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Volume 1724

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

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Part X

    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 seas. 

    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 zarith-az. 

   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 beyond. 

        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 of it. 

    The monster emerged from the saying fern-fronds before her. 

    Valkara screamed.

   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 and creepers.

     “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 to her. 

   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 fate. 

    “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 the north. 

    “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 the gong. 

    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 into it. 

    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 it. 

   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 as this. 

    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 about. 

      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. 

    “Just run!”

    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 have prevailed. 

    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 stinging medicines. 

     “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 them….

        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 ghastily-grinning jaws. 

   “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.

           When such 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 told him. 

     Again they faced the approaching mountain of reptilian Death. The jaws of the tyrannosaurus rex parted to release a thunderous hiss. 

     Tarok raised his stone ax, and his mate gripped her stone knife in one small capable fist, as they awaited the zarith’s charge….
 

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