The great beast swam through the turgid depths of
the primordial ocean. The monster resembled a living nightmare. It was
essentially a twenty-ton version of the great white shark of the oceans
of the upper world. The Pellucidarans know the creature as the zarith-az,
which roughly translates “tyrannosaurus rex of the ocean.” And an apt name
it is, since it is by far the most fearsome predator beneath Pellucidar's
This particular zarith-az however, had had a severe
bit of misfortune lately. It was in fact, the selfsame monster who had
swallowed alive and whole Tarok, the stalwart warrior of Nu-al, and Valkara,
the blond warrior maid of the unmapped northlands near the polar opening.
The young man and woman were at this moment trapped
within the massive stomach of the behemoth. They still lived, though the
stench of rotting fish and half-digested plesiosaur flesh was nearly overwhelming.
There was just enough air for them both to breath. Tarok, course warrior
of his tribe that he was, began to hack and slash with his flint knife
through the tough, rubbery walls of the super-shark’s stomach. Valkara
used her own dagger, and the two of them began hacking their way out.
The mighty predator bucked and thrashed, at the sudden
agony slashing at him from his innards.
A stream of purple-red blood poured forth from the
beast’s jaws. The charcarodon megalodon, as science knows this terrifying
predator of the ancient world, was itself capable of picking up the scent
of blood from leagues away. Other predators too, however, are capable of
scenting spilled blood as well, if their senses are not nearly so finely
honed as this top predator of the Paleolithic ocean.
Every marine hunter in the vicinity, it seemed,
could sense that the Terror of the Ocean had succumbed. Already plesiosaurs,
pliosaurs, sea-crocodiles, monstrous predatory fish, and others were closing
in upon the stricken leviathan, as it thrashed its titanic bulk.
The marine scavengers converged upon the zarith-az in an
incredible feeding frenzy that lashed the waters to rich weltering crimson.
Meantime, Tarok and Valkara were hacking their way
out through the shark’s cartilaginous ex-skeleton.
By now, their task was made a bit easier as the scavengers
were at the same time ripping gobs of pink flesh away.
As the man and woman sliced themselves free, the
struggled to emerge from the Newly opened gash in the side of the shark—and
were faced with the multitude of thrashing saurian jaws and necks. They
fought off the predator with their knives, Valkara slashing the snake-like
neck of a plesiosaur as it made slashing grab for her.
Once clear of the reptilian fangs, they swam for
the surface, as the scavengers finished the rest of the gigantic carcass.
They were, unfortunately, far beneath the surface
of the Korsar Az, and reaching the distant surface seemed near-impossible.
Slowly the glitter of the surface became visible, yet agonizingly far off.
They had gulped what measure of foul air they could while imprisoned within
the stomach of the monster.
It was when they were nearly there that Valkara fainted.
Tarok seized her in his arms. It took a vast effort to bear the unconscious
girl to the surface, but at last his head broke free in to the merciful
light of eternal noon.
He refilled his tortured lungs with mighty Herculean gasp.
He struggled to keep the girl’s head above the surface as well.
They were still out in the vast ocean, and for a
moment he thought they might as well have perished in the belly of the
But then there occurred a seeming miracle to his eyes.
A large and heavy branch bobbed and floated nearby. With a cry he splashed
to it, dragging the semi-conscious girl with him. He seized the log. Valkara
gasped and spat. Tarok held her, helped her grasp the log, as slowly her
eyes cleared. They both looked around.
The branch, a gift from the gods themselves, it seemed
to Tarok, proved the existence of land somewhere nearby.
Yes! There it was. The coast was
much less than a league distant. He could see the sandy beach, and the
dark for of a vast, and forbidding forest, and the hills and mountains
Still, it seemed horribly
far away from where they were stranded.
But they had little choice to make for it. Once they had rested
and filled their lungs, the young warrior and the girl began stroking,
using the great branch as a make shift boat. The journey seemed dreadfully
long to the both of them, but a long last, they felt their feet brush the
sandy bottom. They both dragged themselves through the crashing white-capped
surf, and onto the hard sandy shore, to collapse there in blessed relief.
