The great caravan lumbered slowly
north, in the direction of the distant Polar Ocean. The mighty army consisted
Sarian warriors, as well as handful of Thurians all mounted upon mammoth
and diplodocus. They lumbered through rich, subtropical lands teaming with
game of all sorts. Giant grass-eaters abounded: great shaggy mammoths,
primitive cattle and bison, the giant tua, or Irish Elk, and huge ground-sloths,
preyed upon by giant lions, leopards, cheetahs and others. But not even
the mightiest of predators dared to attack such a mighty assembly of men
and monsters. Predators there were aplenty—the great plains-ryth, a huge
ursine predator long of limb and feline swiftness, able to kill such as
the giant stag-moose with a single swipe of its gigantic paw. There were
also the great sabor-tooth tarags, hunting in mighty packs, some over a
hundred members strong and able to overhwhelm the mightiest herbivora.
But even these blanched before attacking the army of David Innes, Emporer
The emporer of the lost land rode at
the head of the army, the tandor insigne slapping upon a banner above and
inscribed on the chest of his armor. He was a hard-faced man with his blond
hair cut into a military crew cut. On the tandor to his side rode Dangar,
another man of Sari, and a Pellucidaran native. Behind him rode another
young warrior, a man of Nu-al named Tarok, and with her arms about him
was his companion and lover, the warrior-maid Valkara. On the other
side of David Innes rode Clive Neville, the red-haired outlander, formally
explorer and reporter of National Geographic, and his friends Jalmar-the
tailed Barraboo, and Professor Alistair Simmons.
As they traveled ever northward, the swarming subtropical
parklands began to give way to open steppe country. The ever-present humidy
common throughout most of Pelluicdar was replaced by a chill crisp atmosphere,
that steadily increased. The number and amount of game lessoned at first,
then grew more numerous. Though here it was noticeably different.
As the entered the lands where snow was said to fall,
they saw herds of wild horses, of the same species that still roamed the
steppes of Mongolia on the surface. Here, too, were great herds of diminutive
Saiga antelope, also a known native of the Asiatic steppes. There were
great burly musk-oxen here as well. Then there were the predators—the codon,
gigantic wolves the size of ponies, prides of giant lions with shaggy gray-white
coats, and giant cheetahs, not unlike those that roamed the lands they
had recently quit, only with thicker coats which were nearly white in color.
The caravan finally came to a stop. They fed
and watered their war-beasts, and set up tents. The gigantic lidis, though
they were able to maintain a somewhat steady temperature due to their tremendous
bulk, could venture no further without risking death. It was decided that
the giant reptiles remained camped where they were, whist the warriors
on mammoth-back continued their journey to the lands surrounding the Boreal
They continued northward.
Valkara informed them that they were nearing the homeland of her people.
“Does your tribe know of the Mahars and their
minions operating in this country?”
Valkara shrugged her shapely shoulders. “I
do not know. I have not been with my people for a great many sleeps.”
“Perhaps though, they do know of the
Mahars, and if they are a threat.” said Dangar. “We should like to inquire
of your people.”
“We should warn them, if there is an invading
army here, as you seem to believe.” said Valkara.
“Indeed. And also, they might prove valuable
allies, should a war with the winged reptiles prove eminent.”
When next they made camp, they were well
into the steppelands. The eternal sun of Pellucidar had already begun to
shimmer and fade behind them. The sight was a disconcerting one to those
who had lived their entire lives within a world of eternal sunlight. Some
of the warriors who had not traversed into these lands before now began
to whisper amongst themselves, saying that perhaps they were nearing the
edge of Pellucidar itself, and perhaps they would risk falling off into
the abyss where the Molop Az churned and bubbled.
Innes assured his troops that this
was nonsense, and anyway, they were only to scout the regions of the Boreal
Sea, where Mahar activity had been reported. The men believed and trusted
him, although a few remained uneasy. It had begun to snow as they made
camp, and many of them had never seen this phenomenon either.
Tarok and Valkara agreed to scout ahead
after the sleep period, to see if they could discern any sign of Valkara’s
Dressed in cloaks of mammoth-hide, the
man and woman set out across the bleak and barren steppe, the massive army
lumbering a half-league behind in their wake.
It was a bleak, grey world, that of the Pelluicdaran
steppe. The vast land stretched out around them, a plain of scrubby grass,
moss and lichen. A perpetual sunset slanted through the clouds to their
back, a leaden grey sky above from which a steady pour of light snow was
falling, coating the bleak land with a dusting of white powder.
Valkara had lived beneath such vistas before, but
to the Nu-al warrior they were strange and forbidding.
“Are we near the land of your people?”
he asked her.
“Yes.” said Valkara. “Valtor is very near.
Already we have crossed the border of my people’s hunting grounds.”
“I find it hard to believe men can live in such a
The girl laughed haughtily. “My tribe does not find
it difficult. As you shall soon see.”
They heard a sharp whistle off to their right, and
Tarok looked. He saw a small, furry face peering up at them from what must
have been a hole in the ground. A burrowing rodent of some sort. It chirped
three times, then disappeared.
Tarok heard an answering chirp some distance away.
“Those are called ruts,” Valkara explained. “Rodents that
burrow beneath the steppe. They make good eating, though not as good as
gronth or tandor.”
“Perhaps, then, we should try to catch one,
for food is scarce.”
“I shall show you.” Valkara located the burrow of
one of the steppe-dwelling burrowers. She gave a perfect imitation of the
ruts’ chirping call. Within seconds, one of the beasts appeared, which
she quickly dispashed with a rock. She then taught tarok to do the same
things. Within minutes they had managed to kill six of the small beasts.
They were rather like large pikas or marmots in appearance, only with an
unlikely pair of horns above their snouts. When they later returned
to the Sarians’ camp in order to skin and clean the carcasses, Professor
Simmons identified the horned rodents as epigaulus of the Miocene.
Tarok and Valkara each secured three
of their kills to their belts and journeyed on. Tarok occasionally glanced
behind them to make certain they were still followed. The mammoth-warriors
remained just within sight.
