo and oil that were the property of Sark’s harem and other items of feminine persuasion. The primitive girl had found those new items of beauty enhancement to be most marvelous, here in this strange undersea city, even than among the Korsar’s women. But Jahlanna was content to stay her for a while at least, for her rage at Clive’s betrayal banished all else, even desires for comfort.

    “He will not kill me.” chortled Skurg. “I assure, my princess, I am quite safe from him.” He locked and bolted the door shut behind her, and left.


        Clive remained alone in his cell for sometime, until there was a rapping at his cell door. Clive had lain down on the bed. His mind was filled with thoughts of Jahlanna, how the girl had so recently scorned him.

    He looked up. There was a feminine, oval-shaped framed in the small barred window. It was not Jahlanna, but Clive recognized her at once. It was a face of the girl he had rescued in the arena. Valkara! Wasn’t that the name Jahlanna had called her?

    He went over to the door. The face that looked in on him was very beautiful. This Valkara had fine features, a tiny nose, and chin. She had wide blue eyes that reminded him of glacial ice. The lovely face was framed by wild locks of thick gold her, now unbraided and wild.

     “What are you doing here?” he asked the girl.

      “Shhhh! I am Valkara. Do you not know me? It was I whose life you saved from the beasts!”

    “Yes.” Clive told her. “I remember.”

     “I have come to get you out. I know a secret way out of the city.”

    “Good.” said Clive. “But why did Sark try to kill you?”

    The girl shrugged her shapely shoulders. “I am a rebellious girl. Sark was unable to break my spirit. I am of the Valtor tribe. My people live far to the north upon the great northern steppes. We live in horsehide tents, and thrive on the mammoth and muskox. The finest male warriors of my people can even slay the mighty snow-tarag! But even our women, myself included know how to fight and kill foes as much as the men.”

    “Why did you not kill Sark?” he asked her.

    Her eyes widened. “Why, because then I should be killed myself, and I long determined ever since I was brought here that would escape and return to my people.”

    Clive felt a bit silly for having asked; perhaps it was because he himself would not have minded seeing the repulsive monarch dead.  “How can you help us?”
    She gave him a wry smile of mischief. “I was sold to one of the king’s courtiers after you saved me. I bribed him into getting me a job working in the royal kitchens.”

     “You never left Sark’s palace?”

    “No. I was determined after you saved me that I would be reunited to the man I loved, and that we should flee the city together.”
    Clive blushed.

    “I found out where your quarters were. Then I managed to drug the wine to be served to the guards. I took the the keys off one of the guards and came here.”

     “You mean….the guards are unconscious?”

      “Yes! But we must hurry…”

    “I’ll not leave Az-al without the others.”

    “That is fine.” she said. “I have keys to all their cells.”

     “Then what are we waiting here for?”


     Back in her cell, Jahlanna was growing bored and restless. She had to admit finally that part of her was still wildly in love with the red-haired surface warrior. That her thoughts kept straying back to him—not to escape, not to being rescued by the men, but to Clive in particular.

     The girl started and gasped as her cell door crashed open.

     In the doorframe, leering at her in the most repulsive manner his quasi-human visage could leer, was Skurg. The mere sight of him was enough to inform her that this time Skurg was not here on a routine check.

    The cave-maiden sprang to her feet. ‘What is Skurg doing here?”

    “I am here to make love to you, my sweet. Skurg wishes to show Jahlanna what a fine mate he can be.”

    Her first notion was that she had misheard him. But the look on Skurg’s unhandsome face told her all she needed.

    “You will do no such thing” she told him. “The other guards will come.”

     “The other guards are sleeping. It seems they all were drunk when it came Skurg’s turn on duty. Since they are, we have time to be alone together.”

      The proximity of the repulsive Az-al guard already revolted and terrified her. But her anger at the recent events, leant the princess needed fury, and she remained haughty. “If he supposes that, then Skurg is mad. Jahlanna will never give herself to him.”

     “I did not ask you to give yourself to me willingly, though it will go far better for you if you did. I suspected a savage girl like you would attempt to resist. But Jahlanna will pleasure Skurg, whether or not she so chooses.”

     Jahlanna shrieked as Skurg flew upon her, his slick and apish arms outstretched. He siezed each of her fragile wrists, in his course webbed fingers, and pushed the rump-heavy girl back down on the bed. The princess spit at him, struggling savagely, but her girlish strength was no match for the guard. “Now you will taste the fire of Skurg’s manhood!”

    “Release me, or I’ll scream!”

    “Scream if you want, girl. They guards cannot hear, and your former lover is secure in his cell. He will not get in the way of our passion.”

