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Volume 1723a

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

.
Part VIII

    Jarn’s wrists and ankles were steadily growing sore from the rough vines. The amazon warriors traveled for what seemed like many leagues to the captive Nu-al boy. He was draped unceremoniously over the feathered back of one of the dyal, and the going was rather rough, as the birds traveled very fast.

    They raced through the jungle aisles, traveling over and under great moss-grown fallen trees, and through gullies canyons and ravines. They were putting more and more distance between themselves and where he and Jarla had made camp. Would the girl be able to find him? Jarn wondered. Her people were experienced trackers, but still…

    At length, they reached a more open country consisting of verdant, rolling hills, and a parklike forest. There were a number of grazing herbivores about, including a family of huge shaggy beasts with massive claws, and short, pendulous trunks. These particular behemoths Jarn immediately recognized dyryths, the giant ground sloths of the Plesticene. The beasts were fairly common in Nu-al, and his people often hunted them for food. It took a large party of armed warriors to kill a full grown one, but their meat was delectable, and their hides were tough as armor plate beneath their shaggy fur, which made dyryth hides ideal for crafting clothing and shields for battle.

     Then Jarn noticed one of the big male sloths was under attack by a horde of dyals, huge prehistoric birds of prey, not unlike the ones the amazons themselves were riding. But these were wild birds, aggressive predators, intent on ripping into the mountain of sloth-meat. Jarn had heard that dyals sometimes attacked in groups to overwhelm larger prey, but he hadn’t seen actually happening until this moment. The effect was horrible. The terror-birds attack on the shaggy behemoth was relentless, as they circled their foe, diving in attempting to rip out chunks of flesh, aiming for the vulnerable portions. The sloth’s pelt was already matted with blood, and the dyryth had already claimed a few victims of its own, as some of the dyals lay about in puddles of gore and feathers, lain claim to the sloth’s swiping talons. Jarn knew dyryths to be formidable if slow-witted beast, and those mighty claws were capable of laying open even the mighty tarag in single fell swipe.

    But the boy suddenly became aware that they were riding directly toward the primeval melee. He heard the cries of battle arise from the throats of the savage female warriors. He felt the bird beneath increase its own speed in the direction of the battle, as the warrior’s mounted on it spurred it on.

     She reined it up a bit short of the actual conflict, as though not wanted to mix in the fight unless it was necessary. Evidently, she did not care to have her captive—Jarn himself—come to harm before they did whatever they intended with him once they reached their village.

    But from what Jarn to see, most of the other amazons appeared to be mixing in the battle. Why? The boy wondered. But then he saw the reason. They were not attacking the sloth or fighting off the wild dyals. Instead they were circling the melee, capturing the young dyals. Jarn hadn’t noticed before, but there were a number of small dyals around, just old enough to be out of the nest and learn their hunting skills by following the adults. While their elders were distracted with procuring the meat, the young birds made easy pickings. A female warrior, leaning over in her saddle, would merely reach down and seize one of the small birds by his neck, then stuff him into the saddle bag on the side of her mount.

    This continued on for several moments, until Jarn’s captors seemed satisfied they had captured enough birds, then continued on, as the battle between the dyryth and the adult dyals continued to rage.

     They had not traveled much farther, until they entered another stretch of dense forest. This one seemed darker and more gloomy then the one before. But Jarn had seen the shimmering blue of a large lake about a league distant before entering the trees, and the boy wondered if perhaps this was not their destination.

    It turned out though, that the amazon village was located in gloomy, secluded region of that forest. The leader of the warrioresses—the one who had addressed Jarn so imperiously—announced that they had arrived.

         “We have returned my queen! We return with many young dyals to raise and train as mounts. We have found Zara, who so disobediently strayed in search of search of adventure. We also have a boy-captive, a foolish young male claims he saved Zara from a trodon.”

        “A trodon!” The voice called down from above. “This I must hear. Bring them to me.”

      Jarn looked up; he saw that the village was built among the massive boughs of the towering trees, which a paleontologist like Professor Simmons might have recognized as cryptomyria, a primitive form of redwood native to the Mesozoic. The boles of the trees were massive, certainly sturdy enough to support the impressively-sized village. Solid wood walkways connected the entire network of edifices. At first there appeared to be no access to the village from the ground, but in response to a command by the lead amazon, a vine ladder was cast down.

      Two strongly muscled women—each must have been at least six feet—hauled the dazed Jarn off the dyal and two his feet. The rest of the warrioresses dismounted. One of them led the dyals away to where they were corralled somewhere. The saddlebags were removed, and slung over the womens’ shapely shoulders, the small captive birds squawking in dismay and confusion. The warrior women began mounting the ladder.

    Jarn was pulled roughly off the dyal, and to his feet. The bonds on his ankles and wrists were slashed. “Move it, boy!” one of the women told him. “And make it fast. Queen Zeera is not one to be patient.”

     Jarn felt like giving a sharp-tongued reply, but thought the better of it.

    He was forced to ascend the woven vine ladder with his captors. The women escorted through the village along the connecting walkways. Azeer was like no human village Jarn had ever seen or imagined. There were many women around, most of them young and beautiful, all of them with a haughty, warrior-like air. Most regarded him with haughty contempt as he was led past them. There were a few children in Azeer as well—all of them girls.  Some of these regarded him with wide-eyed innocence before they were shushed and led away by their elders. There were no men in the village at all, not even captives or slaves,  that Jarn could see. It made him uneasy. How did these women find mates?

