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Volume 1726a
Jahlanna of Pellucidar
A 175,000-word novel
by
Sean Edward Phillips


.
Part XVII

        “Up with you, gilak!”

       Clive Neville was able to regain his senses. He was lying on a shiny floor that appeared to be of chrome steal. A sagoth was prodding him with a cudgel. He looked up.

    Towering above him was a monstrous winged reptile, one of the ruling species at the earth’s Core, the mighty Mahars. There were four sagoth guards in the room as well. The place was cubical, with four steel walls. There were no doors or windows. 

      Clive glanced at his companions. They were is longtime companion, Alistair Simmons, Jal-mar the Barraoo, Tarok the warrior of Nu-al, and his new mate Valkara of the Valtor, and the ganak Grunth. The other human slaves he had attempted to liberate were not here—he guessed they had been too cowed by what amounted to years of enslavement to resist, and were thus returned to their quarters. But every captive here—himself most of all—presented a clear danger to the ones who deemed themselves masters of the inner earth. 

     All of them were getting groggily to their feet. The strange weapons must have had an effect which was just now wearing off. 

       “What do you want with us?” Clive asked, glaring the sagoth straight in the face. 

       “The Lords have decreed that you be taken to the Dead World. The Queen, Tah-ru, has use for you.”

      Tah-ru! Clive remembered that name well. It was the title of the queen of the Mahars of Zhuma—and perhaps of all the Mahars in Pellucidar from how the sagoth had spoke of her. She was, he later learned, the mammoth albino creature, he and his mate had confronted before they escaped Zhuma, together with the Nu-al boy Jarn, and the girl Jarla, a warrior maid of O-lar. After Zhuma had been sacked by the warriors of Nu-al, there had been no trace of her, however, and of course, having escaped the carnage the mammoth flying reptile would have had to have found a new refuge. 

      “What does she want with us?” Clive asked. 

      “You and your friends will discover soon enough, red-hair,” the sagoth replied. 

      Clive noted that the sagoth guards still had their stun-weapons, so arguing would be pointless. 

      Then one of the walls abruptly slid down, forming a ramp. 

      The captives found themselves gazing out onto the high steppes of Pellucidar, under an eternal, but hazy sun. 

     Clive had supposed that they were still somewhere within the vast, hive-like city, but now it was evident that they had been contained in one of the crawling transport vehicles. They stepped out blinking into the wan sunlight, prodded by their bestial captors. 

      At the base of the ramp squatted four great winged Mahars. 

   “You are to be transported to the Dead World, my gilak friends,” The guard informed them. 

     At that moment, the air was filled with the fantastic beating of tremendous wings. The Mahar behind them, having just waddled ponderously down the steel ramp, now launched herself powerfully into the air. Clive felt the steely grip of her talons upon his shoulders. The beast bore him dizzyingly into the air. The other four creatures flapped toward the others, each seizing one of the captives. 

     Grunth put up the most fight struggling mightily and attempting to gore the flying reptile with his horns.

   “Do not struggle, my friend!” cried Tarok to the ganak warrior. “You will only make the beast drop you!”

     “Will shall die anyway!” replied Grunth. “How else to you suppose this journey to end, gilak? Do you expect these monsters to treat us with mercy?” 

     “Do not struggle!” Tarok told him. “No matter what they intend for us, while we draw breath there is yet hope!” 

    Clive agreed with him wholeheartedly; and yet he found himself fearing that the bison-man was right. Whatever these cold-blooded horrors intended for them, it was bound to be most unpleasant, and it was doubtful they would be permitted to live for long. But while breath remained and him, he would fight beside Tarok, and any of the others to secure their freedom, and that of Pelluicdar itself. 

      As the mighty breadth of the Pellucidaran steppe spread out below them in vast magnificence, Clive saw that an army raged and battled upon the plain below. As they drew nearer, he saw that it was none other than the Imperial Army of Sari engaged in combat with a vast army of sagoths. The armada of David Innes, whose warriors were mounted on tandor and lidi, as well as swift cavalry, would seem to have been invincible, especially when pitted against a squadron of infantry. But it was not so. For at their back were an army of wheeled war-engines pulled by the mighty gronths , the great shaggy steppe-rhinos. Parties of sagoths were whipping the shaggy, horned behemoths. Mounted upon each of these wagons was one of the great canon-like weapons of destruction they had seen being produced under the city. Each one had a sagoth mounted at a control seat. Beams of energy shot forth from the weird weapons. Clive saw a full-mounted tandor topple beneath the invisible onslaught—then another, and another. 

     The minions of the Mahars then set upon them. The warriors of Sari retaliated savagely, but it appeared the Sarians were being systematically slaughtered. Above, other Mahars circled and swooped, doubtless administering their own telepathic beams upon the enemy. Clive could only gaze down helplessly upon the mass carnage, unable to anything to assist the brave warriors against their ruthless inhuman foes. 

    Their captors, swerving away form the other Mahars, passed over the frenzied battle, and away to what passed for the southeast. 

    The leagues of desolate steppe land gave way to rolling meadows and park-like forest. Mighty jungles and vast rivers rolled by beneath, the latter like threads of silver from the fantastic height. Then on and on, up and up, following the mighty carve of the inner earth. Great cliffs and mountains passed by beneath, then there swept toward them the mighty breadth of the Korsar Az, its great surface like a polished sheet of glass in the glare of the eternal sun. Clive now saw where the winged captors were headed—the great spherical shape near the edge of the mighty ocean, that could only be the fabled moon of Pellucidar, as Alistair so named it ---better known to the natives as the Dead World. 

      Directly toward this spherical object the Mahars flew. It grew massive and huge in Clive’s vision. As it encompassed his gaze, he saw that the Dead World did not appear to be dead at all; unlike the moon of the outer world, this miniature realm had mountains, lakes, forests, and rivers of its own?

    What manner of weird life resided there? Clive was certain he and his friends were about to discover. 

