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Volume 1728a
Jahlanna of Pellucidar
A 175,000-word novel
by
Sean Edward Phillips
 

Part XXIII

      The warriors traveled onward upon the back of the mighty tandor. The giant Hug-lo strode beside them, his head almost level with the eye of the tusker. They did not find Clive at the appointed rendezvous. They traveled nearly the entire circumference of the land of Awful Shadow, but no trace of the surfacelander, his mate, or the rogue Lu-gor did they find. 

    However, as Dangar had told them, the main Sarian army had returned and it was not long before they joined with the main force. David Innes was astonished that Simmons and the others had turned up. They made camp, and stories were exchanged. Innes suggested that they return with them to Sari and once. Simmons and Tarok insisted that they continue their search for Clive Neville and the girl. However, Innes explained that a vast army was on the march from the north, and it was liable to crush all with in its path. The best they could do right now was to retreat back to Sari, and from there, hopefully bring in greater and more well-armed forces. Finally Simmons and the others reluctantly agreed. But still they wondered what could have happened to Clive? Had he found Jahlanna or not? The Mahars were still out there, searching for Clive and for the weapon that Lu-gor had stolen. Had Clive succeeded in recovering the weapon or hadn't he? It was possible, as Simmons explained to Innes, that Clive, and possibly his mate as well had once again fallen captive to the Mahars, even borne back to the Dead World. It was a matter which Simmons and Tarok did not care to contemplate, but which Innes promised to look into, as soon as the Mahar forces were defeated or driven back. 


      “How did you get here?” Clive Neville was asking Jarn. “You could not have followed us all the way from Nu-al.” 

       “I am not alone.” said the boy. “Jarla and another girl named Zara are with me. We made camp, and I went off to kill something for us. I found you just as the gark was attacking.” 

    “It's a good thing you did.” Clive told him. 

    “Jarn fought the beast like a true warrior.” said Jahlanna once again. Jarn, seeing that she truly meant it, blushed. 

    Clive noticed that the boy's developing muscles were now harder and more steel-spring. And though he still had that carefree look in his eyes, there was a harder, more serious, seasoned glint there as well. Whatever had transpired since they had last seen Jarn, it was obvious Pellucidar had done its part in transforming the lad in the direction of true manhood. 

     “I’ll show you.” Jarn said. The boy led the way to where he and the two girls were camped. Jarla and the Azeer maid were astonished to see Clive and Jahlanna. They were especially astonished by the color of Clive’s hair, for it is practically unknown within the realm of Pellucidar. The girls were also astonished—and seemingly a bit jealous—at how beautiful the Nu-al princess was. Zara had managed to kill a phenocodus, which they roasted over an open fire. Clive found its flesh to taste not unlike that of pork, though the species was millions of years more ancient than that of a pig, and in no way related. 

     Clive and Jahlanna each told of their adventures since departing the land of Nu-al, while Jarn listened enraptured. The lad then recounted his won trials and tribulations excitedly, boasting with youthful vigor in some choice parts. The girls sometimes corrected him, and filled in parts were Jarn himself had not been present. He told of his and Jarla’s flight form the wrath of the bully Lu-gor, their capture by the Azeer, and Zara’s subsequent involvement, his humiliation of Lu-gor, their flight across the sand of the Thara, the crossing of the mountain peaks of Ator and the strange outlander, Preston,  who dwelled therein, and who had saved them from the subhuman sharkas.  Clive and Jahlanna were much impressed by how Jarn had saved Zara from a trodon. They were surprised that all of them had the unpleasant run-ins with Lu-gor, and speculated on what had occurred that the rogue of O-lar had become a servant to the Mahar race. But as Lu-gor was a bully and coward, it was certainly not unlike him to betray his own entire race for personal gain. Clive exclaimed to the young people as best he could the nature of the bizarre weapon which Lu-gor had stolen form the Lords, and which they demanded return. 

