Clive and Jahlanna walked back to the village
of the Nu-al in each other’s arms.
Clive often thought of
the human races of Pellucidar as “cave people”, as they were roughly equivalent
to the Cro-Magnon of the outer earth, even though technically Jahlanna’s
tribe now lived in a spacious village and had graduated from the stone
to the bronze age. Everywhere among the Nu-al there was activity. Kids
played in the village streets, or went about the menial chores assigned
to them by their elders. Women wove baskets and rugs and made pottery and
jewelry. Elderly men and women tanned hides and cleaned fish along with
some of the children. Everyone had a place within the Nu-al tribe, and
all were valued and cared for from birth to death. Clive had heard that
the Mulag had more cruel customs, and allowed the elderly to die, and slaughtered
infants that were unwanted, or were born with even a slight physical deformity.
Fortunately, when the Nu-al had turned the tables on the Mulag, and captured
a great many of their number, none of the Mulag children were slaughtered,
and all were being cared for in a more just society than they would have
otherwise. Would the children of the Mulag remain loyal to their adopted
tribe? Clive believed that most would, hopefully all, though he had little
doubt that some problems would arise when certain of them came of age.
Clive and his
mate looked up to see Tarok, a fierce and loyal young warrior of the tribe
approach him. Some of his fellow warriors were, at that moment, bearing
the carcass of newly killed oxhyena, a Miocene carnivore, tied to a pole.
The animals’ coat was gorgeously spotted, and it was doubtless slain for
the purpose of providing a rug for the chief’s hut. Two more warriors bore
a body of a deer-like syntheoceras, doubtless to provide food for the tribe.
Tarok approached Clive and clapped
him on the shoulder. “Hunting has gone well for us.” he said.
“Yes, I can see.” Clive answered.
“Do you and your she still intend
to set out for the land of Sari. I am still not certain if the country
is not a myth.”
“I’ve thought about that myself. “Clive
was somewhat amused by this, as he had once supposed the entire inner world
of Pelluicdar to be a myth. “But if you came with us, I think we would
both discover that it is no myth , but a very real country. Alistair and
I have good reason to believe that the Mahars truly came from there.”
“Ha! Funny you should mention
it Clive. For I have two things to share with you.”
“First, one of the
Mahars is here in the village.”
“Yes, you heard me correctly, Clive. “She is one of the refugees form Zhuma.
She was injured in the battle, and we caught her as she was fleeing. My
warriors and I did it during out hunting.”
Jahlanna drew a slight
gasp of astonishment.
“How did you manage to
do it?” Clive asked. He was more than aware of the Mahars’ tremendous mental
powers. Even not considering their ferocious teeth and talons, the winged
saurians were incredibly dangerous.
“One of her wings was injured.
So, naturally we took advantage of her predicament when we happened upon
her. She tried to fend us off with her natural weapons. She also used her
mind-powers on us. But fortunately Lorak and Tharn had two of the magic
stones with them.”
These were strange crystals that the
Mahar scientists had developed in order for humans to control the mighty
thipdars. As servitors to the Mahars, the Mulag had domesticated the mighty
thipdars, the gigantic pterodactyls of Pelluicdar. They Mulag tribesmen
had then used their beasts of burden to terrorize the other tribes of the
region, in particular the Nu-al who were their hereditary enemies. The
Nu-al tribe had gained possession of a number of the stones following the
revolution. They had experimented with them, seeing if their effects worked
on other humans or on animals they hunted. Unfortunately, they appeared
to have been designed to work on pterosaurian brains only. This was probably
because had the Mulag learned to use them on other humans, or the inhuman
groags or sagoths, chaos would have resulted among the Mahars’ servants.
The mahars were collectively too powerful for the crystals to have any
effect on, but apparently Tarok and his comrades had been able to overwhelm
a single specimen.
“Where is the Mahar?” Clive asked.
“I shall take you to her.” Tarok
answered. “She has asked to speak with you directly.”