By now the snow had begun to fall stronger and fiercer
upon the vast steppe. The warrior and his warrior-mate pulled the thick
coats of tandor-hide about them, as they pressed onward. They had ventured
noticeably further by now, and the sun behind them had shrunk, growing
even dimmer than before. The twilight of this strange land—strange indeed
to one such as Tarok—had deepened into a quasi-night.
There were still a few herds about-shaggy musk-ox,
wooly antelope, and steppe-bison, and now even a few caribou. The land
ahead of them seemed ever dark and forbidding, like they were approaching
a land of eternal night.
“Perhaps we should turn back now.” Tarok suggested.
Valkara, though used to this country, said, “Perhaps
so. The snow falls thickly and faster now. It will be best to be in the
company of the warriors and their tents. I sense a blizzard may be coming.”
“A blizzard? What is that?”
“You will see.”
“Wait!” said Tarok. “What is that?”
They both peered ahead through the swirling,
cascading snow. There was something ahead of them. Something moving. But
the snowfall had indeed grown very fierce, and it seemed to increase by
the second. The force of the wind chilled the man and woman to their marrow,
as they strained their eyes to see.
But something was out there. Some huge animal.
But it was camouflaged by the gale of the snow that poured from the darkened
sky and was now blanketing the land.
And it was moving toward them.
Two glaring slits of blue fire
blazed out of the whiteness.
The man and woman gasped. “A snow-tarag!”
A gigantic white shape hurtled
out of the cascading storm of flakes. Tarok was thrown over onto his back
on the hardened steppe-earth as a half-ton of primal fury slammed into
The man blinked dazedly up through a haze of
pain in his skull.
He found himself staring glassily into a snarling
feline visage. It was unmistakably that of an adult tarag. Only Tarok had
never seen the likeness of a specimen such as this one. The ruffed face
was of pure downy white, striped with grey-black. The eyes were the ice-blue
of polar glaciers, and they blazed volcanically into his own. The eighteen-inch
tusks were of dull ivory. Each one swept down form the upper jaw on either
side. The beast’s breath came in ragged puffs clouding the air in
front to the downed warrior’s eyes. The snow-tarag’s muzzle folded back,
wrinkling the savage visage into an expression of incarnate fury. Never
had the Nu-al warrior felt this near to death.
Fortunately for Tarok, his mate was there.
He heard Valkara give a wild-yell, the cry of a Valtor
warrior-maid. The tarag roared and flung off him. In the next instant,
Tarok had regained his feet, his own spear ready to face the monster of
Valkara had jabbed the beast beneath its right
shoulder-blade, then leapt back with feline quickness. She kept her own
feral gaze trained upon the mighty beast as it slunk toward her. Muzzle
wrinkling savagely, a roaring snarl building within the beast’s massive
Had Tarok himself not been a seasoned warrior,
he might have fainted dead away at the sight of the giant snow-tarag.
Its dimensions were colossal, almost beyond
belief, more massive even, than the mighty species found throughout the
bulk of Pellucidar. It was nearly the size of bull thag or a tarap, each
of which outbulk the rhinoceras of the surface world. Its pure-white coat
was incredibly thick and shaggy, paling to polar-bear ivory on the heavily
shagged underbelly. Grayish-black stripes, of the same patterning as the
common tarag, decorated its snarling face and forequarters, fading into
the snowy whiteness toward its rear legs.
Once again, the beast snarled mightily, as it slunk
savagely toward the barbarian girl. Valkara kept her spear trained upon
the vast carnivore, as beast and warrior-maid warily circled one another,
both appearing savage deadly animals, survival skills honed by this savage
Tarok hefted his own spear, determined to aide his
savage mate if need be.
But the mighty beast sprung at the Onah warrioress,
an incredible hurtling juggernaught of fangs, fur, bone and muscle. The
mighty sledge-hammer paws, able to shatter the skull of a musk-ox with
a single tremendous blow, might have crashed Valakra to the ground, the
mighty saber-fangs shearing clean through the girl’s skull like butter.
This, undoubtedly is what the feline monster intended. But Valkara, wise
to the ways to the great beasts of her primordial realm ducked beneath
the savage onslaught, driving her spear deep into the beasts’ chest, penetrating
his savage heart.
The snow-beast gave terrific vent to
a roaring scream of agony, dreadful to hear, for the termination of the
cry that burst form the tremendous lungs sounded like that of a strangled
woman. The beast crashed to the earth, as Valkara rolled free, narrowly
avoiding being crushed beneath its titanic bulk, the spear going clean
Tarok helped her to her feet.
“Are you all right?” he asked her.
“Of course,” she said, sounding somewhat surprised.
“I have once before killed such a beast on my own rite of warrior-hood.
Only it was a steppe ta-ho, rather than a tarag. But the ways of the snow-tarag
are so terribly different. Killing it was not difficult.”
Tarok was about to tell her that only the males
of his own tribe were warriors and it was all very strange to him, but
thought better of it.
They turned around. The snow was now falling
very fiercely, and they would need shelter. But the mighty forms of the
great mammoths of Sari were now looming out of the blinding curtain of
snow. One of the men dismounted and came toward them.
“Tarok!” he shouted.
Tarok then saw that it was his
“Clive!! We are most glad you are here.
We nearly became a meal for this beast. And the freezing whiteness falls
thicker and harder now!”
“Clive stared stupefied at the
slain body of the gigantic, saber-toothed snow tiger.
“How did you slay it?”
“I did not.” grinned the warrior. “Valkara
Clive glanced at her in surprise.
“It was easy.” she told him.
The army made camp to wait out the blizzard.
They unrolled the tents and huddled within them,
as the mammoths hunkered down in a tight circle, protecting themselves
and their small masters from the whipping winds and deadly cold.
Once the storm had passed, Valkara showed them
how to skin and butcher the tarag’s carcass without damaging the magnificent
pelt. Since food was relatively scarce on the steppe, and the warriors
would need much energy, they roasted and ate the flesh of the giant tiger.