When both had recovered sufficiently, Tarok and Valkara
got to their feet, and surveyed their surroundings. Exactly how far they
had come from where they had left Clive and the others neither could say.
But they were still along the same stretch of coastline. To Tarok the country
of Nu-al seemed very far away. The unknown forest rose dark and dreadsome
before them, its depths filled with the promise of unknown peril.
“Where are we?” Valkara asked him.
“I do not know. My own land is far form here. But I must
first find Clive Neville and the others. I see now that I should have talked
him and the old man out of his mad journey. But a warrior does not abandon
his friends, unless he is certain they are no longer living.”
Valkara turned upon him. “Clive? I am in love
with him. He cannot be dead.”
“I fear he may be.” Tarok gave her an ironic smile.
“I do not wish it, but if so, it will serve a certain advantage to me.”
“Why is that?”
“So I may take his mate of course. Clive—a strange
name that is!—did best me once in battle, but he only got lucky. Jahlanna,
his mate, still has feeling for me I can tell. While it would not be honorable
to wish the man dead, but if that is true then the girl will be mine.”
Anger suddenly flashed in Valkara’s ice-blue eyes. “Dead?
Do not suggest to me that he’s dead, you son of a jalok! Clive told me
he was heading for Sari—once ashore he will head in that country’s direction,
and so will I. Valkara does not wish to accompany you.”
The girl turned and strode haughtily up the beach
toward the waiting forest.
Tarok gazed vacantly after her. The warrior had originally
considered scouting southward along the fringe of beach. But he could hardly
allow a female, even a warrior female to venture into the unknown without
a man to protect her. Valkara was not an unattractive girl either, although
her sudden anger surprised him some. And the girl seemed to know in which
direction the country lay. Just what she might know about Sari, Tarok could
not even guess, but he might as well take his chances.
He started after the girl, and soon the
dark jungle swallowed them both.
Once she realized the man was following,
Valkara turned upon Tarok. “I told you I did not wish to be accompanied.”
“So you did. But I cannot allow a mere girl to traverse
the way to Sari by herself.”
Her eyes flashed icy fire once again. “All are warriors
within my tribe, man,” She hissed. “As you will soon find out if you attempt
to follow me. I do not which to slit you open as we did the zarith-az.
But will not hesitate to do so either.” With a swirl of her gold tresses,
she was off again.
Tarok waited and allowed himself to fall behind. Then he
followed, musing wryly to himself. Valkara had become smitten with Clive,
of course, and though he did care for her threats and insults, she was
behaving typical for a truly smitten female.
Unknown to both of them however, was that another
denizen was stalking the jungle in their vicinity. This one happened to
be one of the most dreaded and ferocious predators of Pellucidar, the mighty
gargor. Though the name of this beast appears nowhere within Burroughs’
“fictional” accounts of this incredible world within the world’s hollow
center, the gargor, from the description of the beast given by Tarok’s
own account, resembles nothing so much as the gorgonops of the Triassic,
the top predator of its own vanished surface era. A mighty therapsid, or
mammal-like reptile, the gargor is in fact warm-blooded, but for all outward
appearances resembles a gigantic lizard in the body region, with a monstrous
head resembling a cross between a fanged serpent and a saber-toothed tiger.
This particular gargor was prowling the jungle
in search of helpless prey to fill its constantly ravenous belly. It measured
fully twenty feet in length from the tip of its tail to it blunt, dog-like
snout—and that is quite an amount of saurian.
And it was soon after Valkara stormed angrily
off into the forest depths that the gigantic reptile caught the sent of
woman. Sensing prey, it scuttled monstrously in the girl’s direction.
Valkara head was still sizzling with thoughts of
Tarok’s “insults”, and his suggestion that the man she loved might have
perished that she was nearly upon the giant reptile before she was aware
The monster emerged from the saying fern-fronds before
She backed up raising her knife to fend the beast off.
But what a flimsy flint knife could do beyond enrage a monster such as
this she had not the slightest notion.
The monster plodded leisurely forward, backing the
girl against a tree. The mighty-fanged jaws gaped in anticipation of this
hot meal of soft-firm girlflesh. Valkara found herself starring horrible
down the gargor’s moist, crimson gullet.