Why would the Mahar demand an
audience with me? Clive wondered.
“I do not know why,” answered
Tarok, as though reading Clive’s thoughts. “But she spoke with our minds
and told us she wished to speak with the red-haired stranger.”
Just then, a village boy who
looked in his early teens approached. Clive recognized him as Jarn, the
boy who had helped them defeat the Mahar Tah-ru and to escape from the
city. Jarn grinned broadly up at them.
Clive was about to give the lad a friendly
greeting when Tarok said, “What do you want, boy?” After the sacking of
Zhuma, the entire tribe had treated Jarn like a hero for the part he had
played. The boy’s peers had thrilled to Jarn’s tale of how he had escaped
a Mulag warrior and flew to Zhuma on the man’s thipdar. And as for Jarn,
the boy couldn’t help taking advantage of the situation, getting out of
his chores for a total of seven wakes and sleeps, and basking in the light
of his newfound fame. But before long, his hero status began to wear off,
especially considering how much he was exploiting it. It became obvious
to Clive that the boy was not held in very high regard by many of the village
adults, who were quick to describe Jarn with terms such as “lazy” and “shiftless”,
not to mention a “poor influence” on the other village youth.
“I wanted to ask Clive if he and his
friends are ready.” Jarn said.
“Ready for what?” Tarok snapped.
“For the journey to Sari.” Jarn
“That is none of your concern.
Why are you not repairing the village wall with the other boys? Did you
sneak off again?”
“But I need to know when we are
Tarok did not miss the boy’s
use of the word “we”. He scowled at Jarn. “You are well aware that you
cannot come with us.”
“But you’re going.” Jarn reasoned.
“I helped defeat the Mulag. That means you have to let me come.”
“It means no such thing. We are
going to be responsible for any youngsters.”
”But I am a hero now. Remember,
Tarok? You said so yourself.”
“Back to your chores, boy—now,
before I speak to the elders about you!” Tarok’s face had gone red. Clive
was slightly amused by the boy’s well-placed attempt to use Tarok’s own
words against him.
“Jarn,” Jahlanna said suddenly
in a sweet voice. “You are a hero to the village, even they don’t let you
come. You are especially a hero to me. Remember how you rode the thipdar
to Mulag and tried to rescue me? I know you spoke the truth, even if the
For once, the smooth-talking
boy looked tongue-tied. Jarn began to blush slightly at the prospect of
the lovely princess actually speaking to him in such a manner, though it
was evident he was striving mightily to hold it back. Noting this, Jahlanna
bent her lovely face and, taking the Jarn’s head in her hands planted a
brief but firm kiss squarely on the boy’s mouth.
Unable to restrain himself, Jarn
foolishly blushed vivid red. The pre-pubescent boy’s eyes turned up dizzily.
“Whooo!” he breathed, before dashing off to brag to the other boys about
Clive laughed heartily. “I think
we’ve seen the last of him for a while. Tarok, I don’t think he’ll give
us any more trouble about going along.”
“Don’t be too certain, my friend.
You don’t know Jarn like I do. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.”
“You mean you think he’ll try
to sneak off?”
Tarok grinned at him. “I certainly
would not put that past him. But I will make certain the elders keep a
very close watch on our friend Jarn.”
“I bwlieve Jahlanna has already
taken care of him. At least for a while. Pretty girls have a way with pre-teen
boys.” Clive said, as they made their way toward where the Mahar was held
captive. He almost asked Tarok if perhaps he was being a bit harsh about
refusing the boy. Part of Clive had Jarn’s sympathies. In his youth, he
had always been an adventurous lad; he still largely was. That was why
he had taken a job for National Geographic. And that, of course was what
had led directly to their expedition north, and their entry to Pellucidar.
And certainly this world at the earth’s core was an adventurer’s heaven.
