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Volume 1727b
Jahlanna of Pellucidar
A 175,000-word novel
by
Sean Edward Phillips
.

Part XXI

   The fantastic airship floated through the upper air of Pellucidar. On board were Clive Neville, and his companions, Alistair Simmons, Tarok, his mate Valkara, the bison-man Grunth, the Barraboo Jal-mar, Ug-na, and the giant Hug-lo. 

     There were a number of sagoth guards on board as well. 

     They had left the alien world of Pellucidar’s moon and were now drifting over a range of mountains. There were three floor –to-ceiling windows on either side of the compartment. Through this they could see the forms of giant flocks of thipdars that made these mountains their home. By the side of the great craft, and offtimes visible through the windows were the forms of the giant Mahars, one on each side. Clive saw that these were the same male creatures who had sent them on their mission, the great beasts with strikingly colored fanged beaks. 

        “Why are they accompanying us?” Clive asked a sagoth guard. 

        “The Lords do not trust you, gilak.”

       “Are they going to remain with us after we land?”

      “They will keep you under surveillance, so that you do not abandon your search for the gilak Lu-gor. You will not always see them, but they will be there. They will also come to your aide, if a beast attacks. Or if they spot the renegade human from them air, or sense his thought patterns, as he will certainly seek the cover of the forest.  If that should happen, the Lords will signal you.”

      Clive could not resist asking at that point regarding his earlier observation regarding the two Mahar scientists/rulers. “Forgive me,” he said. “I did not mean any disrespect when I spoke earlier, but it seemed that they were having a disagreement. As it concerned us, I would like to know what it is.” 

     The gorilla-man shot him a glance that Clive took for outrage, though the facial expression of the ape-men were somewhat different from a human. But to his surprise, the sagoth said, “One such as yourself is not to be concerned with the affairs of the Lords. But yes, there has been a feud of sorts between Ka-ul-na and Zu-ul-ka.”

     “Those are the names of the Mahar rulers?”

      “Yes. The two hate one another.”

      “Why?”

     “Zu-al-ka once maintained that the gilak species was incapable of true rational thought, and that no such world as Pellucidar exists. But it seems he has now been proven wrong, as the Lords are preparing for conquest of the land of Sari, and possibly of your world as well, if it truly exists. But Zu-al-ka still believes that the gilak species should remain only as a source of food, resources, and experimentation of the Mahar race. Granting them any sort of privilege would prove disastrous.

     “And Ka-ul-na disagrees?”

    “He believes that the gilak is a sentient species. The expulsion from Phutra, and the empire of Sari have proven this—or so he believes. He is for eliminating the use of gilaks in experiments and as a food source.”

     “So Ka-ul-na wishes my race and his to live in peace?”

    “Of course not.” the sagoth growled. “He at least knows that your kind is not on the level of the Mahar. Once the forces of Lords destroy the kingdom of Sari and retake what was stolen from them, the gilak will be subjugated, as they should be. But Ka-ul-na wishes to afford your kind exalted status nonetheless. Should Zu-ul-ka have his way, experimentation upon your kind should continue unimpeded. He believes that should the gilak be granted even meager freedom, the loss experiments would harm Mahar medicine and science irreparably. Personally, hope that Zu-ul-ka dos have his way. I cannot imagine the tunnels of Zunah free of their human slaves. But unfortunately, it seems many of the Mahar have come about to Ka-ul-na’s way of thinking. And worse, perhaps even other races will be considered.” 

    “Do your own people not wish to be free of the Lords?”

     “Free?” the sagoth chortled bitterly. “The Lords protect and favor us. If it happens, we sagoths will doubtless be turned loose, back to our miserable feuding tribes. We will no longer be favored by the Lords, and will no longer be able to trade with them. What shall we do with our human prisoners, if the Lords will not accept them?” 

      “Perhaps you could turn them loose.” Clive suggested. 

      “What purpose would that serve? Hah! You are mad, human.”

     “Perhaps if all our people could accept one another as equals, there would be no need for slaves.”

    “Even a gilak like you cannot believe that! A sagoth would be enslaved at once by any gilak nation in Pellucidar. You gilaks make slaves of each other all the time—as do we sagoths. There would be no world without slaves, man.”

     “You are saying that Ka-ul-na is either mad or foolish.”

      “I am not saying that, gilak, because to think such of a lord is forbidden. But if I could think it, then yes, I would say that his beliefs are foolish indeed. But enough of your prattle, gilak.”

        Clive said nothing more, though he considered the bitter rivalry between the two Mahars. He hoped of course, that the ideas of Ka-ul-na would triumph. And it seemed, form what the sagoth had told him that they were. Even here, amidst these inhuman beings, a kind of social liberalism was taking place, as the Mahars discovered more about their world, and the other races with which they shared it. Of course, the humans of Pellucidar, and of the surface world, if the Mahars truly succeeded in waging war with it, would be very much opposed to being ruled, especially by a race of monsters, no matter how generous Ka-ul-na thought his ideals were. Freedom was freedom. Men would give their lives for it. He supposed the Mahar race had yet to consider this.

      The ship passed through the great towering peaks of the mountain range. The giant thipdars were in vast abundance here, but none dared to attack the ship. Clive supposed it was because the Mahars flapping on either side of the ship were using their mighty mental powers to keep the non-intelligent flying dragons away. 

     At last the ship landed. The ramp opened and the prisoners, prodded by their sagoth overseers filed out. 

     The two Mahars flapped down in front of them. Clive tried to discern the difference between Zu-ul-ka, and Ka-ul-na. But he could not tell them apart; both just looked like huge winged monsters to him. 

      The Mahar nearest to them addressed him. He supposed from the feel of the vibrations, that it was the same one who had addressed him before, the one he assumed to be Ka-ul-na. 

        You will now begin your hunt for the renegade. Recover our weapon. You are not free. Will will sense your mental vibrations, and send sagoths on your trail if you attempt escape. Do not disobey on peril of your life.

    Will do. Clive thought back. 

     The two gigantic reptiles flapped off into the sky. 