Tarok, of course, heard the girl’s cry and the monster-reptile’s
thunderous hissing, and he rushed to her rescue. As he emerged into a small
jungle clearing, the terrible tableau that greeted the Nu-al warrior was
this one. The blond girl was back against the mighty bole of a forest giant.
In front of her: a terrible hissing reptile, jaws agape, which he instantly
recognized as a gargor.
Instantly, and with a savage war-cry, Tarok rushed
the great reptile, stone ax held aloft. The monster swerved to face him,
red gullet exposed and hissing. The beast rushed forward with a hideous
speed which belied its awesome size. But such monsters were commonplace
in Tarok’s world and the young cave-warrior swiftly dodged the lunge
of the predator. The gargor’s mighty fangs—each larger than those of a
tarag---sliced empty air.
Tarok leapt upon the monster’s scaly back and brought
his ax smashing down upon the huge blunt skull.
The blow was a shattering one.
But the vitality of the reptilian are not to be taken lightly; the monster
lunged sideways, throwing the warrior from it onto his back among the moss
“No!” Valkara shrieked.
With a hissing screech, the gargor pinned the man
under a clawed forefoot.
In that instant she demonstrated her people’s
warrior skills as she dashed madly forward.
“Got off him, you filthy lizard!” With a thrust of
her capable wrist, Valkara plunged her knife deep into the monster’s eye.
The gargor went mad thrashing and bucking in pain and agony. The reptilian
body smashed against her sending her crashing against the tree, knocking
the wind from her.
Valkara struggled to her feet, but already the monster was bolting
in her direction. Tarok still lay where he’d fallen, prone and insensible.
But at that moment a cry sounded from above. A fur-pelted
manlike form flew down upon the gargor, driving a spear-shaft into the
place where the neck joined with the body. A chorus of loud, bestial cries
sounded form the trees above, and a storm of other such shapes rained down
into the clearing, spearing the gorgonops. The mighty mammal-like reptile
thrashed around at its inhuman attackers, the mighty tail taking out a
few of them. But at last the mighty-tusked predator whined and sank lifelessly
into the rotting jungle floor.
Dazedly, Valkara got the first look at their rescuers:
They were human enough in form though covered in matted fur. There was
nothing remotely human regarding their heads at all, however. Their hideous
faces resembled those of dogs crossed with gargantuan rats—not too unsimilar,
in fact to the heads of jaloks, or hyeanodons, which, though doglike predators,
have a somewhat rodent-like appearance about them as well. The necks of
these beings sported slight manes of fur as well, not unlike jaloks’ manes.
Their muzzles were elongated and filled with bestial fangs. Their furred
and sinewy arms terminated in hands equipped with talons. In their hands
they bore stone axes, spears and cudgels. Crude and filthy loincloths were
the only clothing articles they wore.
Tarok was rising to his feet, staring in a daze at
their bizarre new captors—if captors they should prove.
One of the jalok-men—as Valkara had now mentally
dubbed them—turned and rasped something to one of his companions. The other
appeared to answer. Though Valkara could understand nothing of what had
just passed between them, it was clear that these creatures spoke in no
human tongue—it sounded only like a series of growls and coughing barks
But the creatures understood each other well enough for
the one spoken too seize Tarok by his shock of black-tressed head and brought
his cudgel down sharply against the young warrior’s skull.
Valkara shrieked in protest, but Tarok was out cold.
Then, at the command of the leader of the Jalok-men her own and Tarok’s
wrists were bound, and they were marched off into the forest depths.
The beast-men marched their captives for what seemed like
miles and miles. All the while the forest about them grew thicker and wilder.
At last, in the midst of a gloomy stretch of forest where the branches
above interwove to block out the glorious sun, they reached a village.
Tarok and Valkara were marched through what passed
for the village’s streets. There were many other beast-folk about, including
women and children. The latter growled and snapped, hostile at the two
captive gilaks, some even venturing to prod them cruelly with sticks, their
elders having to shoo them away. The women of this bizarre race had a curious
arrangement of breast; like most of Pellucidar’s human tribes, they exposed
them freely; but what was curious was that each mature female bore one
pair of prominent mammaries, while underneath ran a series of successively
smaller dugs not unlike those possessed by female carnivores.