     There was a disgusting, wet popping sound. Somehow, it caused Jahlanna’s lovely gaze to stray downwards fearfully, dreading what she might see, even as she continued to resist with all her feeble strength in her girlish limbs. She beheld Skurg’s repulsive male member, loathsomely free of its fleshy casing, now fully erect and flushed green as poison. A hideous cluster of bristling spines crowned its tip, from from whose end bubbled forth a whitish fluid.

      The thought of that thing penetrating her girlhood filled were horror beyond mere revulsion.

     And in that instant, Jahlanna DID scream, long and loud. Longer than she’d ever screamed in her young life, now frought with primeval perils and dreadful dangers.

    And her scream was answered!

    Four male figures materialized suddenly into the cell door.

    “Clive!” Jahlanna gasped.

     Clive, Jal-mar, Tarok and Mogor beheld the nude and squirming Princess in the loathsome grasp of her half-human captor. Skurg was leaning over his fair captive with the obvious intent to violate her.

    The Az-al’s cold fish-eyes glared at Clive hatefully at interrupting his pleasure with the Nu-al girl. “You! Leave us at once!”

    Clive threw himself upon him.

      The guard released Jahlanna who fell free with a shriek, as he met the surface-man’s charge. The embattled men rolled onto the floor, punching and kicking. Skurg managed to gain a position on top of Clive, and wrapped his slimy fingers about the guard’s throat. The Az-al proved inhumanely strong, as strong was the other bestial races who inhabited the inner earth. But Clive did not bother attempting to pry the steely fingers from his throat. Instead he punched up, smashing his fist into the Az-al’s repulsively flabby face. Again and Again he punched him, smashing his flat, apish nose until it disgorged greenish, putrid blood. The moment the guard’s grip loosened, Clive drove a fist into the fleshy belly of his foe, causing the guard to moan and double over. Then he kicked his foe’s feet out form beneath him. Clive regained his feet as Skurg crashed to the stone floor. But the fish-man was on his feet in the next instant. Clive heard Jahlanna squeal as the Az-al delivered a heavy blow to the side. Clive crashed to the floor, and again Skrug leapt toward him, this time with his loose, flabby lips drawn back to expose his heavy tusk-like teeth, apparently intent on driving them into his foe’s throat. Again, the girl shrieked in horror. But this time Clive kicked up, slamming his booted foot in the Az-al’s flabby chest, and sensing his foe sailing across the cell to smash into the far wall. The surface man twisted around and sprang to his feet, readied for a new charge.

   Skurg was seriously stunned, but the blow would have rendered a human unconscious. Apparently the Az-al, like the others of Pellucidar’s non-human races, are possessed of a vitality that borders on the super human. Already the guard was staggering to his feet. “You…will pay for this!” he breathed. “You will pay, red-hair, for not allowing the girl to enjoy her pleasure with Skurg!”

    “She does not find your kind pleasurable.”

    Skurg roared and flew at the surface man again. Clive side-stepped the fish-man’s charge. He leapt to the side and seized a length of chain from a rack on the wall. This was one of the male gladiator’s cells, not a girls’ suite, and this time had remained, even though Jahlanna was its present occupant. Skurg came at him again, this time with his hideous fangs barred once more. Clive ducked, then through the chain about his foe’s blubbery neck. The guard blurted out at gurgling cry as the surface man set his teeth and yanked the chain back even more savagely. The rust-flecked links of heavy iron sank into the fleshy loose folds of flan and began constricting the Az-al’s windpipe. Skurg struggled mightily, and Clive’s eyes were forced shut. Rivels of sweat poured down his reddened face with eh effort. The Az-al’s strength was vast, bulllike. But at last, it gave out, and the half-human collapsed to the floor.

    Clive, finally certain the cunning Az-al was not lapsing on purpose in a effort to trick him, relaxed his hold. Skurg lay at his feet, dead. The guard had been no coward, and had put up a valiant fight for his life, Clive had to give him that. But he also would have violated the beautiful princess, and the very thought fired rage within the surface man, and had leant him the savage strength he had required to vanquish his inhuman foe. Even with Jahlanna having so recently scorned him, the mere thought of another doing her harm was beyond his toleration.

     As he stood there panting, Jahlanna ran to him, and through her slim white arms about his neck. She kissed Clive on his scarred cheek. “Oh, Clive!” she cried. “You have saved me!”

     He took the girl in his arms. “It is alright now, my sweet.”

     “Jahlanna now sees that Clive loves her!  Forget all that she said to him before.”

   “Apology accepted.” Clive said. But just then, he felt the princess withdraw her arms from. Something had caught the girl’s attention. And once more, she felt feminine rage surge up within her!