    They took him to the largest hut, the dwelling of Queen Zeera herself. As they entered the great hall, Jarn was at first awed by the imperious person of the queen, seated upon throne of saurian bones. The reptile’s skull gaped at the top. As for Zeera herself, she was beyond stunning. The woman’s face was radiant, with slightly slanted, almond-shaped eyes which regarded Jarn and his captors with a bewitching and imperial air. Her features were delicate, yet queenly. Her magnificent mane of hair, which was not the midnight blue-black of most of the amazons, but a brilliant copper-red—far more red even than Jarla, and the rest of the O-lar people. It left Jarn stunned, for the boy had never seen or heard before of anyone with hair of this shade and hue. Not even the stranger Clive Neville, liberator of his tribe, had hair of quite the same shade. Her neck was slender and elegant, her wide but femininely rounded shoulders tanned and magnificent. And the rest of her! Her legs were smooth and deliciously tanned by the sun of the inner world, yet lithely muscled and athletic as well. Her thighs were large and sturdy. She was a large girl all over, but slim and pantherish as well, as her enticing dimensions were all in glorious proportion. The sandels which clothed her shapely feet were of yellow and black striped tarag hide, as was the strip which girdled her loins. But her breasts remained extremely bare. And such breasts! They were heavy and magnificent, capped with nipples of rosy red-pink. They were very full and sleek in their roundness, those breasts, and the amazon queen displayed them without the slightest trace of modesty.

     The pubescent lad found himself ogling at those magnificent mammaries—he couldn’t stop himself. And as he went on looking, Jarn felt a wonderful stiffness materialize in his groin region.

    The boy’s carnal elation came to an abrupt end when one of his captors smashed her hard, capable fist into the side of his cheek. Jarn fell sprawling.

   “That will teach you to gaze at our ruler with your stupid male lust!” It was amazon who had been the leader of those that had brought him here. “Get to your feet and show her your respect!”

     “Leave him alone!” he heard Zara cry.

     Jarn got to his feet shakily. He saw as he looked the amazon queen in her face that Zeera herself was not angry with him. Her green, catlike gaze regarded him with something like cold feminine amusement. The corners or her full ripe lips curled up slightly. A light trill of mocking laugher escaped her throat. “A typical male, I see. Do not let Julaka bother you, boy. She always does that when captives such as yourself are brought before me. You may gaze at me more if you like. Then she will have another excuse to knock you around. Would you like that?”

    She spoke with mock-sweetness. Jarn shook his head.

    “That’s very good. For you.” She turned her gaze up. “And you, Zara, will learn to hold your tongue when in my presence. You are still not yet a woman. You are merely a girl, and a rebellious one at that!”

    Jarn half-expected Zara to make some reply, but the room was silent.

     “Where did you find this boy?” Zeera asked of Julaka, who was apparently second in command.

      “We found him with Zara, after we had tracked her to a creek in the forest west of here.” Julaka replied hotly.

     Now the amazon queen’s face truly showed venom. “Zara! You have always been a lazy and most troublesome child! But do not tell me you were found flirting with a boy!”

    “I was not flirting with him!” the girl insisted. “He saved me from a trodon that was about to kill me.”

     Zeera arched one eyebrow in haughty amusement. “Oh? And how did this pathetic male accomplish this?”

     “He leaped upon the beast’s back before it could pounce on me. It got itself caught in tree, and together we killed it.”

    “You lie! A mere male is incapable of such a thing. Not even a party of Azeer women could possibly slay a trodon! And certainly not a foolish youngling like yourself, and some spineless male!”

    “Spineless! He’s a very brave boy—braver than the lot of you!”

    “Silence, foolish wench! Your words border on treason! Take the boy away!”

    “What will you do to him?” Zara wanted to know.

     “What do you expect? He will be given his own room in the slaves’ hut. He will be given the proper attentions that all males are.”

     “No!”

     “You cannot go against my word, Zara. Julaka, take the brat away! And be sure to temper your harshness, even though he is a male. See that he is well treated and given plenty of food.”


       Well treated? Plenty of food? Jarn wasn’t sure if he’d heard correctly. From everything else he’d heard, it looked as though the queen would have him thrown to starving jaloks.

      Beams of golden sunlight from Pellucidar’s eternal high noon-day sun slanted gloriously through the massive russet-hued boles of the mighty prehistoric trees, bathing the village huts of the Azeer in their flooded light. Large insects and diminutive flying reptiles glided on transparent membranes through the columns of sunlight. Julaka, and two other warrior women escorted the boy. They took him to a two-story hut. They paused briefly before entering.

    Julaka looked cruelly down at the captive Nu-al boy. A nasty sneer curled one corner of her pretty lips. “Enter, boy.” She told him “If you are truly the brave young lad Zara claims you are.” She through back her head and laughed haughtily again, the same way she had before. The other two women joined her, and they departed.

    Jarn faced the hut’s double doors. His guards had inexplicably left him, but he might as well see what was in here. He pushed on them and entered.

     The boy found himself in a large room. There was a long bed covered in thick tandor hide. Rings of luxuriant tarag and ta-ho hide covered the floor. A long couch of thick hide cushions lay in one corer. And this and the bed were covered with all sorts of other cushions, doubtless stuffed with zimtrok feathers, and made of the hides of tarags, and other soft-pleled beasts. A wood table stood in the center of the room. On this was set a crystalline pitcher, and several stone goblets, each filled with some sort of strange violet beverage.

    But none of these things were what most arrested the Nu-al lad’s attention. What stupefied him the most was the gaggle of comely, barely-dressed girls that filled the chamber. All were beautiful. Some were raven tressed, others had hair like spun gold. Some had thick hair of vibrant red, as did Queen Zeera—it seemed the Azeer consisted of a number of racial characters, which made their ultimate origin all the more a mystery—not the Jarn cared at the moment in the least.  Some of them were as bare-breasted as their queen. Though none could top her in magnificence, they were all incredible nonetheless. Most seemed not too much older than himself, though were all seemingly Azeer warrior maids not unlike the women that captured him. But the attitude of these couldn’t have been more different. They were, all of them, gazing at him with open affection, even flirtatiousness.

      ‘Well, well,” said one, a brunette beauty who seemed to be the leader of this particular harem. “Who is this handsome young lad who has come to join us?”