Jarn had little to look forward to besides chores if he remained here in
the village, and Clive couldn’t really blame the lad for hating it. But
on the other hand, he didn’t want to have to look after any youngsters
on such a dangerous journey any more than Tarok did. It would be
difficult enough protecting themselves and his mate from danger without
having an irresponsible kid along. Then he thought of something Jarn had
“Was the boy telling the truth?”
“About what? With Jarn, it’s
hard to tell.”
“About you going with us.”
“Chief Zog believes you are in
need of at least one strong warrior to guide you, at least to edge of the
Korsar sea, which lies seven leagues to the west of here. My people are
familiar with these lands—you are not. But he did not wish to force any
man to endanger himself on such a journey, so he asked for volunteers.
I was the first, and he chose me specifically as you and I have been through
“Then I’m honored that you will
be accompanying us.” Clive said. “But inwardly, there was part of him that
doubted whether Tarok had volunteered solely on the basis of friendship.
He knew of course, how Tarok used to feel about Jahlanna. He had already
defeated Tarok once in mate battle. But even then, Tarok had hinted that
he might try and take Jahlanna for himself. Since then, it was true that
he had hardly spoken directly to the girl, and had not even looked at her
much. Somehow that did not ease Clive’s feelings. It was as if Tarok was
purposefully avoiding as much contact as possible with the girl he had
formerly desired as his mate more than anything. And now Tarok had “volunteered”
to accompany them to Sari. Doubtless, the long trek would offer him many
opportunities to get close to the girl. Clive doubted very much that Tarok
was capable of any open treachery. But he equally doubted he would have
volunteered if it weren’t for Jahlanna. He thought that Tarok was seriously
waiting for the opportunity for a rematch.
And what about the
girl? Did Jahlanna have any feelings for her own for Tarok? Clive
was suddenly shocked that he hadn’t even thought of that before now. Why
wouldn’t she? Tarok was well-built, sleekly muscled warrior with handsome
features and bronzed flesh. And now that he thought about it, it seemed
that he had noticed Jahlanna casting admiring glances Tarok’s way on occasion—especially
it seemed when Clive did not appear to be looking. It was true that Jahlaana
had professed her love only for him, he did not doubt her sincerity. But
in the course of whatever adventures and hardships awaited them, circumstances
They entered the area of the
village that Prof. Simmons had committed to his Paleontological research.
It was a large tent erected near the rear of the village, close to the
south wall. What Clive immediately noticed was that another huge tent had
been erected next to it. They entered the professor’s tent. Simmons had
several long wooden tables set up, upon which he was conducting his experiments.
On one were a large collection
of leaves, flowers, pods and other samples of the native flora, spread
out and arranged according to Order and Phyla. Another had samples taken
form the native fauna— assorted skins, feathers, skulls, teeth and bones,
most of it taken from smaller animals. Some of the specimens had been supplied
by warriors and youth of the Nu-al, others Simmons himself had managed
to procure by combing the outskirts of the village. On another table, the
professor had set up a number of plastic test tubes, beakers and vials,
and syringes, all of which had come form the laboratories of Zhuma. One
rack of test tubes held what appeared to be blood samples. The professor
himself sat studiously before another table peering at a sample from the
lense of a Mahar microscope. Tethered to a nearby post was an example of
the orthopi, one of the dimunitive ancestors of modern equines, which Professor
Simmons considered to be the eohippus. The tiny horse was sleeping in the
innocent manner of small animals, its legs tucked beneath it, head curled
to its flank. Tethered to another post was another animal, a small
bidpedal dinosaur, which stood on its hind limbs in a remarkably birdlike
manner. Its scaled boy was a deep blue-green in color, its lizard-ish head
filled with razory teeth. It appeared to be eyeing the orthopi hungrily,
and when it snapped its head around at the intruders it hissed shrilly
Professor Simmons looked up from
“Clive, my boy.” he said. “This
is truly phenomenal, what I’ve discovered here! This land is a paleontologist’s
dream come true. To think of all the time scientists like myself were content
to excavate fossilized old bones, when the living counterparts were thriving,
in this incredible world, literally beneath our very feet.”
