The great az-dyryths sliced through
the turgid depths of the great ocean of Korsar-Az. The mighty ichthyosaurs
were among the top predators of their deep-sea realm, and as there were
a great school of them, the other oceanic predators—other saurians, monstrous
fish, giant sea-scorpions and nautileds—all gave them a respectful berth.
At last a vast domed city rose into view. The city was raised upon a mighty
reef of coral. A great building complex stood at the base of the reef.
A series of great pipes traveled up and into vents in the coral, creating
an underwater supply of oxygen breathable to surface dwellers.
The city of Az-al.
Before the great domed city there stretched
the farmlands on a massive coral shelf. Had Clive and his companions had
the opportunity to see them, they would have seen acres of undersea croplands
stretching away in neatly cultivated rows. These consisted of edible kelps
and planktons. The crops were being tended to by field hands. Some of these
were Az-al themselves, but others were slaves of the land dwelling races,
chiefly gilaks. Currents of bubbles rose from the mouths of these slaves
as they gathered the crops, arising from devices secured over their mouths
to allow artificial breathing. In other fields there grazed the Az-al livestock:
long-extinct relatives of the dugongs and sea-cows of the surface oceans,
sporting short tusks on either side of their upper jaws. Only these, like
the sentient Az-al themselves, had evolved gill-slits for breathing under
water. The herd of mammals grazed placidly upon the field ocean kelps,
much in the manner of a herd of dairy cows. They were guarded on all sides
by Az-al warriors bearing their double-pronged spears to protect their
livestock from the predacious marine saurians which ruled the ocean. At
their sides, az-slurgs, small three-inch aquatic reptiles with bodies like
salamanders and beak-like jaws crammed with needle-like teeth patrolled
with them. The az-slurgs, better known to surface-world scientists as the
mesosaurus, were trained in the manner of sheep-dogs, and would swarm to
the attack if any predator dared threaten the herd. These too had been
fitted with artificial breathers.
The school of az-dyryths broke
apart into single file, and entered a gapping fissure in the side of the
coral cliff. They swam through the green-black gloom of a mighty tunnel
cut into the living coral. Up and up they swam, the great tails undulating
At length, they broke the surface. The light
of an artificial sun poured down on the reptiles’sleek hides. The mighty,
beak-like jaws parted.
Clive and his companions rose dizzily
to their feet, and stood blinking in the light. Before them rose the towers
of a vast under water city, the battlements shining in the light of the
The Meran guards prodded
their backs, as they were forced out onto the shore. “We are here gilaks.
Welcome to Az-al, slaves.” One of them said. “Soon you will meet our ruler,
For a moment, the men stood there,
blinking, surface men and Pellucidaran natives alike.
The city was like nothing any of them
had ever imagined.
Clive first supposed they had emerged
on the surface, that the Az-al city must be on some continent or island
in the Korsar Az. But it occurred to him that the sun was not that of Pellucidar,
and he had a very brief notion that perhaps they had emerged through some
subterranean sea passage back on the surface. But the “sun”, small as it
looked compared to the one of the inner earth, was somehow unlike the one
he was accustomed to from the world of his birth. He saw that the
light source was located near the top of a vast dome. And the “sky” overhead
was water—the deep sea of Korsar Az. He could even discern the shimmering
of vast schools of fish passing above and the sinister, gliding forms of
predatory reptiles. As for the city itself….
It appeared to have been hewn
form the living coral which served as the foundation for it. The “rock”
was of a translucent pink color. But the artistry was hardly rough or crude
as one might expect from a city built from coral. There was an abundance
of towers and lofty battlements, some of them tapering to needle points.
There were roof top balconies and arches, all adorned with intricate friezes.
It was evident city was massive and extensive.
Clive was still gaping at the
marvels when he felt his captor prod his side gently with his spear. “Get
moving, gilak. Sark is not one to be patient.”
They continued into the undersea metropolis.
Clive was amazed at the marvels of the Az-al race. These people were evidently
great appreciators of art. The ornamental friezes decorating the sides
of the buildings depicted stylized versions of fish, crustaceans, and coiled
squid-like nautileds, as well as leaping icthyosaurs (az-dyryths, that
was), and tandor-azes, their swan-like necks sweeping or intertwined. They
passed a number of statues in the city squares, sculpted of some type of
bronze-like alloy, apparently the same as the spear-like weapons borne
by their captives. Some of these also depicted shoals of leaping az-dyryths
and other sea-monsters, some of these spouting fountains of crystalline
water out of their jaws. A couple of these statues depicted nude, voluptuously
curved maidens posed as though swimming amongst the sea beasts. Other statues
depicted male Az-al, evidently warriors from their weapons and armor. Perhaps
they were champions or heroes form the history or myth of these people.