Most of the warriors did not normally partake of tarag meat, but they found
it was not all that bad tasting. The pelt the fashioned into four cloaks
as protection against the savage cold.
On they journeyed across the barren ice-bound
waste. The mass of darkened clouds had dispersed, and the sun shown once
again, but even feebler than before. Tarok and Vlkara again took the lead,
though the Sarian army remained closer behind them this time.
Soon they heard the unmistakable sounds of combat
issuing form somewhere ahead. There were the sounds of human voices raised
in combat, mingled with the grunts and bellows of some gigantic beast of
the steppe country.
The Nu-al warrior and his mate increased their pace,
at last ascending a small knoll. At its top, they lay flat upon their bellies
and peered over.
Below their vantage point, a mighty battle
raged. A party of warriors were engaged in a titanic struggle with a huge
primordial beast. The warriors were very striking to Tarok’s eyes, for
all of them had hair and beards the golden shade of shorn flax, very rare
within Pellucidar. They were all lean muscled men. They carried flint,
fire-hardened spears, and were dressed in fur-trimmed buckskin garments
of caribou hide. Three of their number already lay dead upon the snowfield,
victims of their quarry.
And such a beast! Tarok had never seen its
like. It most closely resembled a wooly rhinoceros, a fairly common beast
within Pellucidar, along with the more familiar tandor. But this monster
was three or four times the size of that beast, mightier and more massive
than the tandor itself. It was clothed with a thick and luxuriant shaggy
coat of fur of a russet hue, more red than that of a mammoth or the common
woolly rhino, the fur on its sides and underbelly of such extraordinary
length and shag that it nearly brushed the ground. Its legs were thick
and columular, terminating in massively hooved toes, but the legs appeared
curiously short as they were partially hidden by the beast’s coat. The
tail was long and bore a heavy tuft at the end. The skull was huge and
brutishly shaped, with small, piggy ears and eyes. But the most amazing
feature was the single colossal horn of dull ivory which sprouted from
this skull. In breadth it took up nearly the entire head of the beast.
It must have been eight to ten feet in length, that horn, and tapered to
a needle tip. This, along with the long tuft-tipped tail, made the beast
resemble nothing so much as a gigantic, shaggy unicorn.
“My people!” breathed Valkara. “We have
“What is that beast they are fighting?”
“It is a gronth. They are the most formidable
beasts of the steppe. They are ferocious and most difficult to kill, as
you can see. But their flesh is very delicious. There is nothing like a
gronth steak grilled over a wood fire.”
The horned monster was battling savagely
for its life amongst the small humans. It continued to rear and toss its
great head. As Tarok watched the beast managed to spear one of the hunters
upon its titanic horn. The man screamed as he was skewered, then his cry
was cut short, as the gronth tossed him away with a casual flip of its
head. It smashed another warrior to red ruin beneath its mighty hooves.
The beast, protected as it was by its thick shaggy coat and layer of fat,
was already bleeding form a number of spears in its flanks. But still it
battled on, determined to take as many of its tormentors with it.
“If your warriors are determined to bring
down that monster,” said Tarok. “Then perhaps we should help.”
“Indeed. What are we waiting for?” Valkara
arose, preparing to race down the slope with a wild war-cry.
“No!” said Tarok gripped her shoulder. “I will
not see you killed trying to bring down that beast. I meant that our warriors
form Sari should do it.”
He could see that his mate wanted to join her
comrades in the thrill of battle, but Valkara recognized his concern for
her, and realized that she would not which him to risk his life either.
Besides, the first of the mammoth warriors
was already ascending the knoll. The others were close behind it. There
was some astonished murmuring amongst the warriors of Innes’ army; apparently
none of them had seen warriors such as the Valtor, or a beast such as the
gronth until now. But Dangar urged his mount foreword. Recognizing that
these must be men of Valkara’s tribe, he determined to ride to their aide.
The great war-mammoth, bred for battle, raised its trunk and roared a challenge
to the super-rhino.
The gronth bellowed in answer, as though his
species and that of the mammoth were ancient adversaries, as perhaps they
were. The Valtor warriors, temporally distracted, looked on as the huge
shaggy gronth charged the tandor. Dangar’s mount met the attack head-on
clashing with terrifically, mighty trunk and curling tusks smashing into
the gronth’s great ivory horn. The two primordial monsters backed up, bellowing
their fury. They began to circle one another like two enormous, shaggy
gladiators in the bleak world of the Pellucidaran steppe.
Then, finding a slight opening, the gronth charged!
It bore down upon Dangar and his mighty mount, a
living mountain of incarnate fury. As Tarok and the mammoth warriors looked
on in awed astonishment. The mighty gronth drove its titanic horn deep
into the side of its opponent, literally skewering the great tandor clean
through. The mammoth gave an ear-splitting squeal of agony and defeat,
as it found itself actually lifted of its churning columular legs, still
impaled like a spitted partridge upon the gronth’s horn.
Tarok, watching in a daze, could scarcely credit
his eyes. Dangar, he felt, was surely done for. But then he saw the lithe
warrior leap form the back of his doomed mount to catlike upon the hardened
The gronth lowered its mighty horn, and began to pull it
free form the gigantic carcass of its vanquished foe. But doing so left
it vulnerable, and the Valtor warriors closed in on both sides. The clever
warriors speared the beast on both sides, one man finding the creature’s
throat. The gronth pulled free its bloodied horn, and wailed at the leaden
sky before collapsing to the earth with a mighty crash.
The warriors of Sari dismounted and greetings
were exchanged. Dangar might have assisted them in slaying the gronth,
but the leader of the blond warriors seemed suspicious at first; never
had he seen a great assembly of men and monsters.
“Who are you, and what are you doing in our
land?” he demanded.
“My name is Dangar.” Dangar said. “We are warriors
from the land of Sari.”
“I have never heard of that tribe.”
“It is far away. We are in this land searching for
sign of the Mahars. We have word that they are massing a great army that
may be a threat to all of Pellucidar.”
“There are no Mahars in our land.” He said.
“Or reptiles of any kind. They live only in the jungled south. What is
your real business here?”