“I should think so.” Clive said.
“And it’s not just the “living fossils,”
mind you, though they are far thrilling enough. In just what I would gage
to be a week’s time, I’ve discovered at least twelve—and possibly more—species
endemic to this very region that are absolutely unknown from anything in
the fossil record! For example, you notice those feathers on that table
over yonder? I’ve got them arranged as best I can according to species.
I have been supplied with a few skulls as well. You can see that they are
avian—or at least avian-like. But all of them have teeth, which undoubtedly
proves their relation to the archaeopteryx, the celebrated link between
reptiles and modern birds. But these skulls show definite variation, proving
the existence of many species of reptile-bird, not just one. The feathers
are even more remarkable indicating at least one entire family. I could
go on and on, I suppose, but I wouldn’t want to bore you. Suffice to say
that these Mahar made implements have proven extremely useful, especially
in examining tissue and blood samples.”
“What is it you are looking at now?”
The professor grinned, the smile of
a child who just has happened upon something wonderful. “This is the most
remarkable sample of all. A blood specimen of a very remarkable species
of pterosaur. I was a bit leery of actually obtaining it of course. But
remember we had those mind-crystals on hand, and I was able to take it
Clive was astonished. “Are you
saying that’s a sample of Mahar blood?”
“That is precisely what I saying.
They warriors just captured one while you and the young miss were out enjoying
yourselves. We have her right here in that other tent. I’ve been waiting
to show you.”
“I have already informed Clive
of the monster’s capture.” Tarok said. “In fact, that is chiefly why we
“Allow me.” said Simmons, getting
up from behind his makeshift desk. They followed the professor out of the
tent and across the village street. Some laughing, playing children giggled
shrilly and raced out their way. Clive noticed that the tent which held
the Mahar was guarded by two stern-faced Nu-al warriors. They obviously
had ordered not to allow just anyone entry.
Clive felt Jahlanna stiffen close to
him. The girl’s fingers tightened around his, and he felt her shudder.
The warriors withdrew their spears
as they saw Simmons and the others approach. Clive and Tarok were both
now respected warriors of the people, and of course they recognized the
chief’s daughter at once. Simmons drew up the tent flap and they entered.
Again Jahlanna shuddered, for she dreaded and hated the Mahar, and besides,
she had the characteristic feminine loathing for all things reptilian.
The interior of the tent did
nothing to allay her fears, for it somehow appeared cloaked in darker shadow
than the professor’s work tent. Since a child, she had always hated the
dark, whether it was the dark in the deep of caves, of the deepest gloom
of the forest. And, of course, there was her recent and most mind-numbing
experience with the shudder some gorags amid the caverns beneath Zhuma.
She horridly recalled her encounter with the deepest, most impenetrable
darkness she had ever imagined within those tunnels, and then her meeting
with the groags themselves….
Not more than a few
yards from them across the dirt floor, hunched the monstrous captive. The
foul winged reptile was slouched forward in the gloom like some loathsome
gargoyle, her monstrous wings folded demon-like at her sides, her beaked
visage like that of some hideous saurian vulture. The thing’s eyes burned
redly at the gilaks as they approached like twin lakes of hot poison. Jahlanna
gasped and clutched tightly to her mate’s shoulder, her pretty nails nearly
They approached the huge sentient reptile
cautiously. The hellish reptilian slits burned malevolently down upon them.
Just in time, Clive reminded himself not to look into the reptile’s gaze.
He pulled his eyes away, instinctively covering the eyes of his mate as
well. What had he seen in that gaze? It wasn’t easy to discern what cold
emotion might be lurking within the alien visage of a reptile, but he could
almost swear he’d glimpsed a stab of pure hatred in that crimson stare.
“It wasn’t exactly easy drawing
her blood,” the professor was explaining, a trifle too nonchalantly. "I
believe she resented having lesser beings such as ourselves obtain a scientific
sample from her. But I’ve been comparing her red blood cells with those
of the closest related species, the rhamphorynchus of the lower Jurrassic.