    Mogor, Jal-mar, and Tarok, the warrior of her tribe stood in the cell. They had stepped respectfully back while Skurg and Clive and done battle, none intended to intervene. Another figure Jahlanna glimpsed there amongst the men. She had not noticed it at first, when she had been helpless in Skurg’s loathsome grasp. The figure was slightler than the others, and robed in some sort of cowl. She had supposed it to be another man, but as the figure moved through the others, and through back the cowl’s hood, the princess gaped in unpleasant shock. It was another girl, one nearly as beautiful as herself.

    She had a wealth of hair the color of shorn gold, and eyes of deep blue fire which flashed with icy pride. The rest of her figure was concealed within the cloak, but it was obvious to her this she was desirable.

     “Clive…who is this?” she gasped faintly.

    At once, Clive felt himself blush very profusely. “It’s…..let me explain Jahlanna. This girl got past the guards. I think she can get us all out of the city.”

     “Do not explain, Clive!” cried Jahlanna. “I know very well who it is!”

     Jahlanna began sobbing. She sank down on the bed, and covered her face with her hands.

       “Don’t touch me!” she cried. “I have nothing more to say to you!”

     “You had best come with us, princess!” Tarok told her. “We are honor bound to return you safely to your father! We will not leave this city without you.”

    Jahlanna turned her beautiful, tear-streaked face to him. “Yes…you will return me. All of you. Only I will go with Tarok” The princess rose off the bed, and sauntered to the warrior’s side, and encircled her slim arm with his.

    There was firm resolve in her voice now. “I will remain with Tarok. He is the mate of my choice.”

     She gave Clive a brief, cold glance, and pressed her heavenly form against Tarok. The warrior held her and stroked her. He could not resist stealing one gloating smile at Clive, who merely glared back.

     But then he turned to Valkara, ho was now gazing at him with affection. “Valkara…can you get us out of here, girl?”

      “Yes.”

      “What about the guard?” Mogor opined. “We cannot leave him lying in a welter of his own blood. The others are sure to discover him.”

     “They are drugged.” Valkara said. “But when they come too, they will come looking for Skurg.”

     “I have an idea.” said Tarok. “But not an altogather pleasant one I am afraid.”

     “What is that?” Clive asked him.

     “We could skin him, and use his hide as a cover.” Jahlanna, at his side, shuddered.

     The idea was a revolting one, but they all agreed that it would be the most practical.

     “My people are experts in such things.” said Jal-Mar. “In fact, very often our warriors were the skins of our most powerful enemies in order for their courage and strength to be transferred to us. And since you, Tarok, would surely not wish to besilme your fingers as the princess is in your company, I will do it.”

    The Baraboo warrior took the small, dirk-like knife in his belt, and began grisly task. The others stood back and witnessed him on gruesome fascination. He required none of their assistance. The pelted Baraboo worked with the celerity of someone born to such a trade, his knife slicing and gutting like clockwork in fast motion. Both girls shuddered and hid their faces, even Valkara. Soon, the floor was soaked in viscous welter of fat, gristle, and slimy, green-hued blood. When at last his task was accomplished, he had what was essentially a male Az-al costume fit for an extravagant ball. Jal-mar tried it out himself. The arms slipped over his hairy ones nicely, and the Az-al’s clawed hands had become a snug pair of clawed gloves. But he had some trouble with what was essentially the headpiece, and it was obvious that the mansupial’s long pendualous tail was not covered adequately.

   The discussed briefly who was best suited to wear it. Finally Clive volunteered. It rather revolted him to be wearing the skin of a sentient being, even though Skurg had so recently attempted to ravish the young princess. But the memory of that enabled him to brush such feelings aside. He slipped to skin on carefully, Jal-mar assisting him. He did not particularly care for the idea suggested by Jal-mar, that some of Skurg’s traits could be transferred into him.

    Tarok grinned at him, good naturedly. Jahlanna only regarded him coldly, but he tried to think about that, to concentrate only on getting them out of the city. “You know the way, Valkara?”

     “Follow me.” she said. They followed the girl down the corridor. Since the men were all gladiators and in the favor of King Sark, they had little trouble getting past the other guards who were stationed around the palace. As Jahlanna was technically a slave and naked as nature, they did not question her presence. Some had even noticed her when she was brought to the palace—with were figure it would have been difficult for them not to. Though Valkara, too was a slave, she did not belong to any of the gladiators, and she kept herself covered with the cloak.

     “This way is the exit.” She told Clive.