“They perhaps have an army of their servants
the sagoths. They may have a strong power base—it is probably located below
ground, as are their cities.”
“I know of no such army. Begone from
“Wait, Othar!” said a second man. “There are
strange men in our land—men such as we have never seen. Do you not remember?”
Othar seemed to consider this. “Yes…” he said.
‘The only army we have seen in our land is yours. But we have seen strange
warriors not of our race, who do not belong to any steppe tribe.”
“Tell us about them.” said Dangar.
“We have often glimpsed them form afar.
They are garbed for the cold, but not like other men. Always their fur
hoods are pulled tightly about their faces. Once they had two giant beasts
“Greater than your tandors. They did not appear to
have any head or limbs. Yet they moved, crawled across the steppe somewhat
a huge insect. We followed the warriors from a distance. Then the ground
itself swallowed them up. We did not think it wise to pursue them further,
for they might be evil spirits or some such.”
“They disappeared into the ground?”
Dangar’s gaze hardened. “We believe these strange
men may be a great threat to your people. Let us be allies, until we can
search them out.”
Othar appeared to consider this.
At that moment, Valkara spoke. “Othar…do you
not remember me?”
The Valtor leader immediately recognized her as a
member of his race. “Valkara…is that you?”
The warrior-girl ran forward and through her
arms about him.
“I have not seen you since you were a
small boy!” she cried.
“And you…you were still a young lass when they bore
you off! We had long thought you lost.”
The other warriors were coming forward too.
All of them looked at Valkara and seemed to recognize her. She introduced
them to her mate, Tarok. There was a far greater air of comradry then.
The host of Sarian warriors accompanied the
blond warrior to the village of the Valtor tribe. Valtor, where they made
their further plans. The village was somewhat similar to tribes of Inuit
bordering the arctic circle, constructed lodges constructed of stone, mammoth
bone and hide. There were a great many of the blond warriors around. The
women of the Valtor, two were warriors, and their yellow locks were braided
not unlike the maidens of the Vikings. There were woolly coated village
undoubtedly trained for hunting, which had undoubtedly been bred from the
In the lodge of the chief, a great burly
man named Wolnar, they laid their plans. It was agreed upon that they should
venture forth to the place where the ground had swallowed up the strange
warriors. In the meantime a grand feast was held in the lodge of the chief.
A strange, potent drink something like ale was brewed poured into flasks
fashioned from mammoth ivory. The great carcass of the gronth provided
a grand feast. Huge, juicy steaks were craved form the giant rhino-beast,
or elasmotherium, as Professor Simmons identified the animal. The gronth
steaks were then grilled to perfection over a deep charcoal fire pit, and
served hot, red, and juicy, swimming in a gravy-like sauce made from some
sort of steppe lichen. The massive head of the wooly great wooly unicorn
of the steppe was preserved as a trophy for the tribe of Wol-nar.
Afterward, they all slept on thick furs of
mammoth and snow-tarag, before setting out upon awakening.
The mammoth warriors set out, now accompanied
by Othar, and a number of other blond men of the Valtor. The vast wild
steppelands stretched about them, grim and bleak. Their trek now led in
a northeastern direction, and the sun grew yet gradually yet dimmer in
They reached the area where the men had been
seen. There were indeed tracks here, as of many fur-booted men. But astoundingly,
there, too were the tracks that could only have been made by a man-made
vehicle. There were at three such vehicles.
“They must be men of the surface.” said Clive.
“You may be right,” agreed Simmons. “These
are doubtless the tracks of the “beasts” Onthar’s warriors saw. But…”
“Perhaps the machines were made by the Mahars themselves.”
Clive looked at David Innes who was standing to their
side, for conformation of this. “They may be.” said Pellucidar’s emperor.
“The Mahar are certainly advanced enough a race. I have not know them to
construct such a moving vehicle before. Perhaps that is because the Mahars
have wings, and transportation for them is not a problem. But here in this
cold bleak land, they may be using such to transport weapons and supplies.”
They followed the tracks.
They led to steep incline which in turn led to a pair of huge metal doors
set into the base of a raised hillock. On either side of this were twin
raised pillars of white marble-like stone similar to those that customarily
marked the entrance to one of the Mahars’ underground cities.
It was shut tightly however, and they
could find no means of entrance. But the tracks of the warriors and the
tread of the vehicle led directly to this entrance.
After some debate, it was decided that they
should make camp nearby, and ait until the next sleep to see if anything
untoward occurred. This they did.
Tarok and Valkara agreed to scout ahead once
more. As they approached the area of the strange entrance they saw the
distant march of what was indeed a party of cowled and hooded warriors.
There were four great metal beasts, that somehow “rolled” over the steppe
“What are they?” Tarok asked her.
“I have never seen their like. But they
must be the “beasts” Othar and the warriors told us of.”
Tarok and his mate lay flat bellied on the cold steppe
ground for a long time, observing the strange party. They crawled forward
several inches in the manner of caribou hunters. Then, when the party had
nearly passed form view they dared to stand up and trail the party at its
Sure enough, it turned out they were headed
for the strange under ground entrance. Tarok and Valkara watched as the
vast metal doors drew apart, and the party marched down within. Both were
contemplating how they might fall behind them unobtrusively when some primal
instinct bade both warrior and warrior-maid to whirl about.
Four of the strange warriors were at their back,
having somehow managed to sneak up behind them. Each warrior bore a spear,
which meant they were outnumbered. They warriors were dressed for the harsh
land, not unlike the Valtor. They wore heavy furred boots and tunics, only
these, and their leggings, were not of tanned caribou leather, but of some
unidentifiable material. The fur-lined hoods of their tunics were pulled
over their heads. Their ragged breaths plumed the frigid air. But now Tarok
could clearly see their faces, and it was evident they were not men after
all, as he had earlier supposed.
They were sagoths.
“What were you doing
following in our wake?” demanded the one who had spoken, who appeared to
be their leader.
“We are hunters.” Said Tarok. “My name is Tarok
of Nu-al. The girl is Valkara of the Onah people. We were hunting caribou
“Enough!” growled the sagoth. “You are spies,
and will be treated accordingly, according to the will of the great ones.”