     The sagoths began bearding the ship, their services apparently no longer needed. The ship lifted off and rose slowly toward the weird moon of Pellucidar. 

     After some matter of debate, the companions decided that they should spit into two separate groups to search for the princess and her abductor.  One would consist of Tarok, the warrior of Nu-al, and Valkara, Alistair Simmons and Jal-mar. 

      The other would be Clive, Grunth, Hug-lo, and Ug-na. 

       They would each skirt the edge of the vast forested in opposite directions, searching for sign that the thipdar had landed, and what direction the flight of Lu-gor and his fair captive had taken. 

      As they set off, Clive looked about. The heavens showed no sign of the flying monsters Zu-ul-ka and Ka-ul-na, but he knew that the two rival Mahars were circling up there somewhere, and he had no doubt their progress would be monitored. 

      As he strode along at his side Clive felt himself about Hug-lo, their giant companion. Doubtless, the man suffered from a glandular disorder which here and Pellucidar had gained him a great advantage over his fellow cavemen. But it also might mean that he would not live long. The man looked like he had lived the equivalent of at least thirty years, which was older, Clive thought, than his surface counterparts. Perhaps the sun had something to do with that. He remembered how David Innes seemed not to have aged since his entrance to this world. Still, it was possible that the life of the giant would be cut short by the same disorder that had made him a mighty and feared warrior. The thought was a tragic one, for the giant had proven himself an honorable warrior, though both he and Clive sought the princess as his mate. The Mahar race, Clive thought suddenly, might provide and answer to Hug-lo’s problem. They were scientists and physicians. Could they have found a way to fix Hug-lo’s glandular problem? It was possible, and he realized that there might well be more than a little good to come out of the reptiles’ experiments, maybe even the unethical ones. Perhaps they had even discovered secrets of medicine that remained unknown to the scientists of the surface world. If the humans did manage to triumph into their war with the Mahar race, it would do well to remember that. It might be hard to convince other humans of that, as the gilaks of Pellucidar feared and hated the Mahar, and for good reason. They would doubtless wish to only to kill the reptilian overlords, and destroy their devil-machines. He and Simmons would find it difficult to convince the others of the potent ial for good represented by the Mahar technology. Even such as Tarok would doubtless prove hard-headed on this point. But Clive realized that they had to try. 

          At last, they came upon a great beast, a giant ryth, or Pleistocene cave bear, standing above the corpse of its kill. They were at first prepared to go around the beast, to give it wide birth, When Clive noticed something; the beat’s kill was a thipdar, and it was 
Unusual indeed that the giant bear could have managed to bring down one of the flying reptiles. Then they saw that the dead pterosaur bore bridle and reins. 

     The observed the great shaggy brute form a safe distance. They could see that the ryth himself bore the scars of rakings from the clawed wings of its victim. It was obvious that a brief but titanic battle had ensued, and that the ryth, now engaged in feasting upon the remains of winged reptile, had triumphed. The thipdar, being a trained specimen, had not immediately taken to the air, but had waited for its rider to return—which of course had not happened. 

         They waited for the giant bear to finish gorging itself. Once the monster, satiated, had lumbered off, they searched the entire area around the remains of the flying dragon. Soon enough they found the great splay-footed prints of the renegade man of O-lar. They were impressed fairly deep into the earth, which indicted that he was still carrying his captive. The path led them into the forest. The trail here was far more discernible in the thick mulch carpeting the forest floor. The heavy prints of the caveman continued until they reached a clearing. Here some struggle had taken place; Lu-gor had thrown down his captive. Lu-gor had doubtless intended to ravage her. But there were some spots of blood, and prints made by the knees of the caveman. This indicated that Jahlanna had managed to injure her abductor, and the thought of what appeared to have taken place made Clive smile in triumph at his beloved’s resourcefulness. 

     From here, the dainty prints of the girl were in evidence, as they led from the clearing and it was obvious Jahlanna had managed to escape. The prints of L-gor were impressed over the fleeing prints of the girl. They followed the tacks through the vast forest over and under fallen logs and around the boles of might trees. At last they emerged into an open park-like forest. 

    The girl’s prints continued for a few more spaces—then vanished. 

    “What could have happened?” Clive said. 

    “Do you not know?” Hug-lo chided bitterly. “I would guess that you have not lived all your life in Pellucidar.”

    Clive looked at him curiously.

    “We have often found the tracks of warriors end thus. It almost always means one thing. They have been seized by a hunting thipdar.”

     Clive felt his heart shrink and shrivel within him. No! he wanted to scream. 

     “There is nothing any of us can do to save your princess now.”

     “I fear he is correct,” said Ug-na. “It is all too common to fall to the fangs and claws of a thipdar. If it were a mere man, even of my tribe, it would only be life as usual. But the loss of such a young and lovely she is cause for special grief.”

    “She’s got to be alive!” Clive turned toward the distant mountains. They were the mountains of the thidpars, the same range they had passed through before they landed. Some of the great winged shapes were gliding distantly on thermal currents. “We don’t know she’s dead. Even if you won’t help me, and going to look for her. I will not give up until I find her remains.”

     “It is useless, my friend,” said Hug-lo in his great voice.  “I sought to claim the girl myself, but she is lost to both of us. But you may seek her if you wish.” He seemed to pause for thought. “Perhaps there is a chance, though it has never happened before that I know of. You may need Hug-lo’s strength.”

      Clive knew that Hug-lo merely wanted to claim Jahlanna for himself once she was rescued. But he was right. He might need the giant’s strength, particularly upon entering the domain of the great winged saurians. 

      “What about the Lords?” objected Grunth. “You are both fools if you insist on rescuing a mate who is doubtless dead by now. The thipdars would pick you off the cliffs before you even got close. Besides, the Lords are watching us. I know them. Just because they are invisible does not mean they are not there. Disobey them, and they will surely kill you or worse.” 

     “I fear he is right,” said Ug-na. ‘We must find the weapon and return it to them.” 

      “Screw the Lords and their weapon!” Clive shouted. ‘What do you think they plan to do with it anyway? They only want to use it to kill more gilaks!” he looked at Grunth. “And ganaks too. Do you want those filthy bird-things to retake the Empire, and make you their slaves?