    Up the powerful winged reptiles flew. Clive felt himself seized by the weird gravitational pull of the miniature planetary satellite. Then down their leather-winged captors swept—into the weird world of Pellucidar’s moon. 

     The forests, now stretching out below them, Clive saw were of some weird blue-green vegetation. There were plains of curious pink grass. And roaming below those plains he saw herds of beasts. Though he was unable to discern them from this height, it appeared that they had six limbs. The alien jungle was bursting with strange call, shrieks and screams. He got a glimpse what looked like strange gliding and flying reptilian. They were not pterosaurs, but reptiles whose extra limbs had evolved into wings. At least, this was  how it appeared. 

     On and on flapped the Mahars with their human and humanoid captives. Until at length twin towers of white, quartz-like stone appeared on the plain below them. The winged saurians deposited them on the pinkish turf, then flapped off. 

     Clive and his companions looked around them. Between the massive white monoliths the gaped an entranceway into the hillock, doubtless leading below ground into the bowls of another Mahar city. Clive had expected that a party of sagoths would be here to greet them, and was puzzled by the absence. Why had their captors merely left them here? 

    Then a strange figure emerged from the entrance. 

    It was hairless, and nearly the size of a human child. It was also an implausible lime-green in coloration. Weirdest of all, a pair of batlike wings sprouted from the thing’s back. It—or he, as Clive assumed from its general appearance that it must be male—carried a short sword of bronze-type metal. This it leveled at them as it approached. 

    Clive could see now that its face resembled that of an evil infant, and when it spoke its teeth were numerous and very sharp. “Welcome, gilaks.” The creature said, sneeringly. “Welcome, captives of the all-mighty Mahars. Welcome to the city of  Zunah.”

      ‘”What do you want of us?” Clive demanded. ‘We were taken captive against our will and brought here.”
     “Exactly,” hissed the creature. “The Lords shall see you now.”

    A small army of spindly-limbed green creatures, looking identical to the first, were now pouring our of the entrance. They surrounded the captives with their curved bronze swords. 

     “Come quietly, gilak,” said the creature. “You and your friends would do well to obey. The masters are not patient—nor are we.”

     Seeing they had little choice in the matter, Clive and the others allowed themselves to be herded through the entrance into the demon-city of Xuthra. 

       They were ushered into a bewildering array of passages. There were a multitude of other captives here, Clive soon saw. He had first assumed that he and his companions had been taken here as special prisoners, though he now saw this was not so. Most seemed to be humans taken from the world below; some were of Pelluicdar’s nonhuman races. Everywhere were the waddling, obscene green dwarfs. 

       The Wur-gals--for this is what the strange race indigenous to Pelludicar’s moon is called—herded the captives along into a section of the city that seemed to be set up a part museum and part laboratory. 

    This city seemed to have more in common with Zhuma, and less with the industrial complex under the steppes. If there was any manufacturing of weapons of war in this city, they saw and heard no evidence of it where they were. Instead, the place seemed to be given over to scientific research. They past several laboratories, in which Mahar scientist toiled over beakers and vats of weird, seething chemicals. In other rooms, the pterodactyloid monsters hunched over plaques, on which they scribbled with pen-like styluses, doubtless recording their findings. 

      “I do believe these reptiles have actually invented writing—that means that though they are deaf, they are literate,” said Simmons. 

    Clive nodded, though he did not feel the same rush of awe. The fact that they remained captives was foremost on his brain. 

    In another room, filled with dark-blue illumination, two Mahar scientists wearing protective goggles over their inhuman eyes were experimenting with some weird device, possibly involving invisible rays or particles. Another room, incredibly, appeared to be a classroom, with an adult Mahar perched on an iron bar, doubtless communicating via the wierd fourth dimension to younger Mahars that looked to be recently matured hatchlings, all parched in front of placards, all of them scribbling madly upon these with styluses. 

   In another room, a Mahar scientist hunched over a metal table, was engaged in dissecting---

     Yes, Clive saw to his utter horror, it was a human corpse. 

   Sickened he turned away, and did not look into more rooms. Zhuma might have fallen, he decided grimly, horrors such as this were doubtless being perpetuated in regions wherever the Mahars held sway. 

    They now passed into a sector of the city which seemed to be a Natural History Museum. It actually reminded Clive, in a somewhat perverse way, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York he had visited as a small child. It was filled with mounted specimens of Pelluicdaran wildlife, in lifelike diorama cases. There was even a vast hall, flanked on either side with the mounted specimens of tandor and lidi—though how they had managed to transport such behemoths up on the moon, Clive had no idea. They passed more such displays, a hall of mammals with mounted tarags, ta-ho, and giant leopards and panthers, as well as a host of other felines. There were mounted bovine specimens, and the various species of deer and antelopine runiments. The Mahar race evidently knew well their taxonomy. But there were stuffed examples of sentient races two—the bovine exhibits contained a tribal family of ganaks. Clive heard Grunth snort derisively, but other than that the bison-man did not seem particularly horrified. Then, as they passed through what had to be the primate sector, he saw displays of black-skinned ape-men, tusked saber-tooth men, sagoths, and yes, human beings as well. The mounted display of a family of white Pelluicdarans filled Clive with horror. He had an instinctual assumption that they were only life-like models, but horrifically, he knew this was not the case. They had been real, live humans once, even the two tousle-haired children, whom he could barely bring himself to look at. Clive lived a fleetingly brief fantasy of meeting the ones who had slaughtered this family of cave folk—whether they were sagoth raiders or the Mahars themselves--and giving them a taste of their own medicine. 

    Appartently noting the surface man’s discomfort, one of the Wur-gals said, “Is something the matter, gilak?”
    It was obviously a taunt. “Nothing,” Clive said, “I was just wondering what the lot of YOU would look like stuffed in that glass case.”

    The creature responded with a cruel chuckle. “That will not happen. But you and your friends could well end up in this very hall. So look well upon your probable fate, underlings!”

     Clive loathed the creature, wanted to smash his repulsive skull against the wall, but he said nothing. 