Tarok and Valkara were marched by their
sagoth captors to the rear of the party, and through the huge metallic
doors, which then shut behind them with a resounding boom.
Sure enough, it appeared to be
genuine Mahar city. Tarok found the streets and general layout to be not
unlike the city of Zhuma. There were a great many other sagoths about,
now without their hooded tunics.
They were marched to a great room, larger than any which Tarok
could have conceived as possible. It was vast, warhouse-sized. There were
several of the huge crawler machines about. Some appeared to be parked,
in stationary rows. The one accompanied by the sagoth warriors now opened
in the front. A ramp descended.
And down this ramp waddled a Mahar!
So this was how the Great Lords were able to operate
a city so far from the interior of Pellucidar. Each of the great crawlers
must have contained one of the monstrous winged reptiles.
Tarok felt Valkara clutch at his arm. “What
is that thing?”
“It is one of those David Innes and Professor
Simmons warned us of. It is a Mahar.”
“Oh! What a dreadful and hideous creature it appears.”
“Indeed it is.” Agreed Tarok grimly.
“Then you have seen such monsters before now.”
“Indeed I have. And they are not mere beasts,
but something far worse.” He explained briefly his own experience in the
Mahar city of Zhuma. He related the winged saurians’ dreadful mental powers.
“How will we escape form such monsters?”
“I do not yet know.” He said. “But Clive and
the others are still out there. When they find that we did not return,
they will come for us?”
“But how can they save us from this awful place?”
Tarok shrugged. “I know not. But adventuring
with them has taught me one thing; there is hope even when hope seems naught.
We may yet escape as long as we draw breath, just as we did form the belly
of the zarith –az.”
“But that horrid thing.” Said Valkara, meaning
the Mahar. ‘I am frightened.”
Tarok admitted that he was too, and it was
a bit unnerving to see the fearless warrior cowed by the appearance of
the weird reptile. But, tarok remembered, she had every right to be.
“Silence, gilaks!” said the sagoth behind
them. We are taking you to the chief scientist. There your fate shall be
They were escorted to a large chamber, somewhat
like a giant throne-room. Three of the gigantic winged reptiles hunched
there. The three reptiles examined the captives. Tarok bade Valkara to
turn away from the frigid gazes of the sentient reptilians. But They seemed
intent only on examining the captives. Telepathic communications
beamed back and forth amongst the winged saurians. Of course, tarok and
Valkara could hear nothing of this, but they were aware that some type
of communication was taking place, some vital decision was being conferred.
Then tarok felt a mental wave pass from one of the winged monsters into
his brain, invading it deep recesses. It was not meant to bend him to the
creatures’ will, but it was far from pleasant. The man groaned and cried
out. Valkara had the same sensation, she shrieked and shuddered. Then the
sensation was gone.
They were then led away by the sagoth guards,
ushered deep within the labyrinth of tunnels, and placed in a cell with
other prisoners. Some of the prisoners were human. One to the right of
Tarok, however, appeared to be of some other species entirely.
Like a man in form he was, with thickly knotted and
powerful limbs, though with a thick pelt of shaggy fur, not unlike a shaggy
bull or bison. On either side of his brutish skull there grew a long and
heavy horn, like that of the plains-thag, the mighty long-horned bison
of the Pleistocene. His brutish face showed a curious mixture of the bovine
and the human.
Tarok had heard tell of beings such as this
one. They were called ganaks, or bison-men. They were said to inhabit a
country far away, and use humans for cruel, inhuman rituals.
The bison-man looked at Tarok and Valkara
as they sat across form him.
“More Gilak captives?” the bison-man
growled, a sound deep within his barrel-chest. ‘It seems the Mahars have
been even more industrious of late.”
“My name is Tarok of Nu-al.” Tarok said. Though
would not trust this creature normally, did not trust him, he thought it
would be best to treat the creature as a friend than an enemy under the
“And I am Valkara of Onah.” Valkara.
“Mine is Grunth.” said the ganak, “a
warrior of the tribe of Furth far east and south of here. My tribe was
at war with the Snarg tribe of sagoths. I killed many of them defending
our homeland, but I was captured at last. The sagoths, realizing my value
as a warrior sold me to the Mahars for use in the arena.”
“Why did the Mahar take us captives?” Tarok did not
want to give away that they actually were spies, even though the Mahars
seemed to have searched his mind.
“Why do they take any gilak captives—or ganak
for that matter? They grow bored, and use such as you and I for their amusement.
All the captives in this room are to be forced to fight in the arena.”
“There is an arena here?” Tarok asked.
“Yes. We are the captives who are to
be thrown to the great beasts. Or perhaps they will have us kill each other.
Whatever happens, I shall be ready.”
Tarok was greatly relived that they had
apparently not probed his mind deeply enough to discover what he and his
mate were doing here in the city.
“What is this place—why did the Mahars build a city
this far north?”
Grunth shrugged his sahggy shoulders. “I do
not know why. There is talk that the plan to conquer a new world. That
a new land lies somewhere beyond Pellucidar where the sun does not stand
still in the sky, but travels over the edge of the world, leaving the land
in darkness, only to reappear on the other side. But if this is what they
seek, than the Mahars are fools after all. They have built many great metal
beasts and are traveling north—but if they go on further, they will fall
off the edge of the world and into the Molop Az. No such world as they
seek can possibly exist.”
So they were right! Tarok thought. The
man called David Innes was correct—he must be. There was a hidden world
out there somewhere. At one time he would have undoubtedly agreed with
the ganak. He had found it difficult to believe that Clive Neville and
his friends had actually heralded from such a world, and realized that
he had had trouble grasping it until now. But it must be correct, and the
Mahars were truly bent on launching a conquering army.
Just then the door to the cell opened. A sagoth guard
with a whip entered. He surveyed the captives, including four humans huddled
against the far wall then at Tarok, Valkara, and Grunth. He gestured his
whip at the three. “Come. Your prowess is to amuse they Great Lords.”