         He even gave it to the boy and allowed him and the girls to finger it. They were naturally curious, as are all young people. They were a bit revolted though, knowing that here was a weapon crafted by the mighty Mahars, designed to be used against their own race. Lu-gor had apparently known how to use it, though he might have been bluffing. Clive’s use of it on the gark, after all had had minimal effect, only serving to further enrage the beast, so he did not fully understand its powers himself. Her warned them not to attempt to sue it, unless in the event of an emergency situation. 

       Then Clive told them all about the two Mahar scientists who were the twin rulers of the Technocarcy, Ka-ul-na, and Zu-ul-ka. They were ones who had sent him to retrieve the weapon Lu-gor had stolen. Of the two, he explained, Ka-ul-na seemed the most honorable, for anted to achieve a sot of peace with the gilaks race, so long as they agreed to submit to Mahar rule, and he believed that humans should at least be treated humanely. Not so Zu-ul-ka, who believed gilaks were fit merely for food and experimentation. 

      Jarn opined that he doubted that any of the slimy reptiles could be trusted, and that he would never agree to be subjected to Mahar rule, even a humane one. The boy was perhaps a bit prejudiced, Clive conceded, though, that he could hardly blame him after what the Mahars had done to his Jahlanna’s people, but on Jarn’s last point, at least, he had to agree. 

    They decided to set out for the spot where Clive had agreed to meet the others. After their sleep period, Clive, Jahlanna and youngsters continued on their way. 

         Clive warned them that the Mahar scientists were still seeking to recover the stolen psy-weapon prototype, and warned them to mask their thoughts to avoid discovery; one common mistake the Mahars often made regarding the gilak race was to underestimate them.  They kept a wary eye aloft. But no further sign of the winged reptiles did they see. 

      It was not long, however before they came upon an unfamiliar region, dominated by a species of tall grass, terminating in gorgeous blue flowers which is common throughout some regions of Pellucidar, giant fern-trees and mighty conifers. 

     And some distance in front of them, there rose into the humid atmosphere two gigantic rearing pylons of crystal-white stone. 

          “I believe it is a Mahar city.” The girl said. “Most of their cities lie buried underground. Perhaps this is one.” 

      “I think you are right.” said Clive. “We are in the region where Phutra, one of the original cities, is located, according to Simmons.” 

     “Perhaps this is it.” said Jahlanna. “If so, we should not go near it. Let us flee!” 

     “If this is Phutra,” said Clive, “Then surely it is abandoned.” 

     “Then let it remain so. We should begone from here.” 

     Clive had to agree. Part of him wanted explore the ancient city, find out any possible weaknesses the Mahar race might have. Perhaps this was where their “Great Secret” was stored, and there might well be other revelations stored within the city’s library.  But at the same time, he was not eager to find out what horrors might be lurking within the confines of the ancient city. 

     They traveled on, at last making camp in some foothills at distance form the ancient city. Still, there were no sign of the Mahars patrolling the skies above them, and Clive assumed that the city truly was abandoned. 

          It was sometime after they had fallen asleep that Clive found himself prodded awake by Zara’s spear. “Awake, Red-Hair!” 

     Clive wearily got to his feet. He noticed immediately that Jarn was missing. 

     “That fool boy had gone off to explore the city of Phutra!” she said. 

      “How are you sure?” he asked. 

     “I have been with him long enough to know. He has risked our lives on occasion because of his foolishness. Though I have to admit he had saved us as well, ever since he saved me from the trodon. That is why we must find and rescue him form his won stupidity.” 

     “I have to admit that she is probably right.” Jarla admitted with a heavy sigh. 

     Clive realized that the boy was still as hotheaded as ever, even though his warrior’s skills had matured. He did not like the idea of having to search a possibly dangerous region for the lad, at the possible risk of three girls, one of whom was his own mate. But he was not about to leave Jahlanna by herself in this savage wilderness, prey to whatever beast or man happened along, so all of them set out for the city. 

        Zara and Jarla, though a bit younger than the Nu-al princess, were both seasoned warrioresses. Jahlanna herself, though raised pampered favorite among her father's tribe, nonetheless knew survival skills and how to wield spear, ever since her ordeal with the men of Mulag. Those facts relieved Clive’s fears a little as they approached the towering white obelisks. 