     “We cannot leave yet.” He told her. “There is another man here who is a friend of mine. An older man, whom the guards took away. Sark might have made him a palace servant.”

    Valkara turned her lovely face at him. “Yes! I believe I know the man you are talking about.”

    “Do you know where he might be.”

    “I do. But it will difficult getting there.”

     “Where is he?”

    “The palace library. That is where the scholars and historians are kept. They are needed to record the history of the Az-al, you see.”

    Clive nodded. He was not surprised, but it was still a bit marvelous. The Az-al were a literate race. Though they still appeared brutish, or at least the males of the species did, their culture had managed to rise above those of the other races of the inner earth.

     Valkara escorted them to the library. It was within another sector of the vast palace.  They passed many marvels in this section, including artwork chiseled by some ancient Az-al sculptor. They also had to pass a few more guards, but fortunately none of them questioned them seriously. The ones at the library entrance did ask if they were gladiators. The library itself resided beyond a pair of huge glass doors. Each of the bronze door handle was worked to resemble the gaping fanged jaws of a plesiosaur. Once they entered the library, it caught their attention that a huge mural stretched gaudily wall to wall. Done in an array of sea oils of a profusion of colors, it depicted a heroic scene of male Az-al battling what looked like dragons, and mammalian-looking tusked sea-monsters, possibly in a reenactment of one of their people’s ancient myths. Great towering shelves of smooth shiny coral marched its length in rows. As they wandered past, they noticed that all of these were densely packed with ivory-handled scrolls. There were a few ladders to retrieve scrolls off the top shelves very similar to one of the libraries of the surface world.

   They reached a huge study area. A few Az-al scholars were seated around at the coral and stone tables. The warriors gazed about in quiet awe, as they wandered as silently as they could through the study in their booted feet. Valkara seemed used to this awesome place, and kept her gaze straight ahead. Jahlanna’s beauteous face roved about though, awed by the grandeur of the place as were the men, the girl’s delicate feet treading gingerly upon the carpeted floor. Another fantastic mural decorated this room, depicting another mythical sea-battle, this one between the Az-al and another aquatic race that looked like humanoid walruses, but sporting tusks that grew upward from their lower jaws. A towering heroic figure of some tarnished bronze-like alloy, depicting some primordial sea-god, his finely muscled chest as imposing as Atlas, but with the unlovely, bewhiskered face of a male Az-al stood in the center of the spacious study.

     It was then they caught sight of Professor Simmons.

    Clive saw his friend seated at the far end of one of the smooth coral tables. At once, they made in his direction.

    “Alistair!” he said in a hoarse whisper.

    The old man looked up with a start at the whiskered face of the male Az-al, not knowing quite how to react. But then he seemed to recognize that the eyes of the Az-al appeared to be glassy and dead, as they were. “Clive…?” he ventured.

   “Yes,”said Clive. “It’s me. I won’t explain now, except that we had to kill one of the guards. Do you know the way out of the palace?”

    Simmons looked about, regarded the others. He noticed at once that Princess Jahlanna was there, along with a female, with a curvaceous but athletic build, and yellow tresses. “I see that you’ve found the young lady.” he said. “And who’s this?” he asked of Valkara.

    “I’ll explain later.” Clive told him. “Have you found the way out?”

    “I believe I have.” Simmons answered. “Follow me.” He rolled up the scroll. “First, I really should return this to its proper place.”

   “Let the librarians do it.” said Clive.

   “Right.”

   They followed the aged scientist through the library, and through a back entrance. There were guards stationed there, but none of them paid the part y the slightest heed. They kept on through the winding corridors of the palace. When at last they came to the massive front doors. A guard halted them.

     “Who are you, and what business have you in the city?”

    “Do you not recognize me?” Simmons told him. “I am the library historian, appointed by king Sark himself. I am taking these gladiators on a tour of Az-al. They are new in the city, and I wish to show them some of the historic sights.”

    The guard laughed, an ugly, chortling sound. “That does not appear likely, and I do not remember seeing you before. I will have to ask king Sark Himself if you do not lie.”

    “Ask if you will. But you do not wish to anger the king. You know he does not wish to be disturbed. He has already given me permission, so I suggest that you abide by his wishes.”

     The guard seemed to consider this. “I will let you pass” he said. Then he turned as though to address “Skurg”.

     “Skurg is the one escorting us.” said Mogor, helpfully.

     “Is this so?” the guard asked “Skurg.”

     Clive held his head down and did not face the guard directly, so that he did not detect that there was something decidedly wrong with the other guard. He mumbled something deep in his throat, hoping it would sound like something.

    “What is the matter with Skurg?” the guard asked.