They were prodded down an array of confusing
corridors, and through a door, into a vast arena. The sagoths gave each
of them weapons. Two long spears for the warrior and his mate, and a short-sword
for the bison-man.
Tarok was stupefied that such a vast amphitheater
could exist below ground; but he knew that the Mahar race, hideous though
they were in appearance, were workers of marvels.
The arena was already filled. The Mahars, the
“Great Lords” of Pellucidar were already thronged throughout the vastness
of the stadium. All around them were the hunch-winged, scaly hordes of
winged saurians. There was a raised platform in the center, where squatted
the three chief scientist. And above them was a strange apparatus of metal.
One familiar with outer-world technology would recognize the resemblance
of this to a type of high-tech weapon. But Tarok, having no such frame
of reference, supposed it to be some bizarre fetish of some kind to whatever
gods such as the Mahar might worship.
Valkara, warrior-maid though she was clung to her
mates burly shoulder at the sight of the hideous multitude. “Ooooh! Tarok,
there are so many of the bird-lizards!”
“We’ll fight our way to freedom.” Growled
the warrior, though he was less than confident underneath.
‘We will fight,” agreed Grunth. “But we shall never
leave the city. Those who are captives of the Mahars remain captives until
they are killed.”
“We will see about that!” Tarok hissed. Once, he,
too had remained fatalistic about such things, but the overthrowing of
Zhuma had seemingly accomplished the impossible, and his ensuing adventures
with Clive and Alistair, he and they had overcome similarly implausible
“We can merely hope to fight to the end, and to die
a swift death.” said Grunth.
The arena door was now opening.
Within the darkness therein, they saw two burning
emerald splotches, the orbs of some gigantic predator of times dawn.
A second later, the monstrous owner of those incandescent
orbs padded majestically into the arena.
Tarok recognized the beast instantly.
It was non other than a gigantic tarag, the tremendous saber-tooth cave-tiger
of the Paleolithic. It was of the common, striped tarag found throughout
the jungles and plains of the inner-earth, rather than the huge gray-white
beasts of the steppes, with which Tarok and his mate had so recently done
battle. Nonetheless, the beast was of awesome size, nearly the bulk of
a Volkswagen. Yet it stalked into the arena with fluid feline grace. The
monster raised its muzzle as it caught the scent of the man-things which
were its intended pray. The great muzzle wrinkled back, forming a deadly
snarl of hideous hunger, as its burning eyes fixed upon them.
“Prepare for death, black-hair.” Tarok heard Grunth say
by his side. He expected the beast, now gathering its mighty strength,
to spring across the arena sands in a mad dash, then spring titantically
upon the three of them. Indeed, this is what would surely have happened
had not another event suddenly occurred.
Another door in the wall of the arena opened.
To his surprise, Tarok witnessed yet another giant denizen of the Paleolithic
age emerge into the arena. This one was a gigantic stag, nearly the size
of a small elephant, crowned with a fantastic spread of antlers over twelve-feet
wide from tip to tip. The beast was clothed in shaggy, russet fur, remarkably
thick and full on its mighty neck. Tarok recognized the beast as a Tua,
the gigantic Irish Elk of the Pleistocene, as men of the surface world
call the beast.
The monstrous cervid snorted gigantically and pawed
the arena sands in bull-like fashion. The presence of the giant deer had
an immediate effect upon the saber-tooth tiger. The huge feline turned
its attention immediately from the puny manlings, to the far more satisfying
prey. Doubtless the monster had been starved to fury for this use in the
arena. The Tua, as well, had been purposefully goaded into a frenzy by
the Mahars’ sagoth servants. The gigantic elk, seeing its hereditary predator,
the monstrous cave-tiger, turned its muzzle heavenward and bellowed forth
a mighty challenge.
In the next instant, the two primordial monsters
each charged upon the other, while the captives looked on in awe. No surface
man of the modern era has ever beheld such a combat as the one that then
exploded within the massive Mahar amphitheater, save recently Clive Neville
and Allistair Simmons had witnessed such a duel between these very same
Pleistocene Titans as now Tarok Valkara and Grunth bore mute witness.
The titanic tiger sprung mightily upon the charging
elk, his mighty paws seeking to dash the beast’s skull to fragments. The
charging tua swept is mighty crown of fantastic horns to either side, striving
to smash its adversary to the ground. At length it succeeded in tossing
the mighty tarag from it with a wide sweep of the enormous antlers. In
a flash the giant tiger was up and springing upon the flank of the super-stag.
It clung there, while the tua backed and contorted, attempting the gore
the tiger with its horns. Meanwhile the huge cave-tiger raked and trashed
savagely with its gigantic hindquarters, slashing the thick furred hide
of the elk to bloody ruin, until the massive ribcage with nearly exposed.
Then the elk managed to jab the spear of its left antler tip into the flank
of the tarag. The tiger yowled and tore itself loose, ripping free an entire
portion of the elk’s flank, exposing the raw, red musculature underneath.
The tua was now gushing blood, seemingly gallons
of it staining the white arena sands a gory crimson. The mighty stag-monster
stood its ground, though its sturdy limbs shook with the effect of massive
blood-loss. The tarag, too, quivered from the same, as blood poured
voluminously from the injury in its side. It barred its gigantic ivory
fangs nonetheless. Both monsters were prepared to continue the duel to
the last of their breath was spent.
A strange, eerie whining filled the arena.
The sound was incredibly height pitched, nearly inaudible.
Yet the effect pierced the skulls of Tarok and his companions. It lasted
what must have been several second. More than that, Tarok felt would have
But the effect on the two beasts was even more
extraordinary. As the bizarre scream fell silent, the tow primordial monsters
turned their attentions away from one another. Both fixed their gazes upon
the three puny creatures in their midst.
“What is happening?” Tarok asked Grunth.
“I do not know.” answered the bison-man. “This is not as
beasts should act.”