There passed a few parklike gardens as well. Strangely enough, these were
of land vegetation—great tree-ferns, weird clubmosses, squat cycads, along
with a profusion of orchids and other blooms. There were booths and store
fronts everywhere in the city, from which Az-al merchants were busily hawking
their wares. This was almost entirely the bounty of the sea, consisting
of bins and bins of fresh shrimp, crustaceans and kelps, sea-cucumbers
and all other seafood. There were also carts stacked high with branches
of coral, the shells of nautileds and other sealife, and all manner of
tools, weapons implements and wares fashioned therefrom. There were slaves
for sale as well, Clive noted unnervingly blacked haired representatives
of the gilak tribes, hawked for sale by their inhuman masters.
The streets were thronged with
milling citizens, going about their daily business. There were other groups
of armed warriors pattroling the city, such as those who were ushering
them, perhaps as an armed guard or police force. But what most astonished
Clive about the inhabitants of this strange undersea metropolis were the
appearance of the girls and women among Az-al’s populace. At first, he
assumed them to be members of some other race, perhaps captives or slaves
of the hideous Az-al. But the more he observed, he began to suspect
they were free citizens, perhaps female members of the same race as their
captors. While the visages of the male Az-al looked an unlovely mix of
fish and walrus, the Az-al females—if indeed that is what they were—were
quite comely to behold, some every bit attractive as those of Pellucidar’s
land-dwelling tribes. All had skin of a light sea-green, and an abundance
of emerald tresses. They tended to be lithe of form, with firm hips ample
bosoms. These women-folk had adorned their emerald locks with an abundance
of dyed seas shells, starfish, and other ornamentation, as if this were
a fashion statement among them. Their ripe breasts were often uncovered,
though some were adorned with bronze breast-plates, often molded to resemble
sea-shells. Some of these girls were indeed lovely, as Clive noted when
he caught sight of their faces, some of them bewitchingly so. As these
women were often seen in the company of Az-al males, and others chatting
freely in gaggles, as girls of any land or tribe are want to do, Clive
guessed they had to be of the same species after all.
Clive and Simmons had seen
cities before on the surface, but Tarok and Jal-mar had not. They gazed
about in awe-struck wonder.
“I have heard tales of this place.”
Tarok murmured to Clive. “But I now realize I had no idea such a place
“It is truly wondrous.” said Simmons. “A
culture existing here, thriving beneath the very ocean of the inner-earth.
And the technology! Compared to the other cultures we’ve contacted with
so far, Clive, you can see that their level of technology far supersedes
“It’s an incredible place, I
“I’m not only talking about the architecture
of this city,” Alistair told him. “But you see that?”
Clive nodded. “For a moment it had
me fooled. I thought we must be back on the surface.”
“Exactly. What it is, I’m not
sure. Some kind of artificial sun. It must give out heat as well as serve
a light source for this fantastic undersea realm--”
The guard on Clive’s right interrupted
them “We have arrived at the palace.”
The palace was a huge and imposing
edifice of pink coral. They entered a vast hallway supported by fluted
columns. At the end of the hall, they found themselves in a great throne
room. There were several other guards here. On a great chair fashioned
of the same coral Sark, king of Az-al sat, an imposing figure, though one
grossly obese with layers and rolls of walrus-like fat above his bulging
paunch. His whiskers were of great length, his sagging jowls flabby,
his eyes were small, squinty and black. He surveyed the captives as they
were brought before him.
“What have you brought, Skurg?”
the king addressed one of the guards in common tongue. “More captives from
the surface? They look useless to me.”
“We found them in a small
raft on the borders of our country.” The guard addressed as Skurg was the
same one who had behaved so belligerently toward Clive and his fellow prisoners.
“I thought that they would bring a high price as slaves. The tailed man
is a suberb specimen of his race, and the gilaks are fairly good examples
of theirs as well.. I know the other man is a bit aged, but perhaps he
would do well in some kind of menial labor.”