   “He has orders to escort us.” Simmons explained. “But he has a throat infection at the moment, and cannot talk properly.”

   The guard looked suspicious for a moment, but the answer seemed to satisfy him. He nodded that they might pass.

     The party emerged into the clear “daylight” of Az-al’s streets. The miniature sun above—a perfect replica of that which lit the whole of Pellucidar shone down upon the city, glistening on the towers and battlements. They went down the palace steps, and continued on through the city. There ere the usual merchants and peddlers around. Patrols of armed guards roamed about as well, and they made certain to steer clear of these.  Once in the streets, they found that they did not attract too much unwanted attention. After all, parties of gladiators escorted by palace guards was not an unusual sight in Az-al. The presence of the two girls, especially the starkly nude, wide-hipped princess, drew stares, both human and Az-al. But the girls were seemingly assumed to be slaves, which was technically correct, and suspicions were not aroused.

   Once they had ventured far enough, Clive whispered to Simmons, “Do you know how to get us out of the city?”

   Simmons nodded. “I know a way out. It is located on the edge of the city. But it will take some measure of training.”

       Clive did not know what the other meant, but he followed the old man’s lead. They came at last to what looked like a long bunkhouse on the east perimeter of the city. Once again, there was a guard stationed at the entrance. This one did appear to recognize Skurg. But he seemed very suspicious. “What do you mean coming here? This is no place for scholars, fighters, or harem girls.”

     “I am the place historian.” Simmons explained. “I am giving these new fighters a tour of the city.”

     “Then why did you bring them here? Do you intend to leave the city?”

     “Not at all. We merely—"

     “You are not admitted. Go away.”

    “We have a guard with us….” Jahlanna ventured suddenly.

   The guard looked sharply at the girl. “Hold your tongue female!”

   Jahlanna, normally haughty, cast her gaze down in a subservient fashion.

    The guard turned his own gaze on “Skurg.” “Why does he not speak?”

       “He is having trouble with his throat.” said Simmons.

     “”Don’t lie to me, old man!”

    The guard, gaze still fixed on Clive, began to move toward the disguised human. Realization began to register in his cold eyes, as he noticed those of his fellow guard appeared glassy, inscrutable….

     That was all that Clive needed. He rushed forward, gripping his spear with hands across his chest. He slammed it into the guard, sending the Az-al reeling back.
   The other men were on him in a second. They restrained him, and Mogor delivered a smashing blow to the Az-al’s skull.

    Knowing the power in a sagoth’s blow, Clive said, “You must have killed him.”

    “No.” said Mogor. “I could have, but I merely knocked him out. He will live. Let the old gilak show us what he must.”

    Simmons took the key from the guard. They entered the building. Inside they found themselves in a long room. There were rows and rows of what looked like breathing apparatuses and oxygen tanks. But this hardly made sense, as the Meran were able to breathe water as well as air, as they had evolved both gills and lungs.

    “What are these?” Clive asked him.

   “Ah!” exclaimed the scientist. “The Meran have invented these for the races that are unable to breath under water. Mostly the slaves put to work in the fields use them. But the tanks! Notice this tubes leading to the mouthpiece? It works much in the same manner as the diving gear of the surface. But these are not merely storage tanks for oxygen for air-breathers like ourselves. See these parts here? They allow it to function as jet propulsion for long distance travel, in case they need to take the slaves somewhere on short order. But that should make them most useful in our escape.”

    An idea occurred to Clive. “What about the swimming reptiles they used to bring us here? If we could somehow gain control of them….”

    The scientist shook his head. “The ichthyosaurs are corralled in a holding tank in the larger building you saw about a block form this one. But the Az-al seem to control them through sonar, similar to how whales in the surface oceans communicate with one another. They would make our progress even faster, and safer form potential pursuers, I agree. But there is no way for us to communicate with the saurians. This gear is our best bet to escape the city.”

     They each put on the strange-looking swim gear according to Simmons instructions. Clive was thankfully forced out of the Skurg “costume”, which had begun to reek. Then they located the hatch which apparently led into the open sea. Simmons went first. Then Clive. Then the rest of them, including the two women.

      The shute traveled down and down, eventually expelling them in a gust of pressure . They found themselves in the midst of the fathomless Korsar Az. The city of Az-al towered above them.

    Each of them knew how to swim, but the jet packs did help to increase their speed vastly.

    The jetted throguht the vast blue deep, meaning to place as much distance between them and the city of their former captors as was possible. Clive kept glancing anxiously back at the city. Their progress seemed painfully slow, even though the packs greatly accelerated their speed.

   And then he did notice signs of pursuit.