    Jarn felt the affectionate gaze of the girl and her companions boring into him, making his cheeks grow terribly hot.

   “Jarn…my name is Jarn.” This was all the boy was able to manage, before the feminine arms closed over him.

    “Jarn. I like that name. Allow us to comfort you.” said another girl, a redhead.

   “The…the other women were ready to kill me!” Jarn stammered. “Why….?”

     “Never mind why!” said a blonde girl. “You’re our guest! Stay with us awhile? You don’t mind do you?”

     “”No.” Jarn murmured dreamily. “Not at all.”

    Jarn, dazed and blushing like mad, allowed them to lead him over to the nest of cushions. “Sit down, handsome youth, and allow us to refresh you.”

      Jarn sat down. The brunette girl who was the leader began massaging his shoulders. Another girl tickled him affectionately under the chin. Another rubbed her cheek against his. “How long am I going to stay here?” he asked. “I’m supposed to be a captive, right?”

   The brunette girl laughed. “A captive? You? A handsome young warrior like you is never our captive. You can stay here as long as you want! And you do want to, don’t you Jarn? You wouldn’t want to leave us would you? And you’ll never have to work here! Ever! We’ll bring you all the food and drink you ever could want. All you have to do is sit here and keep us entertained.”

      Keep them entertained?

       The Nu-al boy gazed about him in a wonderful stupor. On all sides of him were admiring females, playfully flirting with him. Jarn couldn’t believe such fortune! It was as though he had wondered into every pubescent boy’s dream. He, Jarn, the boy who had been chided all his life for being a lazy brat who did not understand the value of work, was now living better than a king! If only the other boys back in Nu-al could see him now! And what was it that girl had called him? A handsome young warrior! Yes, she knew he was Jarn the warrior, and no mere boy! Of course all these girls were in love him!

     Jarn shook his head abruptly. Something was wrong here. Something in the air. He hadn’t noticed it at first. But it was there. Some kind of weird smoke filled the room. It was bluish, and wispy, and he could hardly see it. But he could smell it.

     Somehow, almost instinctively, the boy knew it was affecting his senses. This situation was not right, the rational part of Jarn’s brain insisted. And hormone-crazed, hotheaded lad that he so often was, at his core Jarn was anything but a fool. The realm of Pellucidar had long taught the boy the rules of survival. He learned to trust his instincts when they screamed at him of approaching danger.

     The Azeer hated all boys and men. They either intended to kill him, or something even worse. The last thing they intended was that live out the rest of his life enjoying himself. That meant all this was a trick, and he had to escape. And then he thought of Jarla. Jarla! She was out there somewhere, searching for him, wondering why he’d gone….

    But looking around him, he found his senses slipping away again. If not for the smoke, he might yet have resisted. But it had invaded his nostrils, into his lungs. All he wanted to do was sit back and lose himself in this impossible dream.

    “You must be hungry from your journey. Nu-al is far away. Allow us to serve you,” Jarn heard one of the girls tell him.

   The bevy of smiling females parted, and Jarn found himself facing a nubile brunette amazon bearing a silver tray. And on this tray a huge still-sizzling slab of thick, juicy-red mammoth steak. Jarn had not realized until that moment just how hungry he had become during his long journey. He and Jarla had been able to kill and eat some small game, but he had been so preoccupied with them escaping from O-lar that he had not time to think about it. But now he knew he was truly ravenous.

    The Azeer girl knelt before Jarn, setting the plate in front of him. “Indulge yourself, princeling.” This time, Jarn caught a hint of mockery in the girl’s tone. But he was beyond caring at this point.

     Mouth visibly salivating, the half-starved boy tore into the slab of tandor meat, began ripping into it with his teeth in savage gusto.

    “Mmmmm! Must be good.” One of the girls commented. “Try one of the drinks.”

    Jarn did. He quaffed the strange purplish beverage in the stone goblets, washing down his repast of mammoth sirloin. Jarn found the drink to be frothy, and pleasingly sweet.

     Two of the Azeer set bowls filled with luscious fruits on each side of him. Jarn seized the fruits and began devouring them. One was bright red, and a sweet, tart taste, rather like a melon, but not. One other was purple, but had a flavor not unlike a pear. Wild pears did grow around Nu-al, but Jarn had not tasted anything quite like this before. One was a fruit like red tangerine, that the boy found to be bursting with juicy-sweet flavor.

     Jarn went on eating like the starving lad that he was. The girls began giggling at him in a manner that no longer sounded entirely affectionate. Once the boy had polished off everything, the girls began rubbing some kind of oil onto his shoulders, and began flirting with him once again.

    By now, Jarn felt pleasingly stuffed and wonderfully comfortable. He felt he had the best company in Pellucidar he could possibly ask for. Right now he didn’t feel like doing anything as much as a long relaxing sleep. Amidst the cooing and murmuring of his companions, the Nu-al boy lay back and closed his eyes.


    Jarla returned to the camp with a brace of zimtroks she had brought down with her bow. The first thing she noticed was that Jarn was missing. She searched everywhere for the boy, finally locating his set of tracks leading down toward the creek.

Following them, she found evidence that the boy had scaled a tree overlooking the water. Perhaps Jarn had taken refuge from some large predator? She kept on searching, but found little to support this theory. Then, on the other side of the creek, the girl noticed the huge carcass of the flying monster wedged within a massive forest giant. Like Jarn, she had never before seen a reptile species quite like it, but she recognized its likeness. It was a trodon, one of the fabled flying reptiles, whose victims were said to be borne off to an unspeakably horrid fate. They were apparently, and thankfully, rare in O-lar, and Nu-al, but Jarla realized they had journeyed far from their native lands by now. The monster was quite dead, however, that was obvious, and the carcass had nearly been picked clean by arboreal scavengers. As she drew nearer, she could see that ants were already making short work of the remainder of it. But what had killed the flying beast? Had Jarn? It didn’t seem likely that someone so inexperienced could have accomplished this feat.