      Clive would doubtless have set off in pursuit with or without them. But Ug-na said suddenly, “Look here!” 

        All of them crowded around. They were the prints of Lu-gor. The man had fallen to his knees in the thick grass, probably in terror of the thipdar’s attack. Clive was absolutely disgusted. Even with the weapon, the man had not even tried to save the girl. But then he noticed that Lu-gor’s prints, as Ug-na pointed out, did not end here or retreat, but continued on. They followed them, and saw that Lu-gor appeared to be headed in the direction of the peaks of the thipdars…and the Land of Awful Shadow. 

     And if Lu-gor held some hope that the girl was still alive, Clive realized that he had to do the same. They all headed in the direction the man had taken…….



       Through the eerie perpetual night of the Land of Awful shadow, the corpse-men carried the semi-conscious form of Llana of Nu-al. Mercifully, the girl could not see her captors. 

    At last they came to a village, here in this land of endless night. It resembled innumerable other villages throughout Pellucidar, with its flat, thatched-roof huts. The logs that comprised these buildings were made of the giant mushrooms that thrived within this land of darkness. 

     But the strange difference lay among the inhabitants. Aside from their cadaverous appearance was the eerie and total absence of any female member among them. 

     They approached the largest dwelling, which was a bizarre edifice indeed. It was a hut like the rest, only much larger; a complex of buildings seeming stitched together, which somehow did not match the construction of the rest. 

    The heavy front doors of the dwelling parted, and a figure came forth. 

    He was a diminutive man, smaller by far than the other corpse-men, shorter even then Jahlanna. He had a repulsive face, and a short, skinny, but limber frame, and his strides were powerful and purposeful. He was dressed in an elaborate headdress of feathers and spines. His skin was yellowish and jaundice-like as were Jahlanna’s captors, though he did not appear as corpse like as did they. 

     At the sight of him, the other corpse men kneeled and bowed down. 

    “God!” cried the leader of the corpse-men. “Great exulted one, bestower of long life upon our people, we bring top you the young, ripe she who has had the misfortune to wander into our land.” He lay the unconscious girl at the feet of the scrawny “deity”.

       The personage looked at the goddess-like nude form lying before him, peering with detached scrutiny. The girl moaned. 

      The man called god grinned, displaying a set of repulsive, badly corroded teeth. “You have done well my servants. She will prove useful to us all.” 

      Again Jahlanna moaned. She stirred tossing her head. “Clive….Clive is that you, come to rescue me? Where…?”

       The lilac of the beautiful princess flew upon. Above her was the repulsive man leering at her. Jahlanna covered her mouth to stifle a scream of horror. The girl regained her feet in an instant as her plight flooded through her. The horrid memories came flooding back, memories that ought to have been a nightmare, but weren’t. 

     She saw the legions of corpse-men, gathered around her, all with horrid rictus like grins on their horror-movie faces. 

      She screamed wildly. In a horrid paroxysm of terror the girl through herself into the spindly arms of the God-man. He was, though his appearance, too, was horrid, the most normal-looking of those present. “Save me!” the girl cried. Her action and words were instinctive impelled by sheer terror. 

    The small man gripped her hard, and she shrieked. He was far stronger than he appeared, and Jahlanna supposed, in her wild terror, that some strange sorcery was at work here. How else would the men of this strange tribe be walking dead men? 

    The little man through her to the ground. Jahlanna lay there sobbing . She turned her beautiful, tearful face up at “God”.

     Jahlanna was used to having men gaze upon her unclothed form and face with awe and admiration. And she saw there on the man’s exaggerated face the merest flicker of what might have those qualities. But it was instantly replaced by an expression of rage and sick disgust, as though what he beheld revolted him. “You are an unclean vessel girl—an engine of men’s destruction! Only an evil god formed one such as you, in an attempt to waylay pious men! I have no doubt that foolish, idiotic males of this infantile world have fought for you, maybe even killed themselves for you in brainless battles! But rest assured that will not happen here.”

     Jahlanna turned frightfully at the mass of cadaver folk. She saw at once that the man—she supposed he was a chief of some sort—was wrong. His followers were not like him. Some of them were gazing at her in lust even now. The girl shakily regained her feet, though she backed away. They would not come close to her, though—the chief, if such he was, would not permit it. That much she knew. The corpse-men looked in fact like few of them had ever seen a girl before, or at least not one as comely as she. Females, for some mad reason, were extremely rare in this dreadful land.  But their lust was the stupid lust of prepubescent boy. Some, she noticed with a shudder, were even peering at her firm young breasts, and at her region of Love, as though curious about how she differed from them. 

      “Oh, some of these pathetic creatures would doubtless mate with you if I were to let them,” the man said, as though sensing her thoughtless. They are as stupid as any other males, much as I have tried to convert them. You are a harlot, a vessel of lust, and they know it. But I have a way to make you make up for your evil nature.”

    Jahlanna whirled to face him, then shrank back. Some of the corpse-folk chortled at her terror. The innocent, savage girl knew not what a “harlot” was, but the word could mean nothing good.  “Who are you?” she wept.

     The little man laughed, a weird, high-pitched sound. “Who am I? I am god! God of these people. I am immortal, or nearly so, and I have made these wretched people immortal as well, in exchange for their service to me. But it is young rip females like you—the very tools of Evil—that I have been able to do it, as you shall find out before you serve your purpose!”

    “You are mad!” the girl screamed suddenly. 

     “”Am I?” chortled the insane dwarf. “We shall see, harlot, we shall see!”

    The God-man called to his corpse-like servitors “Bind her! Now!”

     The corpse men swarmed over Jahlanna. The girl screamed, and once again lapsed into a swoon, “God’s” laughter ringing in her ears. 