    The stuffed humans in the museum were not the centerpiece. Instead the highlight of the displays was pterosaur—or more properly Mahar—evolution. The first portion of this exhibit was a vast mural showing what was apparently a Creation myth among the Mahar race, showing animals springing forth out of the ground at the will of a reptilian god. The world was shaped like bowl in this picture, rather than a hollowed out gourd. The accompanying mural showed that this idea had been long discredited by Mahar scientists. It showed a more accurate diagram of the inner earth, and a chart of the evolution of the Mahar race. It was a vast family tree of pterosaurs beginning with the primitive dimorphdon and rhamphorynchus, and terminating in the mighty Mahar, represented here by a life-size head, cast in bronze. The other pterosaur species were also represented by life-like bronze heads. Other branches of pterosaur evolution were shown, including the branch that included the thipdar, the mighty pteranodon. 

         “My word,” Clive heard Simmons murmur in profound awe, as they examined the chart. 

       “Look well, gilaks,” said the Wur-gal. “For this is lineage of the might Lords, the most noble tree in creation.”
   Clive felt like giving the vile creature a sarcastic response. But instead he said, with mild sarcasm, “When do we meet with your esteemed masters?”

     “Very soon. Now move it!”

     There were other displays of the various species of non-sentient pterosaurs, according all of them reverence. It seemed that the Mahar considered the flying reptilian the highest and most advanced of Pellucidar’s lifeforms, in much the same way as humans according primates as the highest order of mammal. Clive could not really fault them for this; humans were no different. And the displays, he had to admit were ingeniously constructed, at least as much as the ones he remembered from his boyhood trip to New York. Other displays depicted the ascension of the Mahar race themselves, starting with a semi-sentient species, with apparently rudimentary telepathic communication, to the Mahr scientists of the present day. 

      They emerged into a vast all, this one lined with row after row of archived scrolls, a vast library deep in the heart of the city. A mighty ceiling with a vast oil painting of winged saurians soared overhead. On both sides of the vast hall were bronze effigies. Clive realized that these must have been intended to depict the great scientist inventors and philosophers of the Mahar race. All of them looked basically the same to him though, winged, pterodactyl-headed monsters. As they moved on they saw that it was similar to the great library in the city of the Az-al, but even grander. There were scrolls by the thousand. They were several Mahars about perched upon iron bars, pouring over the scrolls. There were a number of trained sagoth librarians about, dressed in blue tunics. The walls were soaringly vast, and Clive wondered momentarily how the vast pools of knowledge could be tapped if you were not a Mahar.  Then he saw that a trained staff of Wur-gals were able to flap to the highest reaches and retrieve the scrolls. 

         They next descended into a new sector, and to his surprise, Clive saw this area to be something like a zoo—the first glass case they encountered housed a live animal. It was large gold-scaled lizard-like thing with a fin-crested head, basking in light that must have been artificial, on a large rock. The creature, though otherwise motionless, turned its head and flicked a scarlet tongue out at them. A ridge of sharp spines ran down its back. But the most startling thing about it was that it had a total of six-legs. It was a beast, Clive surmised, indigenous to the Dead World itself. 

      “It is a raka,” said the Wur-gal, helpfully. “The beast would make short work of the lot of you, could he escape.”

    “I’ve no doubt of that,” said Clive. 

    They passed other enclosures with other such beasts. There were also a number of weird, insectesoid life, indigenous to the Dead World, and they past one wasp-like beast nearly the size of an ox, sporting a mighty stinger-tail. There were other enclosures housing species of leaping and gliding reptiles, such as he had glimpsed form far above. All the vertebrate life, apparently, seemed to have followed the six-limb pattern. And one of the dragon-like reptiles, larger than the rest, Clive recognized as what the natives had spoken of as the trodon, a near-mythical monster that snatched its victims off to a horrible fate. 

    “That beast,” said Simmons, “My colleague Burroughs described in one of his books—it’s called a trodon. It seems that the monster evolved here, on Pellucidar’s moon, then somehow adapted to the surface of Pellucidar.  That would explain how its two extra limbs managed to evolve into wings, like the Wur-gals here. It also explains why this particular monster left no known surface remains.” 

      “Yes,” said Tarok. “I have heard tell of such monsters. I remember a warrior of Nu-al who was once borne off by one. What happens to the prey of a trodon is not pleasant.” 

     Beside him, Valkara shuddered. “Thank the gods my northland home has no such monsters.”

       They then reentered a vast area of barren halls. “This way, swine!” said the Wur-gal. “You shall have a glimpse of the Mahar feeding pool! Again, look well-and be glad your fate is not theirs—yet!”

     They passed a huge region beyond a wall of transparent glass, again much like a zoo display. But this was different. 

     In the direct center of the display was an island of artificial rock surrounded by water. . Sluicing through the water like reptilian sea-lions were Mahars. On the rocky island, where a family of sea lion or penguin would be relining in a zoo display, were a group of despondant humans from the surface of Pellucdar. They had been brought to this place of Horror only to be devoured. 

         And at that precise moment, a beautiful, naked cave-girl was striding majestically toward the pool and her doom. The fanged and beaked head of the saurian was thrust above the surface, the burning, inhuman gaze drawing the hapless she within striking range. The girl slim and lovely, but mighty-hipped and magnificent, like a primeval goddess, with superb breast a heavenly face framed by luxuriant tresses, her skin soft and rosy white. She strode with divine grace, her mighty hips shifting with each magnificent stride she took. 

     And the surface man recognized at once his beloved Jahlanna, the girl he had been searching across Pellucidar to rescue!

    In a flash, he seized up the Wur-gal, as the dwarfish creature was prattling on some nonsense about the Great Lords liking their victims raw. 

    Before the startled creature could react, the man’s hands had encircled the small throat, and he had slammed the creature against the thick pane of glass. The Wur-gal’s weapon clattered to the floor. 

     “Release me, you brute beast!” it gurgled. 