There were elders as well, mostly sitting cross-legged and engaged in menial
tasks, their manes of fur gray and grizzled with age. They were marched
to what they assumed was the hut of the chief, larger than the rest.
Inside, they were brought before a beast-man who
happened to be far uglier, even then his fellows, reclining upon a huge
throne built entirely from human and animal bones. The grinning skulls
of saurians and mammals hung suspended from above. This fellow sported
several seemingly ingrown and broken tusklike fangs. One of his eyes was
missing, replaced by a red-purple ruin, the effect of some long ago battle,
the other slitted and rat-like. The chief—if indeed such was this hideous
personage—snarled visibly at them, the folds of his bewhiskered muzzled
drawing back from the hideous array of fangs in an unwelcoming snarl.
Tarok felt the girl clutch suddenly at his
arm, and he smiled inwardly in spite of their predicament.
The jalok-men warriors made some barking
comments to one another, and then to their chief. Tarok and Valkara could
still make out nothing of their strange language—it sounded like nothing
more than grunts and chirruping barks to them. But the chief seemed to
be called Gurf. And the warrior who addressed him was Rurl.
At length it seemed decided what should be done with
the two prisoners. They were then herded through the village to the edge
of a deep open pit. Tarok and Valkara gazed worriedly within. It was a
rectangular dirt pit. At the opposite end, was an entrance of some sort,
with a heavy wood grating. A sudden roar, as of some unknown predator
of the jungle, issued from this.
At that moment, both the prisoners realized their
“Oh, Tarok!” cried Valkara. “Wh-what it that?”
“It sounds like a tarap.” He replied.
“What is that?” she asked. Apparently such as the mighty
tarap were not native to her own country, which she claimed lay far to
“It is a terrible beast.” Tarok said. “These things
seem to intend for us to end up within the belly of one.”
Valkara gasped, and drew nearer to him. She seemed
to have been on the edge of imploring him for his protection at that moment.
But then she drew back, seeming to recover her haughty pride. “Then they
shall see how a warrior maid does battle,” she said.
“Yes,” agreed Tarok. “Let us show them how
warriors face death. But I am not sure if they intend to allow us weapons.”
“If they do not, they are merely killing us.”
“Indeed they are, for the tarap are huge and savage monsters—only
a very skilled warrior can hope to kill one.”
They noticed that there was a thick wooden framing
around the edge of the pit. There was a platform on the other end, and
above this was suspended a huge brass gong. At that moment, two of the
jalok-warriors struck the gong repeatedly. The booming of the gong reverberated
trough the village. Tarok and Valkara looked around as the courtyard surrounding
the pit began to fill with villagers, summoned hither by the striking of
Much to the relief of the two captives, both were
accorded spears. They were then made to stand upon a platform attached
to a crude pulley system, attached to the scaffolding. Standing on it thus,
the captives were swung out over the pit itself, and then lowered down
They stepped off, and the platform was withdrawn.
Tarok and Valkara looked up. Jalok warriors,
as well as some of their women and children were now surrounding the edge
of the pit. The hideous Gurf was there as well, still seated upon his macabre
throne. Four of his servants had brought him, throne and all, for this
“entertainment.” The beast-men began pounded their spears, and uttering
hoarse, barking coughs in anticipatory unison.
Then, with a raise of a taloned hand, Gurf barked a short
command. The wood grating drew up. The cough-barking crowd grew silent.
From that rectangular aperture of blackness twin
emerald blotches burned lambently forth. Two great coughing snarls huffed.
Then the beast itself emerged into the muted sunlight.
Valkara shuddered and nearly screamed, involuntarily
seizing her companions’ arm once again. For the beast was even more huge
and deadlier in appearance than she had even anticipated.