      Clive Neville and his companions approached the realm of darkness which was known to the Pellucidarans as the Land of Awful Shadow. Its appearance was foreboding, but they strode within and set off following Lu-gor’s prints. The land grew steadily darker as they pressed on. The ground began to grow carpeted with some kind of strange mold resembling lichens. A forest of grotesque trees began to grow up around them. Clive was reminded of the pictures in natural history books of the primeval vegetation of the Devonian age, the first plants ever to grow on land. But these, he knew, were like nothing ever unearthed by surface world paleobotanists, nothing like anything that ever evolved outside of this strange shrouded ecosystem. They were some kind of weird lichen-trees, related to the stuff now carpeting the ground in thick layers. Too, there were strange guni and molds, some also having attained the size and stature of trees. Some of these gave off a weird, multi-colored florescence, which bathed the darkened world in a multi-hued, alien glow. The most spectacular among these were huge mushroom-trees with huge umbrella-like caps. 

      The whir of giant wings sounded in the strange forest. They caught sight here and there of huge gigantic insects, monstrous dragonflies perhaps, like those which infested the jungles of the carboniferous period. They were size of hawks and eagles, and may well have served the same ecological function. For there was indeed prey in this shrouded other world. Clive saw squirming things like worms or caterpillars crawling through the mulch, dumbly feeding upon its rich nutrients. 

      All at once, a bizarre and formidable creature reared up monstrously in their path. Even Hug-lo seemed a bit startled, though the creature was diminutive compared to him. 

     It resembled a vast multi-legged arthropod, not unlike a millipede, but fully as long as station wagon. The thing reared up, wriggling its astounding multiplicity of legs, and clacking its fearsome pincer-like jaws. Not one of the companions knew what the monster was besides a weird denizen of this bizarre shadow-realm. Clive guessed that the giant arthropod must have evolved here in this alien ecosystem. But had Professor Simmons had been present among them he might have recognized the thing as an arthorpleara of the Silurian, the largest arthropod ever to exist. He could also have informed them of its vegetarian habits. 

   But the warriors stood firm, uncertain if the monster should prove dangerous. As it was, the great segmented creature, clacked its mandibular jaws as a threat them lowered itself to moldy floor to scuttle off harmlessly. 

    They breathed a sigh of relief and continued on. 

   They were passing through a narrow gorge with high rocks on either side, when they heard a sharp hissed. They looked up. Above them on a rock was a large and extraordinary-appearing reptile. It might have been as long as a python, and was shaped in a like manner. Only this snake-like had tiny, almost vestigial legs, which enabled it to clamber over the rocks. Its mouth gaped open to reveal two enormous front fangs like those possessed by a rattlesnake or King Cobra. They appeared to drip a clear, translucent fluid that was indisputably venom. Again, they had no idea what the creature was, and opted to stand at the ready in case of attack. Had Alistair Simmons been present he might have surmised that the beast was some kind of creature descended from tanystropheus, an extraordinarily long-necked reptile from the Triassic age. The species still existed in fact, along the shores of Pellucidar’s Paleolithic oceans, there, the long-necked reptiles preyed upon the myriads of fish which swarmed therein. But the necks of those bizarre reptiles, longer by half then their lizard-ish bodies, were as stiff and unfeasible as a fishing rod. 

   The beast now threatening the men had a neck also elongated beyond belief. But it was as supple and coiling as that of giant a boa constrictor. Somehow the beast had evolved form the tanystropheus into a serpentine hunter of land prey. And unlike the giant millipede, this was no vegetarian. 

   Clive supposed that a party of armed warriors would be enough to deter the beast; he was wrong. The monster sprang. The warriors leapt back banishing their spears. But the serpent-beast had already singled out Ug-na, who was undoubtedly the oldest and weakest among their number. The reptile might well have killed and devoured the old man, were it not for Hug-lo. The giant intercepted it, seizing the serpent’s fanged head in his giant hand. He held on to the hissing reptile, as it lashed the coils of its hideous length about the Giant One. The coils were thick and strong, like a thick cables of steel. But unlike the python of the surface world, the bizarre reptilian possessed the additional advantage of its four taloned feet, which it hooked into the giant of Haglar with primal tenacity. 

        But mighty though was the strength of the great reptile, the strength of Hug-lo the Giant One proved mightier still. Holding the serpent-monster’s supple neck in his powerful grip, the gargantuan human twisted the coiling length, until the beast hissed furiously, and sweat broke out upon Hug-lo’s brow. There was a dry, thick snapping sound as the creature’s spine was severed. The mighty coils relaxed, and Hug-lo battered the twitching thing against the rock walls, until at last it lay as limp as a broken toy. He kicked it away contemptuously. They went on. 

     Clive could not helped be reminded of a similar scene he’d remembered from King Kong he’d seen at the local theatre as a boy—the scene where the giant ape crushed a constrictor-like dinosaur in just the same fashion. At the time he and his boyhood friends thought the creatures were the most realistic they’d ever seen, and could hardly believe they were fake models only inches long. 

    Here in Pellucidar though, the memories of what he’d seen at the local cinema in that other world seemed as hopelessly artificial as they were. 

     They had not ventured much further into bizarre realm, when yet another terrifying monster confronted them. This was a monstrous black spider, resembling a huge tarantula. It was covered with coarse, jet-black hair, and sported four pairs of hellishly green compound eyes, above hideous, tarantula-like fangs, oozing a greenish venom. Though spiders the size of human infants did once infest the forests of the Silurian, this creature was something newly evolved in this strange realm. It was monstrously huge, the size of large dog. 

   The men stopped again readied their spears. Hug-lo raised his giant Ax, prepared for another life-death battle. But the monster, though undoubtedly a predator, appeared to think better of attacking the armed party, and scuttled off into the gloom of the forest in search of easier game. 

     The continued, ever on the alert. This country was infested with weird and terrible life-forms that much they had learned, and here, as elsewhere within Pellucidar, they had no choice but to remain ever-vigilant. 

     Clive began to notice huge flying forms above the flaring tops of the mushrooms. They were not insects. They pale in color, and flapped on huge, membraned wings. He guessed that the might be some sort of huge bat, having evolved in this world of gloom. As they continued on however, and the mushroom forest began to grow sparse, some of the flying shapes swooped in unnerving near.

     They gripped their spears, in case the creatures should prove dangerous.

    “They look like urths,” Ug-na said. 

    “What are urths?” Clive asked. 