     Clive squeezed tighter, cutting off the thing’s air. A sore purple tongue protruded.  The creature’s fellows had already leveled their weapons at his back. 

     “Tell two of them to fly me into the feeding pool!” he ordered “Now!!”

     “You’re mad!” the thing choked. 

    “Do it!!” Clive whirled around still clutching his captive in an unbreakable grasp. The creatures drew back, confused. “Tell them now, or I’ll break your worthless neck!” 

     “We will kill you!” said one of the other Wur-gals, leveling his bronze blade at Clive. 

     “He’ll be dead before you strike!”

      “Do as he says!” wheezed the captive. 

     Two of the Wur-gals—who were extraordinarily powerful for their size-- flapped up and seized Clive by each of his arms. They carried him and his captive over the glass wall and into the enclosure, setting him and his captive down upon the island. Clive released his captive at once, sent his right fist smashing into the repulsive visage of one of his captives. The Wur-gal shrieked in pain. Clive seized the bronze blade and dove into the water. 
    He had just time to see the beautiful head of the princess vanish beneath the surface. 

    Clive was a veteran swimmer, and raced below in a series of powerful stokes. 

    Jahlanna was below the surface, already in the terrible grip of the winged reptile. The monster had the girl’s ankle in her mighty tooth-lined jaws, and was preparing to drag the girl to her doom. But Clive was there first. The surface man stabbed with the blade into the belly of the winged pterodactyl-monster, releasing a rival of reptilian blood. The Mahar came at him taloned wings extended, fangs gaping to tear out his life. 

    Meanwhile, the princess, released from the terrible gaze of the creature, made powerful strokes for the surface. 
    The girl’s lovely burst through, gasping and drawing air into her rose-tinted lips. The water behind her exploded in a sudden frenzy. Jahlanna turned to look. 

     Her rescuer was locked in mortal combat with the gigantic winged saurian. And to her joy and astonishment, it was her own beloved Clive, come to save her in this time of need. Her warrior loved her after all—he had journeyed across a continent to snatch her from the slavering jaws of doom. 

      The red-haired, fair-skinned warrior battled the monster from Times’ Beginning. Clive was now gripping the Mahar from behind, clutching the scraggly throat, was the reptile fought to rip and mangle him. The creature now rose from the pool, water cascading down its voluminous wings, as they began to fan the air gigantically. Clive held fast, and slashed open the monster’s throat with his bronze Wur-gal blade. 

       The creature, mortally wounded crashing forward to the island. Jahlanna, uttering a wild shriek, down out of the way as the monster crashed to the rocky island, her life-blood gushing from her jaws. 

     The surface man rose, dazed from the carcass of the monster. 

     Jahlanna blinked her lovely gaze at him. “Clive! Clive…is that truly you?”

    “Jahlanna….my sweet….I thought I would never see you again….”

     “Clive!” the girl rushed into his arms. 

     Clive embraced the girl, cradling the soft firmness of her lithe warm body holding her tight, kissing that lovely, dreamlike face long and passionately. And who knows how long the lovers did kiss, here in this world where time, as we know it, does not exist?

     The Wur-gals had flapped off to avoid the wrath of the other Mahars. Clive’s comrades were staring with astonishment as Clive and the girl he loved, his mate, the princess they had presumed lost were reunited. 

     A few feet away the oldster Ug-na stared in astonishment. At fist he had watched in horror as the girl found herself chained by the Mahar’s uncanny gaze. The thought of this magnificent girl becoming food to the monstrous lords was intolerable. As the hapless young she had approached the monstrous beast, the old man felt righteous anger burn within his breast—for he had been a warrior in his long ago youth. It enraged him that this lovely thing was merely a choicably succulent game animal to be relished and devoured, and he had rushed to the girl’s rescue.

    But then he saw that she had a rescuer—a handsome red-haired man had inexplicably lept to her rescue. Could the girl’s protector possibly be the gallant warrior, her lover and mate, of whom she had boasted? Yes, he supposed that it was. 

       Jahlanna pillowed her lovely head against Clive’s comforting chest, as Clive enfolding her child-like shoulders in his loving arms. “I knew it…” she murmured. “I knew you would come for me. Oh, Clive forgive that I ever left, that I said that I hated you.” 

    “My girl, I know that you never meant those words.” said Clive. 

   “Oh, it has been terrible. I must tell you of the dreadful things that have happened to me, a princess, since you were gone. Those foul little things that serve the Mahars—“ Oooohhh!”

    “You mean the Wur-gals?”

    “Yes! They are foul. They are worse even than the Mahars themselves. I hate them. It was they who captured me, brought me here! But I know that now you are here, we shall escape!”

      “Indeed we shall,” Clive told her firmly. 

     “And I was captured by Mogor—that dreadful sagoth!”

     “Mogor was it? I figured that foul brute might have taken you! We would have pursued him. But he must have slipped off the moment we were captured by the Korsars! I should have gone after you the moment you left—but I thought you’d return and just needed to get your anger out! Perhaps if I had—“

    “The Korsars! Yes—I knew something had to have happened when you did not follow. But then the sagoth, that hairy brute, had me. And I was captured again, by men. Foul terrible men of other tribes, such my father warned me.”

    “Have no fear,” Clive told her. “No one will harm you again. I would kill Mogor, if I had him here now. And those others who dared get their filthy paws on you.”

   “I have no doubt you would,” she murmured. Clive realized as he held her, caressing her ebon tresses, just how very like a child his sweet princess was. How it must have been for her, the sweet young thing, lost and alone in the savage wilderness. She had now endured several more brutal captures, the latest by the loathsome Wur-gals. She might be a savage primeval girl of an untamed continent, but she was very femininely vulnerable all the same. 
         “I do not wish to interrupt you,” said a voice. “But you are in trouble. The lords now know you killed one of their number.”
      “Oh!” exclaimed Jahlanna. 
    Clive turned. He saw that it was an old man, one of the feeding pool’s intended victims, who had spoken. 
     “My name is Ug-na,” he told Clive. “I wish to thank you for saving the princess. She is truly a magnificent girl. Are you her mate?”
     “She is and I am,” said Clive. 
        ‘We are all prisoners here,” said Clive. “And I will fight them all to the last if I must. Will you help us escape.”
     Just then, two armed Wur-gals came flapping down into the enclosure. They glared at Clive and the girl. Thought things looked almost the same to Clive, he thought he recognized the brute whom he had forced to help him rescue the girl. “You are in luck, red-haired one,” the little monster sneered. “The Tah-ru has decreed that your life be spared, even after what you have done.”