From descriptions related later to professor Simmons and
Clive Neville, the beast, although called a tarap, did not appear to be
the same species as the great mammalian predator slain by Clive and Jal-mar
when they had rescued the cave-maiden Jahlanna. While indeed the beast
was similar, and known by the same name by the Pellucidarans, there were
differences. Like the other beast that shared its name, the monster resembled
a cross between a lion a wolf and a hyenas in size, crammed into a hulking
body the size of a half-grown elephant. But while the beast Clive saved
Jahlanna from was probably identifiable with the creodont magistotherium,
a possible forerunner of modern carnivores, this creature, according to
Professor Simmons, is much more likely identified as Andrewsarchus, which
was actually a condylarth, a genus of gigantic carnivorous mammals which
were the unlikely relatives of modern porpoises and whales. The most striking
difference separating the two monsters, was that this beast’s jaws, though
somewhat wolf-like, were grotesquely elongated, reaching almost crocodilian
proportions in relation to its body. And instead of the huge claws of the
magistotherium, the andrewsarchus bore upon each toe and huge and heavy
hoof. Here was a species of ancient predatory carnivore which specialized
in running down its victims with hoofed feet of its own!
Such a beasts seemed a scientific
anomaly, but both the gilak captives identified the monster as death incarnate.
The extremity of the gigantic muzzle drew back in
a terrible snarl, thick wads of saliva oozing from the giant fangs. The
beast shouldered into the small dirt arena toward its prey. To the girl
Valkara, it seemed a veritable hill of fur and fury, but she was determined
to face her death bravely.
Both captives positioned their spears at the
fore. The tarap’s great head swept form side to side, a growl in its throat
like a soft peal of thunder.
Then the monster attacked.
It lunged in Tarok’s direction first, the monstrous jaws
gaping to snatch the man up. A chorus of cheers—though they sounded like
guttural snarling and coughing—sounded from the audience above.
The young Nu-al warrior dodged easily out of the
way of the thrusting jaws. Valkara had before treated Tarok a bit harshly,
but in their present predicament, she realized that both of them were in
the same peril, and she acted at once, driving her own shaft home beneath
the muscle of the beast’s humped shoulder.
“Leave him alone!” she cried.
The andrewsarchus thrust its muzzle heavenward and
roared its agony. The wild jibbering of the spectators increased. Valkara
withdrew her spear and spun back out of the way as the enraged Titan lunged
for her. Valkara ran around the perimeter of the pit. But the beast proved
awesomely swift for something of such vast bulk. In a mighty lunge, it
pinned the warrior-girl beneath a hooved paw.
Tarok yelled a barrage of taunts and insults
in beast’s direction, jabbing the monster in its rump with his spear. The
beast screamed again and whipped around to maul the man who had injured
Tarok continued insulting the beast’s percentage as he
dashed from its chomping gnashing fangs. Out of the corner of one eye he
saw Valkara raise to her feet—apparently the girl was relatively uninjured.
Reaching a corner of the pit. Tarok spun around,
yelling at the oncoming behemoth.
The shaggy monster bore down upon him, its elongated jaws
gaping of the kill. Tarok stood ready. Then the lithe warrior ducked beneath
the jaws as the crashed together. Then with all the might in his supple
limbs, Tarok drove his pear up and clear through the beast’s lower jaw
and clean through those mighty jaws, pinning them together.
He then leapt and rolled free, as the tarap thrashed
about in agony, struggling to rid itself of the scarlet agony. It rolled
upon its back, great legs thrashing, the two human morsels forgotten was
it whined and growled.
Valkara was more then willing to oblige the beast.
At that moment, she rushed in, and drove her own spear home into the beast’s
chest cavity. The beast spasmed and died.
The two humans clung to each other, panting, having
accomplished the impossible.
For a moment there was nothing but silence
from their bestial spectators. Now some tribes, human or otherwise, might
have granted two captives their freedom, having accomplished such a task
The jalok-men, however, did not prove to be good-sporting
in this manner. Tarok had no notion of their actual language, but the growls
he heard coming form around the lip of the pit he took correctly to be
hostile in the extreme. In the next instant he heard Gurf bark a short
command to his followers—clearly the chief of the beast men sounded furious
at their triumph.