    The others looked at him like he was stupid.

    “They are not native to my own country,” Clive explained. 

    “Urths are small winged reptiles,” said Hug-lo. “They feed on the blood of huge animals like tandor and lidi. Normally they are very small. But these are the hugest I’ve ever seen.”

    One of the giant urths swooped in low, and hung in the air before them. Clive was astounded. He saw now that the thing was indeed reptilian in nature. Its wingspread must have been nearly six feet. It was a pterosaur of some sort, but its head was small and blunt, batrachian-like. The snake-like mouth opened to an unbelievably wide angle, nearly ninety degrees, to reveal a pair of elongated fangs. But these were not those of serpent, but more like the hollow incisors of a vampire bat.  Its leathery skin was a pale dead-white, ghostlike. Neither Clive nor his companions realized that they were looking upon an evolved form of Jelopterus, a tiny winged reptile of the Triassic age, which would not be unearthed by surface world paleontologists until the Twenty-first century. 

   With a hideous screech, the vampiric pterosaur launched itself-directly at Hug-lo!

   The giant intercepted the winged monster, seizing it by its wildly thrashing pinions. The reptilian vampire shrieked and hissed, clashing its fangs, seeking the Giant One’s throat. Its hooked, hawklike talons trashed futilely Hug-lo did not have problem with this creature, though. The Giant One snapped the fragile bones of the pterosaur’s wings like stems, and ripped the vineed membranes to shreds. He flung the creature’s remains to the ground. 

     But the rest of the swarm was now attacking. 

    Flapping and shrieking like a horde of hellish reptilian bats, the jelopterus flock closed in. 

    “Don’t let them get close!” Hug-lo warned. 

    They stabbed with their spears, and smote with their axes. The giant Hug-lo seized more of the thrashing reptiles from out of the air, tearing the screeching horrors to pieces. Clive managed to fir off his pistol, killing a number of the things. They crashed to the forest floor like tattered kites. 

    At last, the remainder of the flock took flight, swarming off above the land in search of easier prey. 

    The companions allowed themselves a collective sigh of relief. 

     The prints of Hug-lo remained discernible in the thick mold. Then they came to spot where there were suddenly a great number of other prints, seemingly those of men. 

    Apparently a party of human warriors had confronted Lu-gor, and had captured him. But what manner of strange men infested this weird country? 

    In any event, the followed the prints until at last a village appeared in the distance. It appeared to be a typical Pellucidaran village, save that there was some commotion going on. 


      Jahlanna lay on her back on a concrete slab. The girl’s wrists and ankles were tightly bound. The shriveled little personage known as “God” to the cadaver people was leering over her. The girl was in a delirium, not knowing what to expect. She had been taken to a strange room in the complex, sort of like a cross between a sacrificial chamber and a laboratory. Sealed jars full of leaves, tubers, molds and fungi lined the shelves above. There were other things contained in the jars too, fluids, bones, organs, preserved  animal fetuses. And —other unidentifiable things. There were tables lain out with a variety of bizarre tools and utensils, like the instruments of a mad surgeon. These looked fashioned out of bone, possibly both human and animal. There were also bundles of strange fungi and herbs littered everywhere, and scrolls of parchment, the like of which Jahlanna had never seen, save in the Mahar cities, for her people had never mastered the art of writing. Then there were the grotesque specimens that were hung form the roof, like the ingredients of some loathsome witch’s brew. These included small large insects and small reptiles, all undoubtedly native to the Land of Awful Shadow. Among these were some grotesque, bat-like flying lizard, which Jahlanna half recognized as a species of urth, though she was much too frightened to give her bizarre surroundings much thought. 

     The girl was bound to a stone table which looked rather like an alter. Beneath this was a great rug made form the beautiful rossetted the coat of varath , a species of leopard-like saber-tooth feline.

    The man examined the girl’s body. Formed like that of a white goddess it was. But the girl would no longer enrapture men lead them into the poison of corruption. “Fear not, oh, Beautiful One,” said God in his squeaking, unnatural voice. “For your death shall give life to our race. He bent over the face of the prostrate girl, holing in his grip a sharp, gleaming instrument that a surface-worlder would have recognized instantly as a hypodermic syringe. Only this hypodermic was a crude one, was fashioned from pulp, wood, and the hollowed out fang of a viper. 

     He held the instrument close to the girl’s fine cheekbone. Jahlanna could only watch, sobbing, her violet eyes brimming with tears of terror. He was about to inject her in this place. When there was a sudden crash. 

    God leaped back. The doorway had crashed in. In the frame stood a man. For a bewildered second , Jahlanna thought that it was her mate, Clive Neville, come to save her, and she mouthed his name, dreamily. But the form in the doorway was huge, hulking, and almost misshapen. She saw a tangled matt of red-black hair, and almost unlovely face. 

    Lu-gor!

   “Who are you, to dare disturb the work of God?” God demanded. 

    “My name is Lu-gor,” said Lu-gor. “I have come for the girl.”

     “You may not have her! She is the future of our race!”

     Lu-gor laughed. And then he raised the crystal-powered weapon of the Mahars. “Are you chief here?” he asked. 

     “Chief? I am God!”

    Lu-gor laughed. “Then there is a new God here. May the old God die!” 

    The man was clearly still unafraid of Lu-gor, accustomed to having his own will unchallenged. But when the caveman fired his weapon, God gave a tortured scream, and collapsed. 

      Lu-gor entered and gazed down gloatingly upon the nude and bound form of Jahlanna. The girl gazed up at him with loathing. Lu-gor had undoubtedly saved her life. Still, she knew full well what the man intended, and what God would have done almost seemed merciful. 

     “Are you not going to thank your new mate, girl? 

    “Jahlanna thanks you,” She said coldly “We shall both leave—but not together.”

    ‘”Lu-gor. Is now king of these Dead Men. Jahlanna will be his queen!”

      “Queen of these people? In this land of darkness, with you? Never!” cried Jahlanna. “Id’ rather die!”

   Lu-gor laughed. “I see that you are trussed up nicely, my she-tarag. I have business to attend to—then I will see to you.” Lu-gor left the chamber. From without came the sounds of combat. 