The two monsters, mortal enemies since the dim dawn
of creation, began to circle the arena, each intent upon Tarok and his
fellow-captives. The tarag slunk toward them, head lowered, painted ears
flattened in feline menace. The tigers eyes blazed in killing-fury, as
its muzzle wrinkled and writhed back. A cavernous snarl escaped its mighty
lungs. The giant elk, antlered head lowered, bellowed mightily, tearing
at the sand with a gigantic hoof, preparing to thunder down terrifically
The three were trapped between
the two monsters with no apparent hope of escape or rescue.
“Now we die.” Grunth said.
“Then we shall fight to the last.” Tarok
“We will!” said Valkara.
“I am with you, gilaks.” said Grunth.
They readied their weapons.
The tarag was the first to spring. The
feline monster hurtled itself upon them in a monstrous spring. Tarok readied
his spear. The tarag, already weakened form his battle with the tua, crashed
down upon the Nu-al warrior. Tarok was a seasoned fighter, and he knew
exactly where to run his weapon so that the spear shaft thrust into the
chest-cavity of the giant tarag, through fur muscle and tissue, until it
penetrated the mighty heart of gigantic creature. The tarag yowled thunderously,
as impaled upon the warriors spear, it sell forward in a crash, as tarok
rolled to one side to avoid being crushed beneath that mountain of shag
Grunth and Valkara were upon the beast in the next
seconds. With the savage cry of a warrior-maid, the blonde girl thrust
her spear deep within the tarag’s ribcage. The bison-man thrust into the
other side with his sword. The monster whined and died, emerald eyes glazing
But now the tua readied himself for the
Its thunderous bellow quaking the arena,
the stag-beast charged terrifically upon the warriors. The three
readied their weapons. In the next instant the beast was upon them. They
leaped to either side. The giant elk swept its fantastic array of horns
to either side. Grunth attacked first. Rather than use his sword, the ganak
rammed into the side of the tua, goring the beast with his left horn. The
tua bellowed in pain and fury, thrusting about its tremendous crown of
antlers. The ganak warrior was not quite quick enough and the edge of the
horn caught him, and swept him off his feet with a strangled scream.
But Tarok had hunted tua before, and ducked
with a panther’s savage quickness beneath the killing thrust of the antler.
He then dove him thrusting his spear through the partially exposed ribcage,
and into the mighty heart. Vlakra attacked the monster-elk form the other
side. Its legs buckling, the giant elk fell to its knees, issuing a loud
wail of death. They continued to thrust with their spear, until the tua,
already severely weakened form its duel with the cave-tiger, collapsed,
leaking volumes of blood into the arena sands.
Dazed and blood-spattered, Tarok and his mate rose to their
feet. Tarok’s first thought was to check on Grunth, see if the bison-man
was fatally wounded. He found that he had been gored very deeply and was
loosing blood fast.
Tarok placed his hand on the bison-man’s shoulder.
“You have fought well, my friend.” he said. “May the gods treat you kindly.”
‘You, too fought well.” said Grunth.
“I hope we shall meet in the next life…”
Two sagoth warriors approached. “On you
feet, gilak.” One of them told him.
Tarok gazed at him steely. “Your masters have
cost the ganak-warrior his life.” He said.
“The bison-man will not die.” The guard
said. “The lords have decreed his life shall be spared.”
“He is mortally wounded.” said Tarok.
“He is to be taken to the hospital. The Mahar
physicians will see to him.”
The Nu-al warrior, not knowing at all what the guard
meant, merely shrugged. Grunth was taken away on a stretcher. He and Valkara
were returned to their cell.
Some indeterminate time later, Grunth was returned
to them. He showed them his wound, which tarok noted with amazement, was
almost completely healed.
“How did they do this?” he asked. When ever
a warrior of Nu-al was unfortunate to have received such an injury, he
was presumed done for.
Grunth shrugged his burly shoulder. “I do not
know. I only know that the Great Lords have most extraordinary powers of
healing. I must admit that they know things that you and I do not.”
Tarok could not help himself form wonder—what
if his own tribal shaman had known of such incredibale healing power—what
if every sickness and injury were readily available to the men and women
of his own tribe. He remembered many brave warriors who had died in battle
from injuries less serious then Grunth’s. Too, he thought of the many children
of Nu-al who had died of disease or mishap. What if they could harness
the power of Mahar for themselves?
“What else can they do?” he asked. “Can the
Mahars even overcome death?”
The ganak shook his horned head.
“They cannot revive someone whose spirit has already fled to the Beyond.
But I have heard they can heal almost any injury or sickness. They themselves
do not suffer death as do the gilak and the other races, or so I am told.”
Tarok had to admit that the prospect was overwhelming.
Perhaps David Innes should not attempt to kill or exile the Mahars. There
was evidently much they could learn from them.
“Do you have any idea why the beasts suddenly
“The guards told me.” said Grunth. “It was
the strange weapon they have. You saw it, over the pedestal in the arena.”
“That thing was a weapon?” Tarok asked.
‘Yes. It is a terrible thing of magic that can control
the minds of the beasts. With such weapons they plan to conquer the world
they believe lies beyond the rim of Pelluicdar.”
Tarok understood now. The thing had to be one of
the fabled super-weapons that the Mahars were producing. It must
work in manner similar to the Mahars own mental powers, only greatly amplified.
Somehow the Mahars and their servant s were constructing a vast legion
of those things. They had to be stopped, or else none within the realm
of Pellucidar—and perhaps without as well—would remain safe.”
“Do you know the secrets of their construction?”
he asked Grunth.
“I know nothing of how the weapons are made, only
that they are being assembled by teams of trained sagoths within this very
city. Listen! Here the sounds beneath this floor? It is the labor of the
Mahars servants, building their weapons of doom!”
Tarok and Valkara listened—and they heard.
He had noticed the weird noises before, but had paid scant attention. They
were sounds no man of the Paleolithic had ever heard. But Tarok now knew
the portended something monstrous indeed.
It was sometime later, shortly
after their sleep-period, that Tarok heard the rattling of keys at their
cell door. He looked up.
The door opened. Three figures wearing heavy-furred
Right off, Tarok knew that these could not
be the sagoth guards. Though their features were hidden, he could tell
by their size and general build that they were not sagoths. “On your feet.”