     But as she examined the carcess more closely she saw that it appeared to have been slain by a spear thrust through the chest cavity. Just what had occurred? Casting around for footprints on the creek opposite form their campsite, she found them without difficulty. Two sets of prints—Jarn’s and a set of slightly finer and smaller prints that undoubtedly belonged to a girl. Against her own will, jealousy welled up within Jarla. Had Jarn met another girl—run off with her? Maybe he had somehow saved her from the trodon, though how he might have managed to kill the thing she still couldn’t guess. It would be just like him to play the hero and jump to the rescue. She was doubtless of a strange tribe endemic to this region, and she might have called Jarn foolish. But of course, she belonged to a different tribe than Jarn’s as well.

      But even if that were the case the evidence was before her: both Jarn and the strange girl were gone. She now felt real anger surge up within her. She found herself thinking of all Jarn had risked for her, even being killed by Lu-gor. It had seemed as though Jarn would have done anything for her. And maybe he would have—until he found a girl he fancied more than she. Her elders had been right about Jarn. Why had she allowed herself to think he was noble, loyal, and caring underneath? He was nothing but a worthless, lying, cheating…

     Wait! There were more prints further up the bank. These were not the tracks of teens, but definitely those of grown women. Her first thought was that these were a band of her own people who had finally found them, but as she examined the tracks closer, she grew certain that was not the case. There shape indicated that all members of the group were women, but the prints were considerably larger than any other women’s prints Jarla had ever seen. She had a feeling all of these females were warriors. The women of her own tribe trained as warriors as well, but there was not a single male member among thse. Apparently, they had captured Jarn and his new companion.

    Jarla felt nearly overwhelmed with relief. This did not entirely exonerate Jarn’s intentions once he and the strange girl had met, but it was obvious the two had been abducted against their will. Jarla followed the prints the warrior-women and the two teens until she came to a clearing. She was surprised to find the prints of a large number of dyals—great carnivorous birds—and it was strange but obvious nonetheless from the depths of the prints leading away, that the amazon women were using the birds as mounts, and had borne their young captives away. To where? That, Jarla was determined to discover.


    “Jarn!”

    Jarn shook his head in an attempt to clear it. It throbbed rather badly. Someone was shaking his shoulder.

   “Jarn, wake up!”

    The Nu-al boy groggily roused himself. The face of a girl was bending over him. It took him a moment to realize she wasn’t one of the “servants” who had attended him, massaging him and bringing him food.

    It was Zara.

    “Zara? What are you doing here?”

     “I’m saving you.”

     “Saving me?”

    “You foolish boy, why do you think Queen Zeera brought you here had them bring you food?”

   “They…liked me?”

   “They did not like you. They brought you here on purpose. They used the dream smoke to drug you.”

     Jarn remembered in a flash. The smoke! Yes, something about it had made him lethargic. He had only wished to think of pleasant dreamy thinks. What kind of smoke was it?

      “The dream-smoke is from the charlak weed. When crushed and burnt, it gives off a smoke that causes men to forget themselves.”

    Jarn sat up. He’d been a fool! He’d allowed the women to drug him, and he’d fallen into a deep slumber. He looked about the hut. All the servant girls were gone. But whatever it was they had been planning to do with him, they apparently had not done it yet.

     “They are now waiting for the drug to have its effect. We must go now.”

     “What are they planning to do to me?”

     “You do not wish to find out. Come with me, and I will lead you away from Azeer. I wish to go with you. I hate it here. Zeera treats me like her possession. You and I could start our own tribe.”

    For a moment, Jarn was sorely tempted. She was quite pretty, was Zara. Her face simply radiated fierce beauty. But he remembered the other young woman he was already committed to. And despite his brashness, a heart as loyal as the most stalwart of his people’s grown warrior’s beat within the cave boy’s breast.

      “I-“ he started.

      “Come!” she said.

     She led Jarn out of hut, and through the silent Azeer village. Strangely, none of the warrior women were about; Jarn assumed it must be their sleep period.

     When the reached the tree that gave them entrance and exit to the treetop village, Zara let down the vine ladder.

     They clambered down the sturdily woven vines. But once they reached the bottom, they were unceremoniously greeted by a party of armed Azeer. And the leader was none other than Julaka. Zeer’s second-in command glared down at them glared down imperiously. “Ho ho! What have we here? Are the young lovers thinking to run away!”

       “Let us go!” Zara said, her pubescent voice hot with anger.

      “Queen Zeera will love to hear of this, my sweet,” Julaka told her. “As well as our new captive!”

     Tow of the Azeer brought the struggling fiercely captive girl forward. Jarn gaped. The captive was none other than Jarla!

      “Jarn!” she cried.

    “So….Julaka mused. “It would seem these two know each other.”

    “That’s right!” cried Jarn. “Don’t hurt her!”

    Julaka laughed in the way that infuriated Jarn. “You have no say in this boy! All of you will be brought before Queen Zeera. This new develop may make your stay among us more interesting.”

     Once again, Jarn and Zara faced the Queen of the Azeer, this time with Jarla among them.

     “Indeed, this changes things a bit. So is this girl the boy’s lover?”

    “She is.” said Jarn. He noticed Zara shoot him and Jarla a glare of jealous anger.

     The Queen addressed Jarla. “Do you know, my girl, what is done with men and boys when they are brought to us?”

     “No.” she said.

     The Queen gave her a smile of cold amusement. “Let’s just say they do not remain males for long.”

      Jarla gulped. She had a fair understanding of what the queen meant. “You won’t do anything to Jarn!” she cried. “He is my friend. He saved me from another man.”