    “What do I owe my life for?” Clive asked. 

   “I do not know,” said the creature. “The other Lords consider you a dangerous specimen, and believe that you should be killed. Perhaps it merely pleases her. Or perhaps it is because the Mahars who frequent the Feeding Pool are considered lowlife scum by the rulers, though all the Lords are far above even us Wur-gals. I do not know. But we are to escort you to a special cell, away form your companions.”

     “The girl remains with me,” Clive said firmly. 

     The creature chuckled. “She does not. You and your she are to be separated.”

      “We will not be separated again,” Clive leveled his purloined blade at its former owner. 

    The Wur-gal hissed. “Foolish gilak! Do not test the favors of the Lords! Another male, who had pledged his service to them has asked for this she as his mate. The Lords have granted his request.”

      “Then I will fight him—and them also—for her!” Clive growled. 

     “If that is what you wish, then so be it,” said the creature. Much to Clive’s astonishment. “The Lords have decreed that any male who challenges for a mate may meet in the arena.”

     “I will face him now!” 

    “I will make certain the Lords receive you challenge. But for now you and girl will be separated.”

    “No!” Clive said. “You will not separate us. If I must challenge this man let it be done now! Tell that to your masters.”

  The creature did not reply. Instead he calmly raised a hand. At this four other Wurgals waddled forward. They all carried metal rods. 

    “Stay back!” ordered Clive. Whe they did not, he came at them with his blade. 

      “I’d do as they say,” Warned Ug-na. “The Wur-gals know how to handle rebels—I know it well. Those rods of theirs—they have powerful magic!”

    “No—Clive!” cried the girl. “listen to him!”

    But Clive was already swinging. The horde had already attacked, fluttering over him. They struck the man with the metal rods. 

     White-hot beams or energy exploded in Clive’s brain, blacking him out. The last thing he heard was Jahlanna’s mortified shriek as oblivion claimed him. 

     Some time later Clive awoke. He saw that he was separated form his friends and companions. Worse, he was separate from Jahlanna. But he remembered joyously, that through it all, though their situation might be grim indeed in this city of horrors within Pellucdairs’ satellite, his mate still lived. 

    The second thing he noticed was that he shared his cell with Ug-na. The old man sat across form him, against the wall. 

     “You still seek to rescue your mate?” the oldster asked. 

    “Most certainly I do,” said Clive. “The girl and I will leave this accursed city.”

     “I will help you anyway I can,” said Ug-na. “Like I said before, the girl who is your mate is a magnificent female. Do not killing me for saying so, though I would prefer that end over that the Lords have in store for us, which is why I did not fear to mention it to you.” 

      “I would not kill you anyway,” said Clive. “Certainly not an old man like you. But I would fight any man who seeks to abduct princess or harm her in any way.”

     “As would I,” said the old man. “But it will be difficult. The Mahars have ways to …increase an average warrior’s strength. And the man you face is apparently one of their favorites. But, warrior, I will help you if a may, though there is not much I can do.”

    “Maybe you can tell me just what this place is,” Clive said. “My friends and I are now captives here.”

     “There are others with you?”

     “Yes. They are doubtless somewhere else here in the city.”

     “If they are still alive.”

    “Why did the Mahars build a city on the Dead World.”

    “They built it after David Innes, the emperor of Sari drove them from the empire.”

    “David Innes! You’ve heard of him, then?”

    “Of course,” Ug-na said. “The Mahars sought a way they could retake the land lost to them. This city is their largest, after they migrated here to build it. This moon”—and here Ug-na stopped to trace a crude diagram on the hard dirt floor—“Is hollow, like the inside of a hard-shelled fruit.”

    “Like Pelluicdar itself is hollow.”

     The old man looked at him in surprise. “Yes, the lords have a theory that that is true also. Perhaps there are an unending number of worlds, each continued within the next. In my youth I would have considered such an idea foolish nonsense. But from the things I’ve witnessed as a prisoner in Xuthrah, I believe that anything may be possible. The Lords indeed have strange knowledge. In any event, they are correct about this miniature world. It is hollow, the inside shell composed of pure crystal. It is rather like a gigantic crystal stone—“

     “A geode,” said Clive. “I remember that from geology class. One of those rocks that is amethyst on the inside.”

     “You must be from a strange, and far distant tribe. But I believe we are talking of the same thing. Yes, the moon is like that type of rock. Only these crystals have way of increasing the Lords’ inherent mental powers. You know, the power by which they can entrance a human in the feeding pool. The power that nearly claimed the life of your mate.”

    “I understand,” Clive said.

    “The Lords have taken to mining these crystals. There are now many, many sagoth and Wur-gal mining the gems.”

    “Why?”

     “They are building weapons—strange, powerful weapons that you of the surface of Pellucidar have never dreamed. I could not even describe them to you. But I’ve seen them—and they work. With these weapons, the Lords hope to retake what the empire stole from them.”

      At that moment there was rattling of keys at the cell door. Two burly sagoths entered. Clive was somewhat relieved it was not the repulsive Wur-gals. 

    One of the burly brutes wielded coiled whip. “On your feet, red-hair. It is time your fate was decided—in the arena!” 

      Jahlanna of Nu-al was taken to another cell. The sagoth guard shut her in and laughed. The first thing that the girl saw was that there was a man sharing her cell.