    Clive Neville and his comrades approached the village of the cadaver folk.  It appeared at first like an ordinary cave village. 

     But then they saw them inhabitants. They were shambling toward them, in a weird shuffling gait, all with axes and spears. They were clad in naught by filthy animal hides. But the most striking thing about them is that they resembled an army of the living dead. Their skins was a yellowish white, the color of jaundice. Their limbs elongated, boney and sickly in appearance. Their faces, like those of a month old corpse, just experiencing the effects of rot, were the most horrific. And to add to the picture they moaned a broken, slurred form of the common tongue. “Strangers..kill them…for God! The new God…slayer of the Old God….we kill for his name!”

        Clive readied his pistol and fired off another cartridge. One of the corpse things went down. He was right—these things weren’t really walking dead, they couldn’t be. But just what were they? Whatever they were, he had proven they could be killed. 

    The horde of the corpse men stopped. The starred at their dead companion, then began mumbling amongst them selves, something about how there were more then two gods in the world. 

         Then Clive remembered: that had been his final round. He hastily checked his cartridge in his belt. No—not one more left. But the corpse men did not know that. 

     ‘What are you waiting for!” shouted a strident voice. Clive though he recognized it. 

    The corpse-men parted, and through the pack stepped Lu-gor, and arrogant grin stretching his features from ear-to-ear. He looked a bit intimidated at the sight of the Giant One, but only for a moment. He still clutched the proto-type weapon he had stolen, which was undoubtedly how he was able to control these people—if people they were. “Red-hair!” he cried. “So you came after you mate did you?” 

     “Where is she?” Clive demanded. 

     Lu-gor through back his head and laughed. “In a safe place, I assure you. You need not fear for her safety.”

     “What have you done to her?”

     “Nothing, of course,” said Lu-gor with mock innocence. “Why should I wish to harm my own mate?” 

    Clive was tempted to hurtle himself at the caveman at that moment, but held himself in check. “She is not yours.”
    Lu-gor laughed uproariously. “Capture them!” he ordered. 

   The cadaver-men shuffled forward, but seemed hesitant, knowing the power displayed by Clive’s weapon they looked from Clive to Lu-gor, not knowing what to do. 

    “What are you waiting for? Capture them and take them to God’s hut! I have a special surprise in store for these “guests!”

    The corpse-men shambled forward, spears and axes at the ready. Still they were cautious, but Clive’s weapon refused to speak its voice of death. The companions raised their weapons. Then, seeing that the medicine of the New God was apparently far greater then the power the red-haired stranger possessed, the horde attacked. 

   They flew howling upon them, weapons raised. 

    “Do not kill them!” shrieked Lu-gor. “Not yet!”

     The horde swarmed over them. The companions, under no such obligation, killed and smote at the corpse-monsters. The Giant One swung his mighty ax with incredible force, until the ground was littered with smashed corpses of the corpse folk. But at length, the numbers of the corpse-like foes proved overwhelming. They swarmed over them like maggots, and even Hug-lo was dragged beneath their revolting numbers. The last thing Clive heard was Lu-gor’s arrogant laughter ringing in his ears as a stone ax smashed into his skull, rendering him unconscious. 



        Clive awoke with a rather bad headache in the chamber of God. The first thing he noticed were that his companions had all been bound with him. Lu-gor was not present. The place looked like some kind of weird laboratory. There were vials filled with herbs and fluids, and dozens of dried and preserved specimens, some of them hanging grotesquely form the ceiling. 

    “Clive!”

    Clive looked and saw the beautiful face and form of Jahlanna, the girl he had traveled so far to rescue. 

    The girl was bound on the floor as he and his companions. 

    “Jahlanna!” he exclaimed. 

    “Clive!” she cried. “You’ve come to rescue me at last!”

     “What did that Lu-gor do to you?”

    “Oh! It was dreadful. He is a terrible man. He took me on the thipdar, while you were fighting the Mahars of Xuthrah. I escaped him in the forest, after we landed.” She explained how she had then been captured by the wild thipdar, and how she fell into this weird land of darkness, and then ran afoul of the corpse-people. 

    “Then—Lu-gor did not bring you here?”

    “No! he must have followed me.”

    “Was it he who bound you in this chamber?” 

     “No, it was—“

   She gave a slight shriek, and they all looked to see the pathetic form of “God,” crawling across the floor, one of his frail arms apparently broken. 

     “Who is that?” asked Clive. 

     “It was he who brought me here! He is the chief of these people, and he is a madman. They call him god, but he is only an insane man. He tied me on the alter, and was about to do something dreadful, when Lu-gor found us. I thought that Lu-gor had killed him with the weapon he stole from the Mahars, but he still lives.” 

     Clive asked the man, “Who are you?”

     “I..am …God!”

    “He lies.” said Jahlanna. “Gods do not bleed.”

     “Do not speak, harlot!” the little man said. “I am still God.” 

     “The girl is right.” Clive told him. “You are no god, only a pathetic little man.” 

      Somehow, the psychic beam had left the man crippled. Lu-gor did not know exactly how to use the weapon yet. 

       “It looks as though you might need our help.” Clive said. “You will recover form the weapon, but the man called Lu-gor is now ruling your people. He is their god now. We can stop him if you untie us.”

    The little man’s viperfish little eyes shown with defiance at first. But then he nodded. “Perhaps…you are right, outlander.” The little man untied all their bonds. But still they made no move to escape their prison. “God” was still weak, and they wanted to give him time to recover before they dealt with Lu-gor. 

       “Okay.” The small, yellowish skinned man said, as he sat down amongst them, “I shall tell you my story. No, I am not truly a god, although until the man you call Lu-gor shot me, I almost believed myself to be one. The common tongue of the gilak is not my native language. No, I am not even from your world. Though you will not believe it, I am not from Pellucidar at all, but from a land where the sun does not remain still in the sky and travels across the heavens, then vanishes from sight leaving the land in darkness, then rising on the other side of the world to begin its journey anew.” 

    Clive smiled. “I believe you.”

    “You mock me.” the small man said. 