        Sure enough, Jarn’s trail led directly to this spot. The lad hadn't even attempted to cover his act of  “bravery.” 

        “What did I tell you, Flame-Hair?” Zara said. “The brat practically left us roadmarks.” 

        “It seems he did.” Clive agreed. 

       “If we're captured by Mahars or sagoths,” Zara vowed, “Remind me to kill him.” 

       “I am inclined to help you.” Jarla said. Both girls liked Jarn, but both seemed to hate the lad as well. Part of Zara’s contemptuous attitude toward the boy, Jarla knew, sprung from her jealously over herself and him. But times like this curiously united Zara and herself. 

      The entrance to the city gaped ominous and black before them. 

      Warily, they entered. Oddly enough, the strange power source which had illuminated the Mahar city appeared to be still functioning, though dimly, and they could still see their way. The stone walls and floor, however, were now covered over with mold and mosses. Massive vines had torn through the walls and floor. Stagnant puddles were everywhere. Weird chirpings and croakings sounded throughout the tunnel. 

    When they came to a place where the tunnel bisected another, they agreed to split up in their search for Jarn, Zara and Jarla taking one branch, and Clive and Jahlanna the other. Jahlanna clung to her mate's shoulder, as they made their way stealthily down the corridor. Clive kept the psy-weapon of the Mahars raised. They came to a great chamber the bulk of which was screened off from them by thick glass in the manner of a zoo exhibit. And like such, there was a great rocky island in the center surrounded on all sides by a deep moat. On the zoos of the surface world the enclosure would have been inhabited by frolicking sea lions or penguins or such. But all they knew what it was—they had already witnessed its like on the Dead World. They had entered the Temple area, and it was unmistakably a Mahar Feeding Pool. Only now there was not a Mahar in sight. But the enclosure really did resemble a sort of prehistoric zoo, in the local wildlife had taken over. The murky water was now greenish and scummed with algae fed in from a local swamp. Schools of small, jawless fish rippled through the water, and larger coelacanths, and other lobe-finned fish. The amphibious bulks of labyrinthodons cruised massively through the water preying on the shoals of fish, and lounging lazily on the rocks, sun-warmed by the filters of light from the ceiling windows. The thick glass had long since cracked and splintered, and there were gaping holes in the masonry. Water had seeped in and Clive and Jahlanna were wading in a pool of stagnant swamp water. The massive amphibians croaked and bellowed mating calls to one another. 

      “Oooh, Clive!” said the girl. “I do not like this place. Even with the Mahars gone, it is dreadful.” 

     “I don’t care for it either.” Clive said. “But we’ve got to find the boy.” 

    ‘Yes,” she agreed. “Even though Jarn is foolish, he risked his own to save us from the gark, and he once tried to rescue me from the caverns of Mulag.” 

     “We’ll find him.” Clive assured her.

     At that moment, from a gaping hole in the floor there reared up and into the tunnel the scaled bulk of an amphibious monster. It was similar to the labyrinthodons, only it looked more primitive, a type of monstrous predatory fish that was just beginning to acquire the attributes of living on land. It heaved itself toward them with its mighty lobbed fore fins, its gaping jaws hissing. 

      Jahlanna screamed. Clive turned the psy-gun on the beast. There was kind of a subsonic squeal emitted by the weapon this time. The beast seemed confused and annoyed by whatever beams the gun emitted. It writhed massively and withdrew back into the gap in the floor. 

    The girl trembled. 

    “What manner of beast was that?” Clive asked her. 

    “I do not know.” said the girl. “There are all manner of monsters here. Clive, I am afraid!” 

   “Stay close.” he cautioned her. 

     On they went. They passed several rooms that might have once been used for experimentation, but had now fallen into decay. They peered in each, but did not enter any of them. The carpet moss and mold was now thicker and even more stagnant. The entire city, it seemed, had been reclaimed by almighty Nature. 