Sarak waved a taloned paw in derision.
“We need no more slaves. I do not know why you bothered capturing them.”
“We lost no men in doing so,”
Skurg said in attempted defense. “I am certain--”
“Be silent.” said Sark. “The elder
captive I believe I might be able to use him as a palace servant. The younger
man and his companions I have no use for, but perhaps they shall provide
some entertainment in the arena.”
“Can we not speak for ourselves?”
Clive spoke suddenly.
“Silence when in our king’s presence,
captive!” Skurg ordered.
“Let him speak.” said Sark, narrowing his
eyes at Clive.
“Why do your people hold us captive
at all? Your city is down here, beneath the ocean, and we were merely passing
over the surface.”
“You were in our land nonetheless.”
said Sarak. “I did not wish for you and your companions to be brought here.
But it is Skurg’s right to capture you if you were intruding. No outlander
can be trusted.”
Clive realized that there was still
no trust among Pellucidar’s tribes, even among these people, who were so
far removed from the others. “We did not mean to intrude. We were merely
searching for a girl, my mate, who was lost to us.”
“There are many women in
Az-al, of many types and races. If you please me in the arena, you
may have as many as you desire.”
Clive himself was now angry, but did not
show it. “Who are we to fight against?”
“It depends. You may fight some of our champions,
or some of the beasts.”
“If you try to make us fight each other,
I will tell you now that we refuse.”
The king chuckled in cruel amusement.” You
are in no such position to decide. But you will not be fighting each other—at
least not at first. You must first be tested.”
“If we pass your test, may we
have our freedom?”
“You may not. You will have to be trained
in the arts of the arena. You will face many more challenges. But if you
do well, your life will be a most long and rewarding one.”
Clive and his companions
were taken away. They were led down a long hall, and down a flight of broad
stairs to a dungeon area. They were locked in a large cell with a number
of other prisoners. Most of these other prisoners were gilaks—humans, who
had somehow had the misfortune to fall in the Az-al’s clutches. They may
have been members of the various tribes who lived in the vicinity of the
Korsar-Az, and who depended on the sea as fishermen. Some were perhaps
members of the Korsars, others perhaps runaway slaves. They were a scruffy-looking
lot of men with black, blond or reddish hair. Most did not look like veteran
fighters, and were perhaps new recruits such as themselves. But there were
some Az-al warriors there as well; Clive guessed that these were criminals
of some sort, or else they were decent enough members of their race who
happened to have displeased their ruler. But he noticed almost immediately
that oen of their fellow prisoners was a sagoth.
He was a burly, thick-shouldered gorilla-man,
with glowering eyes beneath a heave brow-shelf. The fur which clothed his
massively-muscled arms was thick and sleek and bluish black with strains
of cobalt. Like most other members of his race, this particular sagoth
was over six feet in height. But he wore a woven vest and kilt that did
not appear of sagoth manufacture.
The door clanked shut behind
them. Clive heard a rattling of keys as the guards left them.
“What do we do now?” Jal-mar
asked of his human companions.
“I wish I knew.” Clive told him.
“What do you think?” Tarok said.
“We will all be trained to fight in the arena. We will fight until we are
killed. As we are seasoned warriors we will hopefully last long.”
“Ah, yes…”said Jal-mar. “My people
have a similar custom. “Two warriors must fight one another to determine
which will mate with a number of females in the tribe.”
“Yes, I remember.” Clive said, remembering
the Baraboo village. “But there has to be some way we can escape.”
Tarok sighed. “I almost admire your
optimism, even in such a dire predicament as this, my friend. But we are
captives in Az-al. We are now gladiatorial slaves. There is no escape for
us. Perhaps if we fight well and prosper, we will be rewarded by fine food
and women. I should perhaps forget about the girl you took as your mate.
She is lost to both of us now, but as the king told us, there are many
beautiful women among the slaves here.”
Clive was about to reply, when the
sagoth glowered at them. “So.” said he. “The king has sent us more champanions
for the games has he?”
Clive and his companions each
sat down against the wall of the cell opposite the sagoth and three men
next to him. Jal-mar brushed his pendulous tail out of the way.
Clive stared at the sagoth squarely. “Who might
you be?” he asked.
“My name is Mogor.” he said.