     “I come from that world as well. I entered through the north polar opening.”

    “Hmmmm. Perhaps then, you speak the truth. I have lived long within Pellucidar, and have yet to see a tribe with your precise hair coloring. But then, I have seen no such a person in my own world either.”

    “If you are from the surface, how did you get here?”

    “My true name is Yendi. I came from a great surface great continent called Africa. My home then, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years whence, was a deep valley within a vast and mighty jungle . My people then were a tribe known as the Kavuru. We were the only white men on the continent south of Great Desert, save for a few scattered colonies of vanished civilizations. The origins of our own people were lost in antiquity, save that we came from somewhere to the north, beyond the Desert. We were a race of celibate priests, who had discovered the secret of immortality. I myself have lived for perhaps a thousand or more years.”

       “He is mad.” said Jahlanna. 

      “You know nothing, harlot!”

       “Do not speak to her as you did!” Clive snarled at him.

        Yendi drew back in involuntary fright. “The great ancestors of my people discovered an elixir or eternal youth,” he continued. “The potion required many ingrediants -- special herbs, the spinal fluids of leopards, which we bred for that very purpose. But the most vital ingredient of all was the glands of young women, the very vessels of sin! This potion solidified into pellets or pills that gave us long life once ingested. But these had to taken on a regular basis. That is why we were forced to lure young women to our village. Mostly our victims were of the black tribes who surrounded us. Sometimes we would capture a girl who chanced somehow to wonder into our land from the dusky-skinned peoples to the north or east, and occasionally from the lost colonies. Once, we managed to capture a female specimen of a strange race from a distant country. She was as beautiful as any of the young maids we had snared--though Kavuru are not supposed to notice this! –she had a silky coat of fur, and a long silky furred tail! 

      “Her name, I remember was To-ro, which meant “purple blossom,” and she came from a land where all men were tailed, in a valley ringed by a vast swamp that was said to be the domain of strange monsters as well, including a giant three-horned dragon, greater than a bull elephant! At any rate, that was when the trouble began for myself and the high priest, a surely fellow named Kavandvanda. I was second in command you see, and to be honest, I was ambitious, and wished to secure my place as ruler. We were both youthful, muscular, handsome men in those days, thanks to the pellets of longevity.  I should still be so, but wait till you here my tale! Kavandavanda and I were both bitter rivals of one another. But I knew his one weakness, and used it to my advantage. In spite of all his talk of the perils of feminine flesh, it was suspected that occasionally the High Priest would take a fancy to one of our captured females, and kept her a while as his pet, before tiring of her, or fearing discovery, and had her killed. He always insisted that the female escaped, or course, so it had not been proven yet. But Kavandavana had taken a liking to this To-ro, it seemed. I suspected it, for he kept on delaying the creation of the pellets. Finally, I did some spying, and caught Kavandavanda attempting to rape the girl in his royal chamber. I told him I would rouse all our fellow Kavuru, and have him killed. 

     But at that moment, someone hit me on the back of the skull with a cudgel. I learned later that it was the girl’s lover, a tailed warrior of her race, come form the lost land to rescue her. I do not know what became of To-ro, but apparently she and her mate fled back to the land of tailed men and three-horned dragons. But when I awakened, and found myself bound and gagged. 
Kavandvanda--curse his soul!—had told the Kavuru that it was I who had allowed the girl’s escape, and that we would now go another month without the replenishing our youth. I was to be thrown to the leopards. I still remember Kavandvana’s gloating face! But I was able to escape my captors, and flee the land of the Kavuru. I knew that I could never return, so I fled across the continent, through dark and deadly jungles. The black tribes saw me for the hated Kavuru, and would attempt to kill me on sight. I learned to avoid them. But my nearest brush with death came from a party of white-skinned warriors form the City of Cathne, of the valley of Onthar.  There race bore weapons of steel, and drove lion-driven chariots.

     “It seemed that a certain Cathnean noble, one Caldor by name, had a young niece who had been abducted and slain by the Kavuru. When their patrol spotted me, they gave chase. I was able to loose them in thick jungle, but Caldor was not about to give up, and set his parties of men in search of me. 

     While hiding from Caldor’s soldiers, I stumbled into a vast cave. Not to eager to risk capture, I lighted a torch, and ventured deeper and deeper within. Finally I realized I was in a vast passage which spiraled down and down to unguessable depths in the earth. Not having anything better to do, and with Caldor’s forces still searching for me, I went exploring. Imagine my surprise, then when I at last emerged into this impossible realm of eternal day and boundless horizons. At first, I assumed I’d gotten turned around and wound up back in Africa. My second thought was that I had gone mad, for no such place as this could exist. Only later did I surmise that this world was contained within the earth itself, like the inside of a coconut shell. But it was a different world than the one I had left behind, that much I knew. It absolutely teemed with life, far more than did the jungles of my homeland. The canopy of sound of deafening to my unaccustomed ears, but with time, I grew used to it. There were gigantic, predatory monsters at every turn. But I was keen and swift, and soon learned to climb and to hide to avid the mighty beasts of this realm. But my youthful vigor would not last, I knew, in the absence of the Kavururan elixir. 

    “There were other humans here as well. They were primitive all, living in tribes, though all the savages I encountered here were white. I experienced many adventures throughout what might have been years, but with the sun always in the center of the heavens, who knew? I narrowly evaded death, many times, not only from beasts but from men as well. The tribes soon came to know me as a schemer not to be trusted. But eventually, I amassed a strong and loyal following among outcast men of various tribes. They were all brutal loutish, primitive sort, despised by their fellow men. Over time, I was able to convince these fellows, though my gifts of persuasion, of the faith of the Kavuru. I told them I could make them gods that they could live forever. But first they had to procure the ingredients that I would need to make the elixir. It was not difficult to do, it turned out. There were native plants here that were closely enough in relation to their African counterparts for then to suffice as replacements. The spinal fluid of leopard also was available, though killing the mighty leopards of this realm took some skill. There is a species of saber-toothed feline, the great varath, that turned out to work just a well, and we eventually bred these felines, just as my original people did with leopards. Eventually we settled in a small valley just as my people had. There we made our pellets, and bred our varaths. But though we were held in superstitious dread by the black tribes of the surface, here the tribes simply hated us. A great warrior name Ko-lar led a great army, composed of tribes who had banded together to destroy us. We were vastly outnumbered, and forced to flee. We fled here, to the Land of Awful Shadow, where no man of Pellucidar dare follow. 