At his command, Rurl and another of the jalok-headed warriors
leapt down into the pit. They snarled threateningly at the two captives,
advancing toward them with spears raised.
“What are they doing?” Valkara cried. “Do they
want to kill us anyway?”
Tarok nodded. “It would seem so.”
Rurl hissed at them in an almost catlike manner,
saliva flicking from his jaws.
Tarok met his gaze evenly “Stay back!” he warned.
“We slew the beast you meant to kill us. Now let us go in peace.”
Rurl wasn’t listening.
He rushed at Tarok as though the sound of the man’s
voice enraged him, aiming his spear at Tarok’s belly. Tarok though, was
a skilled warrior in his prime, and in spite of his opponents near-animal
quickness, the man dodged the thrust with quickness of his own, and slammed
the butt of his own spread into the beast-man’s side, knocking Rurl off
his feet. Rurl sprang at him with a hate-filled snarl. But Tarok stood
his ground and ran the beast-warrior through.
Rurl screamed and died, twitching spasmodically as
the human yanked free his spear.
The other jalok-warrior was already driving his spear toward
Valkara. But the girl, too, was a seasoned warrior, just as she had boasted.
She, too, dodged quickly to one side, bringing up the butt of her spear
to smash it forcefully into the beast-man’s muzzle. He drew backing releasing
his weapon and pawing at his face, emitting a very doglike whine. Valkara
seized the opportunity, and ran him through.
Seeing two of his finest warriors lying in pools
of their own split gore by the two gilak captives, Gurf roared in rage,
then began gibbering hideously.
At this, the beast-men began pouring down into
the pit. All of them were snarling, their eyes aflame, all grimacing horribly
at the two prisoners, the two puny gilaks, who had dared to destroy two
of their own.
Gripping their weapons tightly, Tarok and his female captive
awaited the attack, prepared to die if die they must.
The moment came, as the gibbering horde of half-men
closed over them, with gnashing jaws and slashing talons. Fortunately,
none of the other of the enraged horde bore weapons—they had come to see
the entertaining spectacle of two soft-skins being torn asunder by a mighty
monster from time’s dawn, not to fight a battle. And they were confident
enough in their own natural fighting skills that they seemed to suppose
their natural killing tools were all they needed.
But they had not encountered the likes of the Tarok
of Nu-al and Valkara of the northlands. The black maned young warrior stabbed
and thrust into the ravening horde, killing all that approached him. Some
sought drag him down to the where their doglike fangs could rip out his
throat. But though their was strength aplenty in their sinewy limbs, the
lean, clean strength of the young warrior won out. And at his side, the
savage warrior-maid of the north matched his blows thrusting with her spear
and kicking her savage opponents in their abdomen and groin as they flung
themselves at her.
At length, the horde of ravening half-humans began
to back off. A great mound of beast-man corpses had by now piled up. Seeing
their chance Tarok agilely sprang up upon the gruesome pile dead and squirming
bodies. He helped the girl up after him.
Tarok leaped and seized the edge of the pit. Valkara followed. They
looked about, saw that they were still surrounded by the things, but now
the beast men looked more hesitant.
But Gurf was still seated
upon his throne of bones, still roaring out his orders to destroy them.
At that moment, Tarok decided exactly
what he must do. He rushed toward the gruesome chief and thrust his spear
deeply into him.
Emitting a screech like a
human infant, the chief of the beast-men died.
Tarok yanked free his spear, and looked
A great clamor went up form the onlookers,
as though they could hardly credit the death of their chief at the hands
of a mere gilak.
“Where will we go?” Valkara cried.
They ran, dashing through the village streets, as
startled beast-folk gazed up from their tasks at their passing.
In back of them, Tarok heard the barking commands of another
of the village warriors urging the others on to recapture the fugitives.
They were soon lost within the mazes of the forest. But
they heard the massed roar of vengeance behind them. Their pursuers would
soon be hot on their heels.
The man and woman ran and ran, dodging in and around the
great boles of the forest giants.
At length, they burst into a shallow clearing. They
stopped to catch their breath. But the jibbering they heard in back of
them made them certain it would not be for long.