    Just as Az-al and its plateau was starting to recede into a blue haze, he saw what looked like an army of pursuers in their wake. At first he guessed that it was merely a routine patrol, but as drew nearer, he could see that at was a large force of the swimming lizard-fish. They were undoubtedly manned by the Az-al soldiers. He swam to Simmons, and tapped his friend on the shoulder, then pointed at their pursuers. The old man nodded, and they increased their speed as much as they could.

     Clive kept glancing back. Sure enough, it was a large party of trained az-dyryths heading in their direction. He could even see the forms of swimming Az-al soldiers at the sides of the great reptiles, besides the ones he knew to be hidden within the reptiles’ jaws.  But they seemed to be too large a force to be merely intending to intercept them; he could see more of the great reptiles beyond.

     And then he noticed something else.

    Another great force appeared ahead of them.

    They all stopped and stared. There was another army impeding their escape, a huge force that also appeared to consist of giant marine saurians and hordes of aquatic beings. What was it? Another Az-al army?

    Whatever it was, they knew they did not wish to be placed directly in the path of the two armies. They quickly jet-propelled upward, streaking toward the surface of the Korsar Az. Once they had gone a good distance above the two advancing forces the slowed down, and took a look below them.

    None of the beings or reptiles were following. Instead, the two forces seemed bent on attacking the other. Apparently the city had been under attack, and this force had been called out to defend Az-al. They had not been pursuing them at all. They could see the forms of the opposing army much better now, as they began to pass below them.

   These, they could now see were not Az-al. Clive was reminded at once of the mural in the great library of Az-al, depicting the Az-al in combat with another aquatic race. But these beings, whatever they were, were not the tusked, mammal-like creatures depicted by the Az-al artist. While the Az-al were themselves a race of intelligent mammals, in spite of some of their amphibious character, this other race attacking them appeared to be reptilian, perhaps the evolved descendents of one of the myriad species of aquatic saurians that swarmed throughout Pellucidar’s oceanic realms.

    These beings had the toothy, elongated jaws of crocodiles, S-shaped necks, massive hindlimbs, and huge finned tails like nothosaurus, that propelled each of them in the same manner as at tadpole. Clive was reminded of observing tadpoles himself in the local ponds of the Ohio boyhood of his youth. The sight of these sentient reptiles, and the comparison between the two was almost humorous. Some of the saurian-warriors also sported small horns on the ends of their snouts—these perhaps being the males, though if so, both sexes seemed well-versed in aquatic warfare. Their forelimbs were obviously articulate, as each creature held a long spear studded with shark-teeth as a weapon. Their sleek scales were of a sharp metallic blue sheen, fading to bluish-white on their under-bellies. The hornless ones that were the apparent females were larger and paler in color while the males were smaller and of a more intense shade.

    The great reptiles that swam at their sides-and there were hordes of these as well, with more coming—were obviously mososaurs of the species tylosaurus, known to the inhabitants of Pellucidar as az-tarags. Apparently the great marine reptiles were trained for warfare, in the same manner that the Az-al trained the azdyryths.

     The two armies of aquatic beings clashed. The az-dyryths drew wide their beak-like jaws, and disgorged hordes of spear-bearing Az-al warriors. They met head-on with the army of sentient aquatic reptiles. The battle was furious, like an undersea version of one of the great battles of ancient human history. The combatants employed not only their weapons, but their claws and teeth as well. They mighty marine saurians, doubtless ancient predatory rivals of one another, joined in the fray as well. They tore at one another ripping off flippers and tearing at one another with their mighty jaws. The great az-dyryths tore into the reptilian warriors as well, gulping down the small saurians right and left in a monstrous feeding frenzy like nothing Clive had ever witnessed in his life. The tylosaurs, too, plowed into the ranks of the foe, tearing apart the Az-al soldiers, gulping down the dismembered slain.

     Already, the battle was churning the deeps of Korsar Az a rich, weltering crimson.

    Clive, Simmons, and the others streaked for the surface. The battle was lost far below them.

    They came up, and removed the breathing apparatus. The eternal noon day sun of Pellucidar glared high above them, a most welcome sight, after all they had recently endured.

    “That battle—“ Clive said.

    Simmons, his head bobbing in the tossing water said, “Yes, my boy. I know ho it was attacking the Az-al! They are the Salurgs! A reptilian races who have been their rivels for centuries, ever since they build a city of their own bordering the country of Az-al. Their attack likely covered our escape.”

    “Then we can be glad it did.” said Clive.

   They looked around, and saw that they were far out at sea. But unlike the oceans of the surface world, it was not true that no land was visible. As the horizon curved upward, they could see the nearest stretch of land--a narrow peninsula –upward in the diminishing haze of blue. But it appeared to be leagues away, with aquatic saurians teeming all around them.