   “Now at last, we had found a safe region to continue our work. Or so we thought. Again we were able to brew the potion of rate elixir. But in this darksome region, I was forced to use substitutes for the herbs. The plants of this dark realm were strange, and though I knew the manner of preparation, I was not certain of the effect. We had brought tamed varaths with us, and were able to breed them. We could still lure young females here by means of our pipes. For a long while we persisted. But the effect of our potion was different. It kept us immortal, but transformed us into the shambling horrors that you now see. The effect was somewhat different on the Pellucidarans than on myself.  I became stunted, weak, and grotesque. I was no longer the handsome youth I had been for ages. The others became gaunt and cadaverous, the appearance of the walking dead. We tried then to return to the world of eternal sunshine, but we could not. We discovered, to our utter horror, that the sun was no deadly to us. Once we ventured into the glare of the unblinking orb, or yellowed skins would begin to flake and crumble, as though we were truly dead!

   Ever since, we have been confined to this realm of eternal darkness, living always, but as monstrous creatures of the dead, despised by all. The others seem to have forgotten their former lives in the realm of sunlight. But any she that we lure here, or has the misfortune to become lost, as was the case with your ripe young mate, becomes our prey!”

    “She is your prey no longer,” said Clive. He wanted to strangle the repulsive little monster right then and there. But he knew that they were all at the mercy of Lu-gor and the corpse-people. They had to escape somehow—then he would see to Yendi. 

      “A man called Lu-gor is the one who is now self-proclaimed God of your people,” Clive explained to him. “He is our enemy as well. If we steal his weapon, we can defeat him. Will you not help us?” 

     Yendi seemed to consider this. Finally he nodded. “I will help you.” 

      It was not long before Lu-gor returned to the hut to gloat over his captives. All of them still appeared to be bound. But his eyes were only on the girl. 

      “So my beautiful she,” he said. “Are you now ready to accept Lu-gor the God-Killer your mate? That is what they call me now. An apt title, is it not?”

    “Lu-gor is mighty only in his words,” she said, glaring at him coldly. 

     Lu-gor approached the girl. “You shall soon change your mind about me, girl--"

    Lu-ogr’s words were abruptly cut off as a sharp blow felled him. The caveman crashed to the floor. 

     Yendi, whom Lu-gor had assumed was dead, had remained hidden until the right moment, then struck him with a rod of iron. 

     Clive sprang up and seized the Mahar weapon form the fallen Lu-gor. 

      “I have seen Lu-gor use that,” Jahlanna said. “It is truly a terrible thing.”

      “But it just might prove our ticket out of here.” Clive told her. He turned to Yendi, leveling the weapon at him. “Now—show us they way out of your land.”

      “Why should I?”

      In a flash, Clive seized the former Kavuru, and held him in an unbreakable grip. 

      “Release me!” Yendi commanded, his spindly legs kicking. “I am God! You must not hold me so!”

      Clive held the Mahar weapon to Yendi’s sunken cheek. “Show us the way first. I do not want any trouble from your people. 

       Clive and the others left the hut of God. When the cadaver people saw their former God being held by the outlander, they moaned in awe and worship. They saw no sign of Lu-gor, Killer of God, so they assumed that the red-haired stranger and his companions had killed him. 

    That meant that this new god wielded even more power, as he now wielded the strange God-weapon. As for Yendi, he had obviously lost face, for though he was still alive, he was clearly at the mercy of the red-haired usurper. 

       “You are god now,” the leader of the corpse-men told him. “Remain here as our leader.”

     “We wish only to return to our own lands,” Clive said stridently. “We have no wish to rule over you.”

     “But you are God, and we your people.”

     “Your people must look after yourselves. So commands your God. You must also allow us to pass.” 

      The masses of hideous corpse-like men parted. Clive and his companions passed warily through their grotesque ranks. At last they reached the edge of the vast mushroom forest. Still, Clive, not trusting Yendi, did not relax his grip on his small wiry captive. 

    They had gone almost a league before Clive decided to let the small man loose. “Go back to your people.”

     “You will not kill me?”

     “No. You are unarmed and I shall let you go.”

     “Then you are a fool, red-hair. I shall return with an army of my people. We shall destroy you and recapture your she.”

      “We will be long gone by then. Now, move, before I change my mind.”

      Yendi continued at him for a second---then suddenly screamed!

       A gigantic thing like a monstrous caterpillar with huge, mandibular jaws shot out of the ground and seized the hapless God –man in its incisors. The small man scream, kicking furiously. The beast retreated back beneath the moldly earth of the weird jungle. 

     So perished Yendi of the Kavuru after what might have been countless ages. 

     The continued on through the world of gloom, menaced occasionally by the weird forms of life indigenous to this realm. Once, a monstrous reptilian beast, somewhat like a huge primitive crocodile attacked. It might have been a relative of postosuchus of the Triassic age, but the huge lizard-like body was milky white in hue, and the eyes were completely covered by skin. It still seemed capable of “sight,” after a fashion, perhaps sensing the party of warm-bloods by means of its gruesome, flicking tongue. Hug-lo the giant one had managed to fend the huge reptile off, without having to slay it. 

    At last they reached the edge of the Land of Awful Shadow. The emerged, blinking yet grateful, back into the glare of eternal sunlight which bathed the rest of Pellucidar. 

   From there they decided to split up in order to search for the other party of warriors who had recently gone searching for Jahlanna. Hug-lo and the others would go east to the plains region. Clive and his mate would take the forest. 

     Most importantly, Clive and Jahlanna both needed time together. The surface man took the savage girl in his arms after they had parted company with the others. 

     “I thought I might never see you again, love,” she murmured. 

      They embraced, and kissed for an immeasurably long time, before journeying forth into the vast, waiting forest. 
 
 

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