     The queen smiled mockingly at her. But she said.” Hmmm. Perhaps I believe you. Two women have taken a fancy to this boy. First our own rebellious Zara, now you. For that, maybe I should allow the lad to prove himself.”

     “What do you mean?”  Jarla asked.

     “It seems maybe I have been a bit hasty in deciding boy’s fate. I have decided to allow him a chance to prove himself. Jarn,” she said, her eyes roving to him, “If you are such a brave young man, I have a test prepared for you.”

    The room seemed to tense, as though everyone there anticipated the Queen’s next words.

    “You will journey to the isle of Gurat, in the heart of Lake Fala. To prove your bravery, and gain your freedom, you will bring back the headdress of the chief of the Gurats. My warriors will escort you there.”

    “Wait! I want Jarla to come to! I do not want to leave without her.”

     The queen laughed. “So you still need a female’s aide do you? Very well, but we will know if it is you accomplishes this task. Now begone.”


      The Azeer escorted Jarn and Jarla to the edge of lake Fala. Not surprisingly, it was the same lake Jarn had glimpsed in the distance when they had first brought him as a captive. Jarn had not seen any of the inner world’s oceans, save at very great distances, and this lake appeared to be a very large body of water. The island of Gurat, it turned out, was very visible from the shore, and not far off. As they traveled on their dyals, it turned out that there was a narrow causeway connecting the island with the mainland. Jarn asked what it was for. Julaka explained that the cause way was built in order for trade between the Gurats and Azeer during certain seasons. The rest of time it was for war, for apparently the two peoples existed in a state of constant warfare, excepting the seasons of trade.

     “But what sort of people are these Gurats?”

     “That, my young friend is for us to know and you to find out. As you shall in short order. You may take the dyal with you.”

    The two teens had been strapped both of them on the back of a single bird. Jarn gave their feathered mount a swift kick, and the bird carried them over the causeway in the direction of Gurat.

   Once they arrived on the island, the boy and girl found themselves in a different world.

    The island consisted of a parklike forest, not unlike that which occurred throughout much of Pellucidar. What was amazing was the fauna. It seemed to be exactly the same as that found throughout the inner world in all respects save one: size.

      To their left, they spied a herd of shaggy tandors. But these were no larger than ponies. Further away, a heard of thags lay in the shade of some great trees lazily chewing their cuds. But the prehistoric cattle appeared even smaller. Herds of deer, antelope, horses and camels galloped past—all in stunning miniature. And the predators! There were packs of dwarf tarags that did not appear much larger than ocelots, preying upon the grazing herds, just aas their larger brethren did upon the behemoths of their own world. Once, a shaggy-coated ryth lumbered past, no larger than a Newfoundland dog.

     “Jarn—Jarn!” cried the girl. “What new world is this we’ve stumbled into.”

    “I don’t know Jarla. “I’ve never seen anything like it.” And he hadn’t, not even in his fanciful imagining’s. At leas there was plenty of game. And since the animals were so small, killing one would be easy. Jarn imagined if his own tribe could raise a herd of these pony sized tandors for food—it would surely save ave the effort and potential lives lost in bringing down a single adult tusker!

      The boy found himself wondering what the Gurat people could be like. Possibly they were a race of all- male warriors, as the Azeer were all female. But seeing this island made him wonder—could they be like normal Pellucidarans—only shrunk, like the animals of this strange island realm? Perhaps they were another race of amazon women, only miniaturized!

    They had left the parklike forest behind and entered a dense and gloomy jungle, not unlike that where the Azeer concealed their village, but even more forboding. Snakelike vines twisted about everywhere, and the boughs overhead intertwined to shut out the eternal sunlight. It must have been when they were nearing the center of the island, and jungle was growing steadily more sinister, that the shape plummeted out to tree overhead, and landed directly in their path.

    The cave boy and girl gasped in unison. The thing did not appear to be human. It had pasty-white skin, perhaps from living so long within this brooding environment. Its hair, what there was of it, was black and coarse, covering its head, shoulders and groin area, while leaving the rest bare. It was indeed dwarfed—but unlike the animals in the parklike part of the island, this creature seemed almost deformed. Its head was not quite equal to Jarn’s own, and its long and apelike arms seemed too long for it. These arms were heavily corded with muscle, and terminated in grasping hands equipped with thick tlon-like nails. The legs were thick and bowed. Its face was hideous a bizarre caricature somewhere between that of a human and a sagoth. Small, piglike eyes glared up at the boy and girl from beneath a heavy browridge, and there was no mistaking the malice within them.  The thing was a prognathus-jawed as any ape, and tusklike fangs thrust upward from the pendulous lower jaw, almost to the flattened nostrils. A long and sinuous tail depended out behind it as well, tufted at the tip with the same manner of coarse, black hair that grew on the body. This did not appear to be prehensile, as was the case with the black-skinned ape-men, who existed throughout some regions of a Pellucidar, but more like the tail of a cat. The tail lashed about in apparent indignation, seeming to prove this.

     Jarn felt Jarla clutch at his arm. He could tell that this creature meant neither of them any good, but the boy was uncertain what they should do.

        Them a wild jabbering and screeching issued from above, causing them to gaze up.  In the branches of the trees above them what seemed to be an entire tribe of creatures of the same race as the one confronting them were gathered, hooting, and shaking the branches. Some of them brandished spears and stone axes. Jarla clutched at jarn all the tighter, as the girl glanced around at them fear in her eyes.

     “Greetings, gilaks.” croaked the one facing them in the common tongue. “We welcome you to Gurat.”

    “Are you the Gurats?”

    “Yes.”

     “Then that is good. We have come to see your chief.”

     The creature chortled. “You will certainly see our chief. He will I am certain, be looking forward to seeing you.”

    The remainder of the creatures leaped down from the branches, hooting and jabbering to surround the boy and girl. Jarn and Jarla soon found their wrists bound behind them once more, and their captors ushered them through the gloomy jungle.