And I can tell you, my boy, that they are indeed remarkably similar—"
Clive wasn’t really listening.
Nor was Jahlanna. Nor was Tarok, who, like all other warriors of Nu-al
hated the Mahar race with about as bitter and intense loathing as possible.
“We should not keep this thing alive, friend Alistair” Tarok said. ‘When
we captured her, I thought it was a mighty feat, for none have ever captured
one of Mahar before. But we should kill the thing now, before it can do
“Rubbish!” said Simmons. “We’ve made
certain she cannot escape, remeber? And she’s beyond harming anyone, so
long as we have the mind-crystals.”
“I still do not trust this beast.
We should kill it, before it kills us.”
“Yes,” Jahlanna agreed,
“We should kill it. It would do the same to us, if given the chance.”
“I assure you, my boy, and you
too, girl, that it cannot do so.”
Tarok gave the professor a coldly
serious stare. “Certainly it would not hesitate to kill us if it could,
for there can be naught be enmity between these monsters and ourselves.
What about its mind-powers? Even if does not use them to harm us it might
use them to signal others of its own kind, or perhaps sagoths or groags!
Imagine if a flock of these monsters were to descend on our village!”
The professor began to
reply, but stopped short, the words catching in his throat. And Clive realized
suddenly that Tarok was right; why hadn’t they considered that possibility
And then a mind-numbing wave
of mental current hit each of them, causing them to jump. An alien,
oily seeming voice invaded their minds—the voice of the Mahar.
All of them stood rooted and numb while they listened
Foolish gilaks! The young warrior
is right—you should have killed me while you had the chance. But now it
is too late, for I have already sent my brain waves forth to summon others
of my kind. But they do not seek to harm this pitiful gilak village. Oh
no! We need not bother with it. Why should the Mahar race concern itself
with the burrows of beasts? And I am expendible—my sisters will let me
die if they must. Red-Hair, one who led the raid on our city, I have probed
your mind and found its secrets! I know that you and the one called Simmons
are from a world far, far above our heads. The scientists of Zhuma have
long regarded the place as a myth and a rumor—though a few have explored
the possible physics of such a world and found it to be at least theoretically
possible. When our ancestors fled to this continent, we took with us knowledge
of David Innes, the usurper who supposedly heralded for a world beyond
our own, and who drove us from lands that were rightfully ours. None
of us had ever read his mind, but now, upon examining you, we know the
truth of that realm. We know about your intentions to reach Sari.
And now your journey will be monitored closely. But more importantly, you
and the professor have given Tah-ru the great ruler of our emporer the
means to invade the surface world. We now have glimpses of your surface
technology, and out scientists shall build upon it. Soon your entire race
will be subjected as the animals you were created to be. So kill me if
you will! It will do you no good.
The numbing mind-messages suddenly
ceased, and Clive and his companions felt their neurons fairly sigh in
The Mahar had fallen silent. It only
glowered horridly at them.
“Why are you telling us this?”
Clive demanded, bracing his mind for a reply, perhaps even an angry metal-blast.
But there with none, only a hateful silence, punctuated only by the steady
rise and fall of the thing’s sides as it breathed.
A Mahar invasion of the surface?
Clive didn’t think it seemed possible. Especially in light of the fact
that the Mahars were too few in number. They might seem formidable with
their wings and terrifying mental powers, but once united, even a few tribes
of cave-people had managed to over through their rule more than once. But
somehow he got a dread feeling in the pit of his stomach that this time
it would be different. Something the Mahar had said about technology.