The first one said.
Tarok was greatly relieved, for he knew the
The warrior grinned. “Clive…?” he ventured.
The man through back his hood, revealing the red-hair
and honest visage of the surface man. The second man revealed himself to
be Allistair Simmons, the aged scientist, and the third one was none other
than Jal-mar, their strange furred companion.
Tarok calpped his friend on the shoulder.
But Clive silenced. “Shhh! We must try to make our escape form the city.”
“How did you find us.”
We camped not far form the city. Jal-mar, Alistair
and I, ambushed some sagoth warriors and took their cloaks.”
“Can you get us out?”
“I believe so.”
Then Tarok remembered Grunth. “If we are to leave,
then this ganak will accompany us.”
“Who is he?”
“My name is Grunth.” said Grunth.
“He is a fellow warrior. We fought in
the arena. We are in this together, though our peoples would doubtless
be enemies in circumstances other than this.”
Clive agreed. Then he noticed the other human
slaves in the cell. There were three of them, in the far corner, all male.
These did not appear to be warriors, only servants. ‘We cannot abandon
these men either.”
Tarok feared escaping would be more diffult
the more of them there were, but reluctantly he agreed. He simply could
not abandon them to the cruel whim of the Mahar.
Clive bade the three men approach. “We are
escaping.” He said. “We wish to take you with us.
The men looked at him wonderingly. “There
is no escape from here.” said one of them. “Our lives are to serve the
Tarok grunted in disgust. “Then perhaps we should
leave you at their mercy.”
“There is a world beyond this city.” said Clive “we will
bring you to freedom if you join us.”
“If we are caught, they will kill us.”
“Then come is you like.” Claive told him. “In
any case, we are leaving.”
The men, with some reluctance agreed
to join them. Tarok remained disgusted, but allowed the three servants
to accompany them. They remained behind Clive, Alistair and Jal-mar, who,
hidden under their cloaks, pretended to be sagoth guards escorting the
salves through the city. They encountered few guards, and other then one
or two curious glances, they attracted no unfavorable attention. Tarok
was unsure where Clive and the old man were leading them, but he trusted
they had found the route out of the city. The corridors and passages were
maze-like and bewildering.
At last they passed out onto a
narrow walkway overlooking a vast ware-house-sized room. The size of the
place was staggering to the senses of the Nu-al warrior, greater even then
the arena, especially since it was this far below ground.
“Here is where they create their engines of
war!” he heard Grunth hiss.
And so it was. The vast space below them was
filled with scores of the gigantic, canon-like war-machines, in various
stages of construction. Everywhere sagoth servitors labored. Most all of
them wore shiny, metallic-looking tunics. They worked with strange metal
tools, such as Tarok and his mate had never seen. Some wore visors, and
were working with what were essentially blow-torches. The entire place
rang with the sounds of labored construction.
They passed on, through a door and into
another plain hall of quartz-like white stone. Tarok’s mind felt dazed
and horrified by what he had witnessed. The machines were capable of terrible
destructive power, each one perhaps equal to the mental powers of twenty
As they rounded a corner, one of the gigantic
winged saurians leaped directly in front of them. The Mahar hissed shrilly
at them, beating its volumous wings.
Clive through aside his tandor-hide cloak and brandished
a long-sword, obviously provided to him by the warriors of Sari.
Another Mahar flapped down in front of them. It had
entered though a vent in the ceiling designed for just that purpose.
“Do not look into their eyes!!” Tarok
But Clive already knew of the Mahars
mental powers. He leaped to the side, keeping his gaze away form the cold
gaze of his foes’ reptilian orbs, forcing the winged reptile to lunge forward
with its ghastly array of teeth and claws. The surface man slashed upward
with his sword, slashing the creature’s breast. The pterosaur shrieked
Meanwhile the other creature advanced upon Alistair,
Tarok, and the others. Jal-mar dashed forward, his cloak falling away to
reveal a spear clutched tightly within the Barraboo warrior’s grasp. He
rushed forward with the skill and speed characteristic of his species,
driving the point of his weapon deep into the Mahar’s breast.
Clive moved in on the other wounded creature
slashing the monsters scraggly throat, even as the creature slashed down
upon him with its tooth-filled beak. The Mahar went done in a welter of
reeking reptilian gore.
Jal-mar continued to drive his weapon home.
Unexpectedly, Grunth leapt to the attack. Though he was now weaponless,
the ganak warrior attacked with his horns, slashing them from side to side
in the manner of the bull bos. He gored his reptilian foe, until the creature
collapsed with a weak cry.
Jal-mar withdrew his spear, and rammed it home again,
making certain the incredible vitality of the saurian was put to rest.
He then turned to the ganak. “My thanks, friend.”
“My pleasure.” said Grunth. “But the masters
have somehow been alerted to your presence. There will be more on the way.”
As if in answer to the ganak’s prediction,
a small army of sagoth guards rounded the corner.
Clive and his companions readied their
But the sagoths carried weapons as well—strange
new weapons that resembled somewhat Clive’s pistol. Tarok had not seen
their like before, and he felt his boded ill.
“They have slain two of the
Lords!” said one of the guards.
“Look!” another cried in
horror. ‘That one is Za-rah! She was our engineer of Cyrstal Technology!
The filthy gilak slaves have killed her.”
“Then we must kill them!” said a third.
“No!” commanded the first guard. He aimed
his weapon directly at Clive. “This one is the red-furred surfacelander!
We are ordered to capture him and his companions unharmed.
The sagoth fired his weapon. It did not
emit a bullet, or even a laser, as Clive soon discovered. He weird sound
like a super-sonic squeal invaded his brain, making him want to scream.
The effect was rather like nails across a chalk board, the same unpleasantness,
only magnified a thousandfold.
Clive collapsed to the floor, his sward
clattering from his grasp.
His companions were soon similarly incapacitated.
“What shall we do with them?” asked one of
the sagoths to their captain.
“Tu-rah commands that the red-haired
one and his companions be taken to the Dead World—the Moon of Pellucidar!”