     It turned out the Gurats’ village was not all that different in general appearance from that of the Azeer. It, too, was built high in the treetops, out of reach of their enemies. The huts themselves were short and squat affairs, and a series of vines and swinging bridges connected them. Rather than a vine rope, a series of pegs driven into the wood, afforded access to their village. Jarn and Jarla were ushered up at spear point.

        Once they reached the top, they were ushered through the “streets” of the treetop village by their dwarfish captors until they came to the largest hut. “The dwelling of our chief” explained one of the Gurats. They entered into the gloom.

       And before them, sitting importantly upon a throne of dinosaur bones was an unhandsome young man that Jarn recognized instantly.

      Lu-gor of O-lar!

     Jarla gasped. How this man had come to be here on this island among this dwarfed simian race, neither of them had the slightest idea. Hadn’t they left him far behind when, they had lost their pursuers? The man lounged arrogantly on his royal seat. Upon his head was the elaborate headdress of which Zeera had spoke. It was formed of the brilliant plumageof exotic island birds, with the gaping skull of a small pterosaur set in the center.

    Lu-gor chuckled, an ugly sound deep in his throat. He smirked at Jarn. “So you’re wondering how I came to be here, are you, boy?”

      “The last we heard, you with Nuvia’s warriors, trailing us!” Jarla said.

      “And so I was. But you evidently were able to give her warriors the slip. So I decided to go off tracking you on my own. But when I saw this lovely little island out here, I could not restrain my urge to investigate.”

     Jarn did not believe that for a second. Lu-gor did not strike him a having an adventurous spirit, and he was far too cowardly besides. More likely he had run off when the O-larians were attacked by a dangerous predator or a hostile tribe, and party of these ape things had set upon him, and brought him bound and captured to the island. But the boy said nothing.

    “Once I came here” Lu-gor boasted. “These monkey-things revered me as a god. It seems they had never seen a male member of our race before—though there is a tribe of female warriors I have heard who as eternal at war with these things. They were impressed by my size and my strength, and when I challenged their ruler to a personal combat—and naturally my superior fighting skills won out.

     That Jarn could swallow—after a fashion. Doubtless he had indeed killed the Gurat chief in combat, but it was undoubtedly because Lu-gor was not only much large, but that he was cowardly and dirty fighter as well.

    “But a king must have a queen at his side. And now the gods have seen fit to deliver Jarla back into my grasp.”

    “No!” cried Jarla

    “When my scouts told me that a boy and a girl were coming here,” Lug-Gor was saying, “I could scarcely credit my good fortune that it might really be you. They said you were mounted on a dyal, and seemed to have come from Azeer. But there are no males among the Azeer. And my hopes rose. It appears they did not lead me astray after all. The opportunity for my vengeance is nearly complete.”

     Jarn gulped, intimidated by this shocking turn of events. Sensing the boy’s Jarn’s old nemesis sneered at him. But Jarn managed. “Queen Zeera promised Jarla and I our freedom if we brought her the headdress of the king of the Gurats.”

      Lu-Gor laughed.  “Come and take it then. But no, have a better idea. Come allow me to show you.”

    Lu-Gor arose from his throne and strode arrogantly over to Jarn and Jarla. “Follow me.”

   They followed him out into the village flanked by the dwarfish Gurats, and across a dizzily swinging bridge, and then another and another. At last they reached an area of sturdy wood planking, not unlike in Azeer. The walkway formed a roughly square area. The jabbering monkey men were gathered on all sides, as though for entertainment. And deep below was a pit.

      And in that pit were the saurians. Jarn recognized them as ugtors—a species of bipedal carnivorous reptile far smaller than beasts such as the jalgor, but built on the same plan. Unlike the larger reptiles ugtors were man-sized, and hunted the greater mammals and saurians in packs. They possessed a startling degree of intelligence and cunning for a reptile, and each had a retractable central claw on each foot, shaped like a sickle, and designed for killing. Surface world scientists of the early 1970s would some day give these beasts the name deinonychus, or terrible claw.

      But these ugtors were much smaller than their human-sized relatives. They were little larger then basset hounds, dwarfed like everything else on this strange island. But they looked as voracious as ever, leaping up at the spectators, slashing their talons in the air, and snapping their jaws. Jarn knew they would make short work of whoever fell down amongst them.

    “Ready the plank.” Lu-gor ordered. Two of the monkey-men steadied a long wooden plank across the pit. Lugor walked around the opposite side. Then he faced Jarn from across the pit.

       “Now, boy! See that you can cross the plank without falling to the ugtors’ mercy! See if you can! Cross to me, and as your reward, I shall give you me headdress. If you end up in the ugtors’ bellies, I will make Jarla my bride.”

     Jarn cast a fearful look at Jarla.

     “Don’t do it, Jarn! He wants you to die!”

     Jarn shook his head. “He’ll kill me anyway. I might as well try it.”

     “You’re a fool, Jarn!” Jarla told him.

     “Perhaps the girl is a better judge of character than I thought.” said Lu-gor.

     Jarn stepped out onto the plank. To his shock and dismay, it was hardly as sturdy as it appear; it was made of wood that was supple and flexible and it buckled nauseatingly under him. It was also very thin, only a few inches wide, barely room for one foot at a time.

    Jarn placed both feet on the plank. He began to move out. All at once, the swarm of tiny killer dinosaurs rushed in under him. A few actually made leaps into the air toward him slashing their sickle claws in the air. The sight nearly cost Jarn his sense of balance, and the boy nearly fell, arms pinwheeling, into the mass of dwarf carnosaurs. But he maintained his coolness at the last moment.

    Lu-Gor laughed, the sound jangling Jarn’s nerves.