      He looked a younger man than Clive, but he was far less handsome. He was in fact, an ugly brute of man, with a sleazy arrogant gleam in his small, viperfish eyes. He was hulking and muscular, undoubtedly a powerful warrior. But somehow, Jahlanna could tell he had the bearing of a coward, not a warrior. 

    As was no surprise to her, the man gazed upon her nude, goddess-like form in sweating bestial lust in his piggy orbs. And although did not mind at all being desired, had invited the men of her own tribe to look, she did not like the manner that this man was doing it. The men whom the girl had allowed the pleasure of mating with her, for example, had gazed upon her face and form with awe and reverence. This man’s desire was sweaty, cruel, animalistic. He sought only to subdue and debase her, not make love, and Jahlanna loathed him for it. 

     But the man was hulking and he frightened her. 

     The girl raised one trembling hand. “Who—who are you?”

      “I am Lu-gor of O-lar, my beautiful she,” he said. “I am a well-rewarded servant of my lords the mighty Mahars. For my service to them, I have had you brought her to be my mate. Do not think to resist, girl. I have you. You cannot escape for here. But do not worry. I believe that you will find that Lu-gor is not so bad. You may get to like him.

    “That is most unlikely,” Jahlanna said. “Wait! O-lar—that land lies right next to Nu-al. Our tribes fought against the Mahars of Zhuma!” She remembered Jarla, warrior girl of O-lar whom the boy Jarn had saved. But Jarla had been nothing at all like this man who claimed her kinship. Her impression of the O-lar following the taking of Zhuma, had generally been a good one. Lu-gor, she automatically assumed was the blacksheep of his tribe.

     “How do you know this, girl?”

     “Don’t be a fool! I know it because I am Jahlanna, princess of Nu-al. I am the freely chosen mate of Clive Nev-vil, the red-haired warrior who liberated our peoples. You should be grateful to him. What service have you done the Mahars?”

     The man grinned hideously, in a way that made the princess cringe. “Why, I told the Lords that the red-haired one had gone to Sari. So the Mahars at a city far to the north were alerted to his presence. Doubtless they have captured him.”

     “They have indeed! He is here in Zuthrah even as we speak! When he finds me he will kill you!”

    Lu-gor laughed. “Do not lie to me, girl! Your warrior is not here.”

     “He is here. He saved Jahlanna from the feeding pool. When he finds us, he will kill you!”

     “He will not find us, even if he is here. But he is not here. Your mate is doubtless dead by now.”

     Suddenly, the princess launched herself in rage, primal fury at the man her slender nails outstretched. Her mind was suddenly filled with all the terrible things the Mahar race had done to the captives of her people—and how this man had betrayed them to these filthy, inhuman reptiles. “Pig!” She screamed, clawing at him. “Traitor! Betraying our people to them! My father would have any Nu-al who did as you spitted on his spear!”

     Lu-gor clutched the girl’s wrists in his powerful grip. And forced her to the stone slab that served as a bench. “I’d betray anyone,” he said,” For a mate such as you!”

    “I would never mate with a wallowing pig like you! Never! I’ll let them throw me to the feeding pool first!” 

     “I’ll not let that happen, sweet girl!”  Mogor grinned.

      Just then the cell door opened. Two burly sagoths stepped within. 

     “Do not interrupt!” snapped Lu-gor. 

      “You will come with us, gilak! The Lords demand it!”

      “Tell them the girl and I are busy, as you can see!”

     The sagoth grinned, “The girl, it seems, has another suitor besides you. He has challenged you to a duel in the arena.” 

      The caveman released Jahlanna. The girl saw the color drain form the big man’s face. He was a coward, just as she had suspected, and the knowledge made her even more revolted by him. 

      “The girl is mine! The Lords promised me!”

     “The Lords demand that you fight him.”

      “Who is he, this man that would challenge Lu-gor?”

     “His name is Clive. He claims this she as his mate!”

     Lu-gor looked even more pale as he realized that the girl had spoken the truth. Her mate was in Xuthrah. And if had not been for him Tu-rah the Queen of the Mahars, might not have been able to locate him. Doubtless, he was a strong and fearless warrior to claim a girl such as this as his mate.

     “I do not wish to face him,” he said. 

     The sagoths laughed, obviously knowing cowardice where they saw it. “Do not fear, my smooth-skinned friend. You look a strong enough warrior. But the Lords wish to make certain that it is you who wins. They have a machine that will make an ordinary man into a super-warrior. They have not tried it before on a human, but you are to be their first subject.” 

       Lu-gor could hardly believe his good fortune. But the Lords were near-gods weren’t they? Of course, they could do anything they want. Miraculously, his courage had returned. 

       Lu-gor’s ugly visage smirked at Jahlanna. “Did you hear what he said? Soon, Lu-gor will crush your warrior. Then, my lovely princess, I will have you—willingly or not.” 

     As the guards let him away, Lu-gor’s spirits soared. The thought that the Mahars could actually make him invincible greatly appealed to him. He imagined the beautiful Jahlanna of Nu-al watching in helpless horror as he made her champion beg for mercy. Then he imagined her agony as he slowly killed the man she loved. Wait! Maybe he wouldn’t kill him. Maybe he could spare the man’s life—then somehow force him to watch as he raped and humiliated his beautiful princess in front of his grief-stricken eyes. That was it! Just thinking of it made Lu-gor feel a heady rush of power. And nothing would make him feel more powerful then brutally subjugating a helpless female in front of the man she loved. He would totally break the girl’s spirit, he decided, make the proud cave princess into a sniveling, groveling pleasure-slave fit to lick his feet. 

     The guards led him into a room. 

     It was one of the many science lab rooms within the Xuthrah. In its center was a raised metal slab. Great coiling tubes of grayish metal were suspended above. A distance away, hunched over a control panel with a multiplicity of levers was one of the Mahars. 

     All at once, Lu-gor again did not feel so brave. He wanted nothing more than to run. But the guards gripped him fast. Though the man protested, they through him onto the metal slab, and clamped the manacles onto his wrists and ankles. Lu-gor screamed. 