   Still, they all knew their safest bet was to make for this portion of land.

   They replaced their breathers, and set out in that direction, traveling just under the surface. Their packs were set to moderate speed, and they hoped thereby to avoid the unwelcome attentions of the predacious saurians.

     As they had occasion to glance below them, it as evident that even this near the surface, the Paleolithic ocean teemed with life. Great swan-necked elasmosaurs, or tandorazes swam beneath them. There were hordes of dolchicorinchops as well, with elongated necks and toothy, beaklike jaws. There were all manner of sharks, and armored, predacious fish, and mighty marine turtles that so dwarfed their surface counterparts that it was stupefying. There pods of dolphins with curiously stunted legs, shriveled relics retained from their land ancestors. There were great schools of squid-like cephalopods with coiled shells patterned in pink and scarlet. Here, as on Pellucidar’s surface, the faunas of all the earth’s myriad eras mixed and mingled. It was a wondrous, teeming world filled with scaly life and astounding color.

     Then Clive noticed something.

     The swarms of rainbow colored fish, and cephalopods began to disperse. Even the larger aquatic reptiles began to depart. The entire area beneath was suddenly emptied of life.

    Then he saw it: A great, monstrous shape, its dimension dwarfing even the mightiest of the great reptiles. It appeared vague and shadowy at first, and Clive was uncertain at first if it as real.

   Then it slowly began to assume shape. A vast, torpedo shaped body emerging from the fathomless deep. Clive could see now that it seemed to resemble in shape the great white shark, possibly the most feared marine predator in his own world. But this creature appeared to be at least six or seven times larger than the largest great white ever recorded!

    It was vast—at least the size of a sperm whale. And it was headed directly toward them.

   Clive noticed that his companions, still surging ahead in hopes of reaching the distant coast, had yet to notice the danger from below. They were apparently unaware that the other marine predators had cleared out.

    Clive tapped Simmons’ shoulder, and pointed. The elderly scientist looked down. Seeing the vast for still taking shape below, he increased his speed, and motioned for the others to do the same.

    Everyone noticed the approaching marine monster, and followed suit.

    Clive streaked around next to Jahlanna in an effort to protect her if need be. But what could he do against a shark the size of the one gaining on them?

    He attempted to grasp the girl’s shoulders as they swam. Jahlanna pushed him away, apparently still angry with him.

    Clive looked back suddenly and saw to his horror that Valkara had fallen behind the rest of them!

    The blond girl’s backpack seemed to have shorted out. Valkara struggled through the water, her blond tresses flowing out behind her. But she was well behind them, and even as she struggled to keep up, the monstrous shape seemed almost upon her!

   All of them had stopped and were now starring in her direction. There seemed nothing any of them could do in the face of so monstrous a threat.

        But the moment’s hesitation already had its effect: Clive was horrified to see Tarok streaking to Valkara’s rescue in his place. He could only stare in stunned horror, as the brave young warrior streaked directly for the young girl.

    Valkara thrashed and flailed her lithe tanned limbs, as the super-shark bore up upon her. She through one arm back in what would surely have been a long scream of a woman in mortal terror, a the monstrous jaws—definitely those of a great white, only magnified tenfold—drew apart, revealing rows of dagger-teeth, and a hellish black gullet.

  But in the same instant, Tarok was there! Clive watched as his friend and rival grasped the girl around her waist, and both of them plunged to the side. But the super-shark was quicker. In spite of its vast size, the behemoth shark twisted mightily to the side, its massive jaws gaping even wider. Tarok and Valkara were directly in the thing’s passage. Locked in embrace, each of them looked up and screamed silently as the massive jaws closed up and over them.

     And slammed shut!

    The force of the colossal jaws pushed the remainder of Clive’s party farther out. Clive was certain the monster would now hurtle itself upon them. But the shape of a great tandoraz glided below them. Sensing a more worthy prey, the monstrous shark whipped its entire titanic length around sending the puny humans and non-humans spiraling off with a mighty flip of its gigantic tail. The gigantic shark vanished into the deep in pursuit of its newly intended victim.

    It was sometime later that Clive and the others were finally able to reach shore, the long peninsula they had spotted earlier.

   For a while none of them could speak about the sudden, and horrid loss of Valkara and Tarok. Clive realized then that he missed the warrior dearly. It surprised him a bit that the loss was so intense, as they had been rivals for the affections of the princess. But their comradeship in survival had affected him deeply. His loss was so sudden, that it left his mind dazed. Was Tarok really gone? Yes, there could be no way he and the girl could have escaped. But it all happened so quickly. Again and again he saw the monstrous shark’s jaws engulfing his companions….it didn’t seem real.