     At last, they came to vast room which might have once served as a laboratory. There were rows and rows of glass compartments. They appeared to be what one might call artificial wombs. In each was what appeared to be a fetal pterosaur, its clawed wings folded over its underdeveloped snout. There were a series of tubes running into each. The other half of the room was given over to what looked like chemical vats. This must some manner of breeding chamber, how the Mahar race reproduced itself after the institution of their Great Secret. But it was now in a state of vast disrepair. The walls were green with alga and lichen, and the far end was flooded with water which was pouring in from a multitude of cracks in the masonry. 

      Clive and Jahlanna entered and gazed about in wonder at the shattered remnants of the Mahar breeding chamber, if such it was. They were standing at the edge of where the floor had caved in when there was a mighty surge from the scummed water. 

    A hideous shape erupted from the frothy depths. It rocketed toward the Nu-al princess, hardly giving her time to scream. The giant, pincer-clawed shape seized her by the ankle and yanked her into the filthy depths. 

     Clive, realizing the Mahar weapon would likely do no good underwater. Seized his knife, and leaped in after the princess. The murky depths nearly blinded him as he plunged beneath the water, but he saw the greenish-brown form of the massive-carapaced sea-scorpion as it dragged his beloved down to the depths of it s lair with intent of rending and devouring her. The princess screamed silently in the awful grip of the primordial Terror. 

    But Clive had grown powerful and swift by his long struggle with the horrors of the inner earth. He had been a fair swimmer in his surface world years, but now and flashed through the water intent on rescuing his mate. Reaching her, the man drew his stone knife, plunged it down into the compound eye of the pterygotis. Weird, greenish ichor erupted from the wounded arthropod. The massive sea-scorpion thrashed wildly, releasing the princess as it did so. Clive seized Jahlanna in his arms and with powerful strokes, bore the dazed princess to the surface. 

    The girl hacked and coughed as her mate bore her to the shore. She collapsed, and they sat there coughing for several moments. Then Clive took the princess in both his arms and carried her limp form through the moss-slimed hallways seeking the tunnels which led upward. 

    At last they reached a relatively safe and dry spot, on a brief series of wide stone steps where he set the girl gently down. There they sat together. He held her, and she held him. The girl shuddered, and he held her like the primal child that she was. 

       “Oh Clive,…”she murmured. “Oh…Clive.” 

       “It is all right now,” he told her, enfolding her slim shoulders in his grip. 


      Zara and Jarla were venturing further into the abandoned city of Phutra. They, too, had entered a region were water from the local sea and swamp had seeped through the decaying masonry and now flooded the hall. Small fish and amphibians swarmed through the newly created ecosystem below their passage. The girls kept their spears at the ready. 

    And for good reason. Abruptly, directly in front of them the waters frothed and erupted. A torpedo-like shape hove toward them, and a monstrous form rose out of the water jaws agape. 

   The girls shrieked, but Zara held her own, and plunged with her spear directly into the thing's gaping jaws, and into what passed for its brain. The creature writhed and died. 

   The Azeer girl stepped back and examined it. 

    “What manner of beast is it?” Jarla inquired. 

   “I do not know.” Zara said. “It resembles a sithic, but I have never seen its like before.” 

     “Let us hope there are not more like it.” 

     “Let us just hope we can find your foolish male, Jarn, and be gone from here.” 

    The two females exchanged jealous glances, and continued, ever watchful for more dangers. 

    At length they came to place were the brackish water receded, and the tunnel though still damp, and lichen-encrusted with relatively dry. Zara realized that she must have had some feminine intuition, for though Jarns trail had become indiscernible in the tunnel, this was the direction he had taken. He had come this way, and not long ago at that. 

    For the boy's muddy footprints were plainly visible leaving the water and leading up the tunnel. 

    “We have him,” Zara grinned mischievously to her not-so-companionable companion 

    ‘Then let's find him before something else does.” 

    “As you wish.” Zara agreed haughtily. 