   The Mahar scientist through a lever. One of the open-ended tubes trough a beam of intense white light down on Lu-gor’s writhing, near-nude form. Then another beam and then another. A weird humming filled the room. 

     Lu-gor felt his body enveloped in intense pain, as though his every cell as on fire. He screamed long and loud. Then he blacked out. For how long, he could not know. But when he awakened, the manacles were loose. He sat up on the slab. 

     “Look at yourself, gilak,” the sagoth said. He led Lu-gor to a mirror in the side of the wall. The caveman had never seen a mirror before, and it shocked him a bit, and he cried out. 

    But not merely because he was very ugly, though certainly this was true. It was because the man in the mirror did not seem to resemble him at all. He was much taller, almost a giant, and his muscles with thick-corded and bulging almost to the point of deformity. His arms, already having been somewhat ape-like, reached now almost to the steel floor. 

    “You are ready for mate-battle, my friend,” the guard told him. 

       Lu-gor grinned at his reflection. He understood. 

      Clive ventured out upon the burning sands of the arena. Above, rather than a granite dome, was the eternal sun of Pellucidar. The arena, then opened out onto the the surface of  Pellucidar’s moon. The arenas filled with Mahars. There were, scattered amongst them, a few gilak captives and sagoth and Wur-gul servants. 

      And above, there lying at the taloned feet of the three rulers of the Mahars, lay the girl Jahlanna—his mate. He felt like calling to her, but she was too far away. 

   The other gate opened. Clive readied himself. 

    Out into the blazing sunlight strode the Mahars’ champion.

    Clive was astounded. The man resembled nothing like he had imagined. He was a good head taller than he was, and was absolutely covered with muscles. His back and shoulders were almost hunched by the preponderance of knotty cords. His hair, a sort of reddish black—not unlike the shade of the O-lar girl Jarla, some part of Clive recalled distantly—was lank and stringy. His face was very ugly, with a gash of thin, arrogant lips, and cold, viperfish eyes that emitted a baleful light. But he appeared to be a veritable champion and was doubtless a very strong warrior. This was the warrior who had chosen the girl Jahlanna for his own? He appeared to be beyond defeat, and Clive felt his heart sink within him. Still, he was determined to fight the man to the death if it meant securing the princess’s freedom. 

     Lu-gor glared down at Clive. So this was princess’s Jahlanna’s mate, the one of whom she had so boasted! He did not appear as fearsome as the girl had suggested. Still, it was evident that the man was no weakling—he had a strong, supple body, and was doubtless a quick and capable warrior. Lu-gor was puzzled by the stranger’s curiously light, speckled skin, and russet tresses. He must be from a land far distant from O-lar or Nu-al. 

     But that did not matter. It mattered only that he was now invincible. He could crush the warrior to a pulp, and the girl was here to watch him do it!

       “Ho, little warrior!” cried Lu-gor. “Are you ready to die?” 

       “Perhaps it is you who will die.”

      “Hah! Then come and try, puny, red-haired gnat!”

      The hulking, deformed O-lar warrior lumbered forward, grinning down at his adversary. Overconfidently, he swung widely at Clive, intending a mountain-shattering blow. 

   But the surface-man, trained in the modern ways of self-defense, easily ducked under. He came up quick, smashing the man’s nose with his fist. 

     Lu-gor cried out, his nose gushing crimson, clutch at his face, his outburst sounding surprisingly feminine coming from so huge a man. Clive took immediate advantage of the situation and knocked him across the bowed legs, tripping him. 

    Lu-gor went down on his face. 

    He now had the warrior, in spite of the other’s obvious superior strength. But he did not give another blow, wanting to end the fight if at all possible. 

   “Do you surrender?” Clive asked. 

    “Y-yes,” Lu-gor stammered brokenly, still clutching at his nose. Clive stepped forward, seeking to help the man to his feet. 

    That was a mistake. 

    Lu-gor lashed out with one massive leg catching the surface warrior by surprise. Clive was thrown to the sands dazed. Lu-gor was upon him in the next instant. 

    In his ears, out among the crowd, Clive heard a girl’s shriek. “Jahlanna…,” he thought, as Lu-gor’s powerful hands seized him up. Clive, felt himself raised above the man’s head. 

  Lu-gor threw him to the hard arena floor. 

    Clive’s entire body was agonized. His head was dazed and spinning. He heard Jahlanna cry out his name. 

    “Hah, puny warrior!” boomed Lu-gor. “What is that, my warrior! What is it I hear? Is that someone who will deserve Lu-gor’s attention once I finish with you?”

    But the man’s boasting had given Clive time to regain his feet. Though dazed, he flung himself at the hulking brute’s chest, feet kicking out. He was aided this time by the lesser pull of the Dead World’s gravity and was sent smashing into the warriors chest. Lu-gor was sent crashing back. 

    Clive then sent another fist colliding with the man’s jaw. But in the same instant, Lu-gor lashed out with his left arm. His small opponent was sent flying. 

    The massive warrior’s strength was also increased by the Moon, and Clive was sent hurtling halfway across the arena. Dazedly he tried to regain his feet. 

      Already, Lu-gor was hurtling toward him, roaring like a derailed freight train. Clive stood to fend off his charge. But before the startled surface man could react, Lu-gor slammed him full in the stomach. Once more, Clive was sent flying. 

      Up in the stadium, the girl Jahlanna watched the duel in agony, the cold, pitiless Mahars towering above. The princess clutched at her face. Her lovely, dark-fringed eyes brimmed over with tears. Why, oh why did this have to happen? Her friend and lover was doomed. She could only hope now that Clive would die a quick death. She hated Lu-gor—hated him enough to tear his filthy vulture-heart from his breast. And she hated the Mahars, hated their cold, cruel unfeelingness toward “lesser” beings such as Clive and herself. 