Then a monstrous form shouldered itself gigantically
out of the ferns in front of them. A mighty prehistoric mammal lumbered
massively into the clearly. It was the size of two earthly rhinos, and
built much like them, but rather than one or two horns arrange one in front
of the other on his squarish snout, it sported two mighty upcurved horns
of ivory upon the crown of its skull.
Had he been present, Prof. Simmons would doubtless
have identified the beast as the arsinotherium of the Miocene.
“What is it?” Valkara gasped.
“It is a tarask.” Tarok informed her. “Take
to the trees. “
Fortunately, the bole of gigantic tree was nearby.
There were no branches nearby, but some huge shelf-fungi, afforded them
all the handholds that they need.
Reaching a sturdy limb, the warrior swung himself
up with simian agility, and sat down. He pulled the girl up after him.
They sat and stared down as the huge herbivorous mammal bellowed terrifically.
“Does he mean to eat us?” The girl asked him.
“No-- the tarask is an herbivore, as is the dyryth.
But like the dyryth, he is very aggressive. We will wait until he leaves.”
At that moment there bust through the trees one of
the Jalok –men who had been on their trail. The tarask, sensing his presence,
swerved to face him.
The Jalok man, to the surprise of both Tarok and Valkara,
did not retreat, but began circling the clearing, rather like an enraged
jalok, snarling and hissing at the ten-tonne monster. The arsinotherium
bellowed terrifically and pawed at the ground.
Then other’s of the beast-man horde began flowing
into the clearly. They took no notice that their quarry was above them
in the tree; all their attention was focused on the arsinotherium.
Then incredibly, as though their original quarry
was abandoned, the horde surrounded the bellowing horned monster.
And then they swarmed over it.
Tarok and Valkara watched in horror as the gibbering
jalok-men sought to overwhelm the Titan. Most of them were armed with nothing
but natural armament, but some among them bore spears and stone axes. These
they brought to bear upon the brute, and had they been prepared they might
But the aggression of the super-rhino proved too
overwhelming for the savagery of the jalok-men. The arsinothere swung its
massive horned head, tossing and smiting its small foes. It gored the jalok-men
through against the mighty tree, until its ivory horns were stained crimson
with the reeking gore of its victims. Others it squelched to red ruin under
beneath its colossal tonnage, and sent flying across the glade to smack
broken against the boles of the mighty trees.
One last time, the enraged monster spitted
at screaming beast-man on a mighty horn ramming its twin horns against
on whose limb Tarok and the girl perched with arms entwined. The whole
tree shook vastly with the impact. With a mighty toss of its head the beast
flung the jalok man away. The few survivors of the battle, just emerging
from the forest, ran yelping back the way they had come abandoning the
chase for good.
The tarask snorted mightily at them. Then, rearing its
horned head in triumph over the ruin of gory and broken near-human bodies,
bellowed its victory to the horizonless vistas above.
The maddened monster then rumbled back into the jungle
whence it came.
Having taken in this entire incredible tableau, Tarok
and the girl each allowed themselves a sigh of relief.
Still several moments elapsed before they forced
themselves down into the clearing. They recovered spears and stone ax from
the bodies of the dead beast-men, then went their way into the primeval
forest, ever glancing backward fro any sign that they might yet be pursued
by their recent captors.
At last, when they had gone many a league from
the village of the jalok-men—and done all they could to cover their scent,
by wading a steam, and zigzagging their course—they allowed themselves
a much needed rest.
The girl and warrior located another streamed and ventured within
to wash off the layers of grime and dust, and to nurse their various bruises
cuts and scrapes received during their ordeal.
After that, Valkara sought out various herbs they
could use to treat their injuries. They made camp, and prepared the herbs
by boiling water within a hollowed out gourd –shell. Tarok allowed her
to massage and treat the cuts on his back, wincing when she applied the
“You were very brave,” Valkara told him finally.
“As were you,” Tarok said. “Do you agree now
that we should stick together until we find my friend, Clive Neville.”
“That we must. Valkara agrees.”