        As for the object of their search, Jarn had ventured into a region of Phutra, which was had ceased to be moss covered and decayed. In fact, the tunnels which the boy now found himself were free of the clinging moss and appeared dry, clean and undecayed. The tunnel had sloped upward, and at last he found himself at the base of at set of broad stone stairs. At the top of these were a massive pair of clear glass doors. Whatever lay behind these appear brightly lit. As the cave boy approached the doors, to his surprise whooshed open. 

     Jarn entered. He was now in a tunnel very like the ones through which he had just traversed. Only these were spotless and immaculate, of brilliant white crystal stone. He was now well above the water table, but it as obvious that this portion of the city — wherever it was — had been kept up on purpose. Still, the tunnel seemed deserted. There were no voices, no sign of life anywhere — yet. 

    Eager to explore, the possibility of danger thrumming in his blood, Jarn continued on. 

     He passed several rooms that seemed to be laboratories of some sort, and functioning, but empty of any occupants. Then he came to a room very like the one that Clive and Jahlanna had found that resembled a breeding chamber. Within it were scores of huge chemical vats. Only these were seething and burbling, and very much in use. The room led into a larger one filled with back sand backs of glass-covered artificial wombs. To the boy's horrified wonder, each one held the fetally-curled miniature of one of the mighty Mahar race in various stages of development. 

       This, the boy, thought, must be how the foul creatures reproduced themselves. He had heard the monsters were only female. Though that had been a hard one to swallow, especially in the case of such hideous, cold terrors as the Mahars, it must be true that they reproduced in some foul unnatural manner. How they managed to grow themselves in these pods, Jarn did not, and could not know, but he was revolted by it all the same. 

      All at once, Jarn was overcome by his intense hatred of the Mahars. He remembered how the winged monsters had allied themselves with the Mulags, the sworn enemy of his own people, and how the slimy bird-lizards had used the Nu-al as slaves and worse. Gripping his spear, Jarn plunged it into the nearest artificial sac. It was not heard like glass after all, but was of some thick, jelly-like substance. The sac ruptured, fluids leaking out. To Jarn’s revulsion, the fetal Mahar actually came awake and cried shrilly at him, as though in indignation. Sickened, the boy plunged his spear into it. He then did the same to the next womb-sac, and the next, until every miniature winged reptile in the chamber was destroyed. 

    He then stepped into the next chamber. It was filled with rows and rows of Mahar eggs, their leathery shells warmed by backs of florescent lights overhead. With a wild yell, Jarn fell to, stomping and crunching the eggs, determined that the winged monsters would never again harm another human. 

     “Jarn!” 

     The boy whirled around. Behind him stood Zara and Jarla. 

     “You fool!” cried the Azeer girl. “What do you think you’re doing?” 

      “Destroying their eggs! What does it look like? We have to wipe them out, or they'll go on enslaving and killing us!” 

     “Jarn, this is the most stupid thing you've done yet!” 

    “Jarla, don’t you see? The Mahars are our enemies! We have to kill them! We must, Jarla! Remember what they did to your people? It's the only way!” 

    “Jarn, I'm afraid I have to agree with her.” Jarla said. “What you’re doing is stupid. Can't you see that if they catch us here — ?" 

      Suddenly, as though in answer to Jarla’s observation, a giant voice boomed out, filling the chamber with thunder. “Who dares disturb the egg chamber of the Lords!” 

      Four huge burly sagoths entered. “Two gilak shes. And a boy! A gilak brat, destroying the eggs of the great Lords!” The words were spoken with a mixture of disgust and incredulity at Jarn’s impossible desecration. To do such a thing as willingly destroy the eggs of the Masters was a horror almost beyond belief, and for a lowly, verminous gilak to do so worse still. 

      “Kill him!” shouted another guard. “Kill him at once!” 

      “Yes, the boy must die!” 

      “NO!” shouted the first guard. “Capture them first. Bind them! Allow the Lords to decide their fate. We can be assured that the fate of the boy, in particular, will be most unpleasant.” 

     Then, gloatingly, the guards fell upon them. 

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