But it wasn’t just that that had unnerved
him. He had gotten the clear impression that this particular Mahar represented
the worst among her kind. It was not that she was a member of cruel race
that the Pellucidaran natives naturally looked upon as monstrous. As a
sentient race, there were possibly some among the Mahar that could be persuaded
to be more liberal minded in regard to their treatment of the “lesser”
But not this creature. She had only
spoken within Clive’s brain for a few seconds, but Clive had gotten a few
vague impressions of his own. One was that this Mahar was not among Zhuma’s
scientists. It had not received a clear impression whatever office she
might have held within the city, but he got the idea that she had been
a kind of chancellor or something along those lines. But mostly, his impression
had been one of pure, overwhelming evil, more so than any other member
of her race whose mind had touched his.
Suddenly, Jahlanna screamed.
Clive started back. He gripped
the girl’s shoulders and shook her.
Jahlanna continued to wail. “My
mind! She’s in my mind!”
Clive turned hatefully upon the Mahar.
But he had no weapon with which to defend his mate against the sentient
reptilian’s horrid mental onslaught. He had not his pistol, nor even a
spear to use against the beast.
But Tarok did. Gripping
his spear, the warrior charged the mighty reptile, and drove the point
of his bronze-bladed upon deep into the Mahar’s heaving breast. A horrid
shriek erupted from the beast’s fanged jaws before she collapsed in death.
Hatefully, Tarok yanked his spear from the dead saurian,
its bronze head now beslimed with reptilian gore.
“You did not need to do that!”
Simmons said. “”We had the mind-crystals.”
“The monster could have ruined
the girl’s mind!” Tarok said angerly. “Would you have the princess of Nu-al
live out her life as a drooling idiot? I’ve seen the Mahars do that to
slaves who have displeased them in some manner, gilaks and sagoths both!”
The professor opened his mouth to reply
but found he could not. “I…I’m sorry. To all of you! I suppose you are
The look in Clive’s gaze told the professor
of his agreement with what Tarok had said. Jahlanna had pillowed her head
against his breast, and was sobbing terribly. “I don’t know you to thank
you for acting as you did.” Clive told him. “But I have an idea the beast
attacked her hoping you would do it. Jahlanna is the only female here.
The monster doubtless understands enough about our behavior that she figured
by attacking her, she could get us to react in her defense.”
“Even if that is so,” growled
Tarok. “I’m glad to have put the beast out of our misery as well as her
Clive nodded in mutual agreement.
Sometime late in the village’s
“sleep” period, Jahlanna lay in the new hut that she shared with her mate.
Some small, unobtrusive
noise had caused the girl to come suddenly awake. She had since recovered
from the Mahars mental attack. But the memory would live long with her.
It was the first time in her life she had experience such an attack directly.
She had heard of the Mahars horrifying powers, of course, and the effects
they could have upon their victims. It had been like a bolt of ice stabbing
through her consciousness.
She saw that Clive was still sleeping
on the woven mat next to her—soundly it seemed.
What had awakened her? Perhaps it was a small
sound—perhaps it was a woman’s sixth sense.
In any event, she looked toward the
front of the hut. She drew a small short gasp when she Tarok standing there.
“Oh!” she said. “Tarok!
I did not at first see you.” Then she remembered that Tarok had guard duty.
Then what was he doing here? It doubly puzzled her since she had not spoken
with Tarok since she and Clive had become mates.
“I ask your pardon, princess. I did
not wish to alarm you.”
“What is it? Is the village under
“No indeed, my love. I came only to
speak with you.”
“Then take care how you speak. You
flatter your princess, but remember that Jahlanna already has a mate. So
do not ask her to become yours. You must find another.”
"So you have found a mate? Then stay
with him. For now. Times will change, my sweet. You believe you are in
love with the red-haired stranger. But I have seen that look in your lovely
eyes. You have feelings for another."
“What other could Jahlanna desire?”
Tarok smiled. “That other is me. Do
not deny it. I have seen you glance in my direction.”
“Tarok lies!” exclaimed the girl, indignantly.
“I do not love him. I only love Clive, my mate, who rescued me from Zhuma.
And I might remind you that he defeated Tarok in mate-battle.”
She expected him to become angry. Instead,
a smile creased the warrior’s not unhandsome face. “Times will change.”
Then he turned and left.