    Jarn stretched both his arms out, and began making his way across, carefully placing each foot in front of the other. The dinosaurs below were highly aggressive, as was typical of their species, and must have been starved by the Gurats for just such an occasion. They were chirruping fiendishly and making wild leaps at the above plank. All around them, the Gurats were responding with a chorus of jabbering and hooting. Jarn couldn’t tell if the monkey people were cheering him on or cheering for his demise.

    “The utgors seem very hungry, don’t they lad? They hunger right now for the blood of a certain lazy, girl-stealing young brat!  Ha! Did you see that one? He almost bit off your toe. They are very good at jumping, you see. They’ll have the skin stripped off your bones in no time. Have you ever seen what a pack of ugtors can do to a tandor carcass, boy? Have you?”

     Jarn blocked the taunts out, forced himself not to listen. He’d known Lu-gor would do this of course. The boy forced himself to think only of getting across, and if he thought of Lu-Gor at all, he thought only of what a swaggering, bullying braggart he was.

    When he nearly made it half-way across the pit, the horde of tiny killer dinos swarmed up under him, sending up a chirruping that invaded his ears. The monkey-folk had now fallen silent, doubtless eager to see if the young gilak truly would make across the bridge alive. All of their piggy little eyes were watching his progress intently.

    “Long way to go yet, boy!” called Lu-Gor.

    Just then, one of the creatures’ claws actually nicked the side of the plank. Jarn nearly toppled, but the boy flung out both arms and one leg, balancing himself on the other. The incident afforded him a dizzying view of the pit and the fate that awaited him among the rapacious saurians. He heard Jarla shriek, certain that he would perish in the next few seconds. Slowly, Jarn righted himself.

     “Haha!” cried Lu-gor. “They nearly had you, boy. A few more steps and it’s over for you.”

    Jarn kept on going. He concentrated, blocking out all thought of Lu-gor, the Xerxots, or the pit. One pace then another. Then another. The shrill hisses and shieks of reptiles played on his ears, but he fought to purge his mind from them. Finally he walked the last few paces of the plank with perfect agility.

    Lu-Gor was now starring at the boy in open hatred. He obviously had expected to see the boy plunge to his death among the ravenous reptiles.

   The jabbering Gurats now exploded into another chorus, this one seemingly in celebration of Jarn’s feat.

     Lu-Gor glared around at them “Silence!” he commanded.

     The monkey people fell silent.

    Glaring at the boy, Lu-Gor made a mad rush at Jarn, meaning to barge into him, intending to knock the boy headlong into the pit. But the younger lad anticipated the hulking man’s move, and quickly ducked, then through himself to one side.

    Jarn landed safely on the edge of the pit. But his adversary was far less fortunate. He toppled headlong into the pit.

    But at the last moment, Lu-Gor’s arm snaked out, and grasped the edge of the pit. Before he could manage to pull himself up, the attention of the starving ugtor pack was arrested. The entire pack scurried over beneath him. One reptile leapt at him, its claws sinking into Lu-Gor’s leg. The man screamed. The others snapped and bit at his toes.

     “Save me!” he cried to Jarn. “Save me, boy! Do not let them eat me!”

      “Why not?” Jarn asked. “Utgors have to eat don’t they? You’ll make a much better meal than me there’s more meat on you.” Jarn did not care to leave even a man like Lu-gor in such a situation. But he couldn’t resist this.

     “I would not have killed you! I would not have allowed you to fall!”

      Jarn couldn’t believe what he was hearing. And his elders called him a liar!

     But he reached out a hand to pull Lu-Gor from the pit.

     “No, Jarn!” It was Jarla. She had come around the walkway. ‘Don’t save him! He would not have done the same for you! He meant for you to die, and you well know it.”

    “But I have to help him.” Jarn insisted. “I can’t leave a man like this.”

    He pulled LuGor form the pit. The dinosaur still clutching the man’s leg released its hold with a squeal and fell back among the others in the pit.
   But then Lu-Gor sneered at Jarn. “Now boy…..”

   Jarn and Jarla both backed up in unison. But this time Lu-Gor was met with a forest of spears. The Gurats surrounded him on all sides.

     “What are you doing?” he cried. “I am your chief! You must obey me!”

     “No.” croaked one of the Guarat, an apparet leader of sorts. “You are no longer chief here.”

    ‘Then who is ?” Lu-Gor chided.

     “The boy is. It is clear that he had bested you. He not only passed your test, he saved your life as well. You were a terrible chief. Your size and strength may have had us fooled. But now we see you for the coward that you are. You tied to assault another gilak younger and smaller than yourself. But even so, he beat you, then had to save your worthless hide from the utgor.

     Lu-Gor blushed a fierce crimson as the boy smirked at him.

    “Leave our land, and do not return.” the former Gurat chief told Lu-Gor. “If we find you again in our land, you will be killed.”

    “But I do not want to be chief here.” Jarn said. “The girl and I wish to go somewhere far away, where we may be together.

    “Then go, if that is your choice.” said the chief “You have earned your own freedom as well as hers.”

     Jarn could not tell him how lad he was to hear that. It seemed the Gurots were an honorable race, however brutish their appearance. “But there is one thing I need. Lu-Gor’s headdress.”

    “That is your already. Take it.”

    The monkey men excorted Jarn, Jarla and Lu-Gor back to the island’s causeway. The dyal was still left where they had tethered it. The boy and girl mounted it, while Lu-Gor was forced to stumble along behind. But he had little choice with the force of Gurats at his back!

    When they reached the mainlad, the Amazon warriors were still there waiting.

    Jaulaka was there as well. All seemed astonished to see the boy wearing the sacred headdress of the Gurat!

  The boy dismounted and waved it proudly.

    The warrior woman seemed a bit disappointed. “So….I suppose you have won your freedom, boy. You are a more capable lad than I expected. But let us first hear what Zeera has to say about this.” Then she noticed Lu-Gor. She regarded the hulking O-lar man with disdain—more disdain, Jarn realized than that which she had leveled at him. It seemed that Julaka, cold and cruel though she was herself, could spot a genuine bully the moment she saw one. “And who, might I inquire is this?”