After that, they hunted in the forest for some of the orthopi,
dimunitive ancestors of the modern stallion, though only the size of hairs.
They managed to bring down tow of the little beasts, and roasted them spitted
over a fire. They made certain to keep the fire low, in case some of their
recent captors might still be about.
Once they had eaten enough, they decided to spend
their sleep period curled within the crook of a mighty tree.
Neither had spoken much since their flight from
the jalok-men. But here, nestled within the space, they felt the warmth
of each others bodies, and hidden urges began welling up within both of
Valkara flung her arms abruptly
about the Nu-al warrior and they kissed. Tarok responded mightily, showering
her lovely face and full, pouting lips with hot and passionate kisses.
They kept on, until their bodies were gloriously
entwined, and waves of mating-rapture were roiling through them. It had
to have been more than two hours of surface-time before they both collapsed
from the exertion of lovemaking.
And finally allowed the deep pall of sleep
to envelope them.
When they next awoke, Tarok and his newfound
mate resumed their journey. Although nothing had molested them, they made
certain to remain alert for any sighs of pursuit.
They traveled more leagues of vast forest. It was
evident by now, that Valkara no longer hungered for the company of the
red-haired surface man. She might still find him intriguing and a great
warrior in his own right. But after what they had endured, it was clear
to them now, that they both loved one another more than anything.
They might have opted therefore to seek out
Valkara’s homeland. But Tarok was honor-bound to certain what had befallen
his friends and comrades. Though Valkara was not over-eager to meet up
with princess Jahlanna again, she agreed.
At length, the forest at last began to peter out
into a parklike region of woody savanna, dotted here and there with groves
of conifers and eukalyptus. There was game here aplenty, and the warrior
and his she had no problem filling their bellies.
Then, having resumed their journey
following another sleep period, they were suddenly confronted by an awesome
and terrifying sight.
The ceaseless sound of animal noise and abruptly
ceased, and this immediately advised the two young people to be on their
guard. For it immediately signaled that one or another of the gigantic
killers were aprowl.
What confronted them as they rounded a grove of trees
was nothing less than a full-grown zarith feasting upon the body of a thag.
The size of the great carnivorous dinosaur
was nothing short of overwhelming, especially to Valkara, who had little
knowledge or experience with the monsters that roamed the hollow earth’s
interior south of her own homeland on Pellucidar’s rim.
Thought the titantic reptile was already gorging
it vast appetite, even a bull thag, gigantic predecessor of modern cattle,
was a bit too small to satisfy its bottomless craving.
So once its tiny eyes spied the fear-frozen couple,
a scream like a locomotive bellowed forth from its blood-slathered and
“Zarith!” cried the warrior in a noble yet despairing voice.
“Run, or we are lost!”
Run they did, as the ground shook massively beneath
the titantic thread of monster-reptile.
as the large mammalian carnivore attacked, the trees in such a forest as
this generally provided ample refuge. But not so with the zarith; such
a monster as this could snatch them from a tree limb with ease, or simply
tear the tree from its roots to get at them. To the warrior-maid Valkara,
it was like a nightmare. The zarith was like nothing she had ever imagined,
the impossible creation of a mad dream. Yet she knew it was all too real,
as the deadly footfalls increased beneath their maddened flight.
“To higher ground!” Tarok ordered.
Desperately, they raced in the direction
of a sloping hill. They scrambled up, hoping the dinosaur would have difficulty
following. Their efforts did not appear to slow the tyrannosaur, though,
as it plodded after them, at a slow but unstoppable pace.
At last, backed against a high, craggy cliff, the warrior
and his maid turned to face their oncoming Doom.
The tyrannosaur was approaching. It ghastly jaws
seemed to grin diabolically, as though its minuscule brain sensed that
its’ cornered prey could not escape.
“We are finished.” said Tarok solemnly.
Valkara embraced and once more, and perhaps for the
final time, the lovers kissed. “If that is so, let us die fighting.” She
Again they faced the approaching mountain of
reptilian Death. The jaws of the tyrannosaurus rex parted to release a
Tarok raised his stone ax, and his mate gripped
her stone knife in one small capable fist, as they awaited the zarith’s