    Lu-gor again seized up the dazed Clive, and sent him smashing to the arena floor again. He then seized him up and repeated the action. “Are you ready, puny gnat?” he sneered. “Are you ready to surrender?”

     Clive coughed blood and moaned. He could not surrender—not with Jahlanna at the mercy of this monster. Somehow, he had to keep fighting—for her, if for nothing else. 

     “Your woman is mine, outlander.” Lu-gor sneered. “Admit it! You are finished. But I am not going to kill you! If the Lords permit, I am going to make you watch will I have my way with the girl! Tell me what you think of this?”

     Clive said nothing, dazedly, he glared into the man’s ugly features as he tried to regain his feet. But Lu-gor solidly kicked him, causing a splatter of blood to erupt for his mouth. 

    “Clive!!” screamed Jahlanna, agonized. 

     Lu-gor laughed. “Outlander fool! You can barely even stand, and are still thinking to defeat the mighty Lu-gor! Do you not even know when you are food for jaloks?”

    At that moment, something very curious happened. Once again the mighty arena door went up. And something long, gigantic, hideous, and segmented slithered out onto the arena sands. 

    Lu-gor and Clive looked up. 

    Neither of them had seen a beast like the one which now scuttled horribly across the white hard arena sands toward them. It was obviously no denizen of Pelluicdar proper, but one of the weird species that infested the forests of this bizarre jungle moon. 

    It was a gigantic invertebrate, like nothing in any Paleontology book, something like a giant arachnid or millipede. 

     The segmented body was easily fifty some feet in length. The hideous black-bristle-furred head bore two fantastic wriggling orange feelers, and two very large round compound eyes, like enormous multifaceted emeralds. Beneath these were a complicated set of chomping mandibles, oozing a greenish exudate. 

        Its’ mighty forelegs terminated in colossal, snapping pincer-claws. 

      One look at the Dead World denizen was all the cowardly Lu-gor needed. He howled and ran at the sight of the scuttling horror. But in spite of its awesome size, the moon-beast was hideously fast. 

    In one sweep of its pincered claw, it snatched up the prone Clive Neville, as it zigzagged after the fleeing caveman. In the other claw it seized the terrorized Lu-gor. 

   The monster held them up, one man in each claw, its series of mandibles working terribly. 

     Why had the Mahars loosed this thing upon them? Clive wondered, his mind suddenly clear. 

    But then he knew. The Mahars were scientists, experimenters. To them, this mate-duel was not simple entertainment.  They were studying animal behavior, just as surface scientist observed the relations of chimps. They did not intend that Lu-gor win, as the dull-witted caveman had so foolishly assumed. They had loosed this horror upon them for some purpose, to see how they would react. 

     As far as Lu-gor was concerned, they already had all the answer that they needed. The man was shrieking and crying in abject terror, too frightened to even attempt to free himself. It would have probably have proved futile anyway, though. Even though Lu-gor’s strength had been increased, and the lesser gravity of the tiny moon, vastly increased both of their skills-- 

    Wait! That was it! Clive struck the claw mightily. It was very hard, chitenous. But his blow was of such force that the beast actually dropped him. The man tumbled to the sands. The creature drew back in uncertainly, unused to having his prey behave in this manner. Lu-gor, still a captive, went on screaming. 

    But Clive rushed to the attacked. He seized the monster’s pincer-claw, and drew back twisting it with all the force he could muster. 

    The limb snapped with a loud crack and a gushing spurt of greenish fluid. The monster emitted a loud squeal that hurt the ears of the surface man, clacking its hideous mandibular jaws. 

    Gripping the severed pincer-claw like a harpoon, Clive charged, dashing across the hot sands toward the monster’s head. 

    The scorpion-beast drew back, shrieking weirdly. 

   Clive drove the spear-lime end of the severed limb deep into the right of the multi-faceted eyes, releasing a gusher of weird ichor. The then withdrew his dripping implement, and jabbed it savagely into the other eye. A piercing squeal rent the arena as he jabbed the thing deep within the monster’s orb, penetrating its primitive brain-organ. 

    With a blood-curdling death scream of alien volume, the lunar monstrosity sank lifelessly to the arena floor. The other claw released the baffled Lu-gor, scarcely credible that he was still alive. 

     Clive walked up to the man. He saw that Lu-gor was no longer the grotesquely-muscled giant he had been before. He was still hulking and ugly, but no longer an invincible warrior. Puzzled at first, he then realized. Of course! The Mahars and scientific ways increasing a man’s strength—like some kind of super-steroid. That was what Ug-na had said, and he had been right. But whatever it was they had done to him, its effect was only temporary. Lu-gor had reverted to his ordinary self. 

    The O-lar was clutching his arm. It had been mangled in the monster’s pincer. 

     Clive noticed a small boulder a few feet away, and realized why it had been placed there. He walked to it and picked it up. 

    Standing again over the fallen Lu-gor, the surface-man raised the boulder over his head. 

     “No!” cried Lu-gor. “Do not kill me! Please! I beg of you!” 

     “I heard what you were going to do to the girl!” snarled Clive. 

     “No! I would not have harmed her! Let Lu-gor live!”

   Clive had wanted to see Lu-gor’s reaction, but had thought it beneath him to actually slay the man. But remembering his words, he briefly considered doing it. The man was a coward, and not only that—he was dangerous to anyone else who had the misfortune to encounter him. Perhaps he should not allow the man to live.”

    “No Clive!” cried a feminine voice, that Clive instantly recognized as that of his beloved. “Do not kill him!”

    Jahlanna rushed to her mate’s side and clutched his arm. The Mahars had set her down within the arena. “We—you and I—are better than that! Let him live—though he is a coward and a brute.”

     “He would have shown me—and you—no mercy.” Clive said flatly. But he had already made his decision. He slammed the rock into the sand next to Lu-gor’s face. 

    He gave the man a disgusted look. Then he took the girl in his arms. With the head of his mate pillowed on his shoulder, Clive turned. He and Jahlanna left the arena, their arms entwined about one another. 
 
 
 


 

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