    But it was. Or was it? They had been swallowed alive and whole. Tarok was a brave warrior in his prime. Could he have possibly found a means of escape? The odds still seemed overwhelming.

    Mogor clapped him on the shoulder. “Do not fret of their loss, my gilak friend. Things like this occur often, though perhaps not in whatever strange country you hail from.”

   Clive looked up the sagoths’ brutish visage. He doubted really that such as Mogor would care at all, but he held back from saying anything.

    Finally, when they had gathered their wits, and decided in what direction they would travel, Jahlanna expressed her intentions to Clive.

    “I will not be joining you.” she told him simply.

    “What do you mean?” he asked her.

    “You have betrayed my love, the love of a princess for another.”

    “You don’t mean that. Because I meant to save her, just before that shark-thing ate her and Tarok?”

    At this, the princess did flush guiltily, but she kept an air of haughtiness. “No, I did not wish the zarith-az to eat her. But it is still her that you betrayed me for.”

     “I expained that it isn’t so.” Clive said.

      I would have been happier, Clive, if it had been you who had appeased the zarith-az’s hunger!

          “You proved back in Az-al that you would choose her over me. As a princess of Nu-al, I thank you for saving me, for rescuing me from the Az-al. But I no longer claim you as my mate. Tarok is dead. I shall mourn him.And her as well. But not you. Farewell, Clive Neville.” With that, the young princess turned her slender back upon him, and proudly strode away toward the distant dark forest.

      Clive was about to remark on the eternal mystery of the nature of the feminine mind, when, Simmons shook his shoulder. Clive turned. The old man pointed.
     About a league out in the Korsar Az, there was visible a vast ship, with great sails, as though sprung from the pages of historical romance. It was undoubtedly one of the ships of the fabled Korsars.

   And rowing steadily toward shore, was a motley band of those worthies.

   Clive and his companions readied themselves; there was an entire boat filled with the pirates. One man stood facing them in front of the seated rowers. He looked to be astern fellow with a bristling black mustache and a cutlass at his side. They all knew these newcomers could do them no good.

       And they bore weapons.

       The men clutched 19th-century pistols, the business-ends of which were already trained squarely in their direction. “Do not move.” The imposing man who was their apparent leader commanded, in Pellucidaran. “My men and I have you covered.”

    “Who are you?” Clive demanded. “We do not have any quarrel with you or your men.”

    “That is for us to decide.” The man said.

    “Do you notice their accents?” asked Simmons of Clive.

    “What about them?” Clive returned, thinking their accents were about the least of their concerns at the moment.

     “I do believe that is a genuine Moorish accent, my boy. I do believe that these men my be descendents of a flourishing maritime civilization.”

      The pirates had come ashore now, their silver muskets still trained on them. Oily smiles overspread their visages. Their leader said, “You are a curious bunch—a red-haired warrior, a tailed tree-man, and an aged human. But I do believe you have nothing of value—except for yourselves.”

    “What do you mean?” asked Clive.

    “We take you back to Korsar as curios. The Cid will decide your fate.”

    “Are you not the Cid?”

   “My name is Rahan the Terrible-- now his second in his command, since that sagoth Mo-gor, whom he foolishly raised as his own son betrayed him and ran off with one of his concubines. Ha! It was bound to happen sooner or later. Shame indeed that we find women among you to replace her.  But we cannot be choosers. We will now bring you three back to Korsar as slaves.”

    It was then that Clive suddenly noticed; Mogor was gone.

    He looked about, but he was right. The sagoth warrior had vanished; he was no where to be seen.

   How the gorilla man had accomplished this feat in such short notice eluded him, though given the swiftness and celerity of his bestial kind, it was perhaps understandable that the beast man should be able to vanish so quickly.

    But why?

   The first thing that occurred to him was an obvious one, that the gorilla man had fled fearing recapture at the hands of the Korsars; after all, according to himself, Mogor had once been the right hand man of the Cid. Since he had kidnapped Jahlanna right form under the Cid’s nose, the Korsar chieftain would undoubtedly wreck terrible vengeance for this betrayal.

   But the burly sagoth, he knew, was no coward. He would have taken out as many of the Cid’s warriors as possible rather than merely flee like a frightened hare. And there was another, more tangible reason for Mogor’s abrupt disappearance, and that one involved the princess herself.

   Clive knew it as sure as his soul; Mogor had taken advantage of the Korsar arrival and taken off in pursuit of the girl.
 

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