     “He is Lu-Gor of O-lar.” Jarn explained. “He was betrothed to Jarla before I saved her. He made himself king of the Gurats before I won the headdress from him.”

    “I see.” said Julaka, never taking her eyes off the man.

    Jarn looked at Lu-Gor to see how the man was reacting to this. Lu-Gor seemed to have forgotten all about Jarla, at least for the moment. He was gaping at the gorgeous, lush- figured women before him.

    Julaka made a swift, sharp motion with one hand, and two of her warriors intercepted Lu-Gor. One of them smashed her war-club into the back of Lu-Gor’s skull. The man was sent sprawling. Fortunately though, the skull of Lu-Gor was very thick. The man moaned in agony.

     “That will teach you to stare at warriors of Azeer with your stupid male lust, man!” she admonished.

       Lu-Gor merely groaned.

     “Tie him on a dyal. We return to Azeer at once!”

     They returned to the treetop village of the amazons. Once again they were brought before Queen Zeera, but this time the queen was so impressed with the boy’s feat, that she agreed to let both him and Jarla go. Having Lu-Gor with them this time actually helped matters. Any reservations she might have had about the boy’s truthfulness in the story were considerably lessoned by the fact that Lu-Gor was obviously not trustworthy in the slightest.

     Preparations were made for the journey of the two young people. They were given separate dyals from the stables this time, since carrying double was rather awkward—though it afford ample space for the two teens to cuddle up together. A third dyal was sent along as a pack animal, with satchels of food and supplies. Jarn told the queen of the existence of the strange country known as Sari, and that some of his friends back in Nu-al intended to go there, but that he had been forbidden, naturally, because of his youth.  Zeera replied that she had heard of that land, but that it was quite distant from Azeer, and that the nearest route to it from here would be frought with peril. They had be forced to journey across many dangerous lands including a vast dessert called Thara. Jarn said he was up to anything, and the packs and supplies were made ready.

      It was not long after the time they had set out however, that Jarn felt as though some one were following them. They kept on going, and the boy kept glancing apprehensively back. He saw nothing, only aisles of greenery, in their wake.

   When they next made camp however, the feeling grew more intense.

   Jarla had managed to slay another orthopi. The spitted and roasted it, rather than waste any of the reserves of dried fruits and meats the Azeer had sent along with them, as doubtless they would need these later.

     Jarn sensed movement form the underbrush, and sprang to his feet. “Someone’s there!”

   He looked toward the foilaige. Jarla was still sitting cross-legged by the fire. The boy crept toward the screen of leaves. Someone was there, he was certain of it. Staring at him.

    Then the person whirled and ran. Whoever it was looked to be about Jarn’s own height, but s/he was still concealed. Jarn leaped with catlike speed after the hidden watcher. He plunged through the leaves and seized the person throwing one arm around his/her throat.

    “Agh!” said a voice—a young female voice that Jarn recognized at once. ‘Zara!”

    “Yes, Jarn! It’s me! I want to come with you!”

    Jarn released his hold “I could have killed you.” He said.

    “But you didn’t. I think you knew who it was. You knew I wouldn’t forget about you.”

    The boy blushed, for that happened to be at least half-true. “Come back to the fire with us.” There wasn’t much else he could say.

     On their arrival, Jarla looked up with indignity. “This is who was spying on us?”

      “Yes. Her name’s Zara. She hates living with the amazons, and I don’t blame her. I think we should let her go with us.”

     “You do? Why?” asked Jarla in suspicion.

    “She’s like us. She’s tired of the rules and wants some adventure.”

    “She’s sweet on you, Jarn, and you know it.” Jarla had sprung to her feet and even grasped her spear.

     Jarn was becoming very uncomfortable. But to his surprise Zara said, “Do not worry girl. I know it is you he loves. I will not intrude upon either of you. Will you not allow me to go with you.”

    The other girl glared at her, and sat back down. “I suppose she says. So long was you promise that I may converse with Jarn and you, but you must not ever talk to Jarn unless absolutely necessary.”

      Then all three kids sat around the fire. ‘But there is one thing I’ve been meaning to ask  Zara,” Jarn said.

     “What is that?” Jarla said.

     “About Lu-Gor. What will the Azeer do with him?”

     Zara laughed slightly. “They will do with him exactly what they intended to do with you.”

     Jarn reflected that right now, Lu-Gor was undoubtedly enjoying the time of his life, having the amazon women massage his shoulders, and give him trays of steaming eatables. “But what will happen to him?”

      “Don’t you know, foolish boy?” said Zara. “There are plenty of male servents in Azeer, confined to their own barracks. You didn’t happen to see one. But they are all geldings. It is necessary, so that they do not become rebelious, and so the Azeer race can reproduce.”

     “Reproduce?” asked Jarn. “He wasn’t quite sure he understood that last part.”

    “Oh, yes. She told him. Once a male is castrated, his…parts are given over to the matriarch.”

    “You mean Zeera.”

    “Not Zeera. There is another matriarch in Azeer. Avery old seer, who performs a ritual there are ingredients in this ritual—and these male parts are the most vital. Women of Azeer are taken there, and impregnated once they reach birthing age.”

    “Have you been there?” Jarn asked.

   “No. I was not yet selected, perhaps because I am a rebellious girl by nature. But I do not wish to go through whatever sorcery the matriarch does with young women. It is part of the reason I wished to remain with you two.”

     Zara now showed no interest in Jarn besides simple conversation, and in spite of her earlier words, Jarn noticed that Jarla had relaxed.  Before long all three of them were talking more easily.

    After they had turned in, Jarn found himself wondering about Lu-Gor’s probable fate, and fact that the Azeer women did not need men to reproduce. It all seemed uncannily similar to the Mahars.
 

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