“I was recently captured too. King Sark told me he had need of a strong
warrior and fighter such as myself. Pah! I agree. There are far too many
weakling gilaks here as it is.”
“So gilaks are weaklings, are
we?” Tarok said, as glared at Mogor’s unlovely visage with narrowed eyes.
“Perhaps we can teach you different. We are warriors of Nu-al!”
“I have heard of the country
of Nu-al.” said the gorilla-man. “It boasts many strong and brave warriors.
But if you are suggesting that either of you is a match for one such as
myself, you are wrong.”
Tarok glowered at him, but held
his tongue for a moment, as he remembered that sagoths were, on average,
far surpassing in brute strength that of the average human warrior.
“How did you come to be here?”
“Yes,” Tarok agreed. “Tell us, if Mogor
is great a fighter as he boasts.”
“Until about two sleeps ago, I was
second in command Borak, the present Cid of Korsar.”
“But you are a sagoth.” said Tarok.
“Do not lie to us. Sagoths have nothing to do with gilaks, as you yourself
have as much as said. We are all weaklings, remember? Your people do nothing
except sell human captives into slavery to the Mahars for weapons or goods.”
A low growl issued from
deep within the gorilla-man’s throat. “The Korsars raided the village of
my people when I was but a cub. It was for female slaves who were already
captives of my people. The chief of my tribe refused to give up any of
the slaves, so the Korsar decided to take them by force. My entire tribe
“Except for you?” Clive asked.
“I, too, would have been killed, as the Cid’s
warriors spared no one, not even our shes, and my fellow younglings. I
still remember the swarthy, hawk-faced warrior who seized me, and made
to slash my throat. I struggled all I could, bit his arm clear to the bone.
He screamed, and was about to cut me down. But the Cid himself halted him,
and ordered my life to be spared. Because I was a feisty youngster mayhap,
and he saw some use for me.
“The Cid took me, dazed and bewildered,
under his wing. I grew up in the place of the Cid in Korsar. I had never
seen a city before, and I was awed upon my first arrival in Borak’s homeland.
But I soon grew used to my surroundings. Borak himself became my father.
He taught me everything about his people. I learned to read and write.
At times I was belligerent, and he ordered me beaten. For the most part
though, I believe that he developed a liking toward me, and actually treated
me as though I was his son. He had children of his own. But his harshness
toward me at times was not without reason. For as you might imagine I hated
him. I hated him with all my heart for what he had done to myself and my
people. I remembered forever what had happened to my real father and mother,
and I swore that I would repay Borak one day. Still, I grew to relish my
new life in Korsar. It was much more comfortable than the life I had known
in my home village. Borak gave me my own bedchamber with silken pillows.
But he had his most trusted warriors train me in the art of fighting. They,
too, could be harsh. But I learned quickly became a master of swordplay.
I wielded their strange metal weapons better than any of the Korsar themselves.
“My people grow more swiftly than yours,
and I was the equal in strength of any of the Cid’s warriors when many
of my former peers were still striplings. I soon could best any of Borak’s
finest, as I have said, gilaks are weaklings by comparison. As you might
expect, some of the Korsar younglings chided me for my race while we were
in training. But I had long put a stop to that. There was a time when I
killed one of my young peers, one who was particularly obnoxious, so I
tore his throat out with my fangs. Then I and one of my young friends hid
his body in a barrel. It was discovered of course, and everyone knew who
did it. I would have been killed then, had the Cid not come to my defense.
I should perhaps have been grateful to Borak, and as I grew I perhaps even
developed some sort of grudging affection for him. But the memory of what
he had done to my tribe still remained a fresh horror to me. I remained
true to my vow that I would kill him.
“I was a veteran warrior by now. The
other Korsars now accepted me as one of their own. I now had many friends
and companions among them. I learned the pleasures of Korsar rum, ten times
stronger than the crude brew made by my own people….and of gilak women.
In fact the thought of females of my own kind was by now repugnant to me.
I accompanied Borak and his warriors on his raids now, and grew accustomed
to life on the high sea. He ventured unto many far lands along the shores
of Korsar Az. We raided many human villages, and brought back many comely
shes. There were some tribes that had a pact with us, and traded with us
captives of war and other goods. My presence helped assure them that Borak
meant business, and would not hesitate to use force to persuade them, if
they ever thought of refusing us. And I had heard of a not-too-distant
land called Sari, whose inhabitants could make strange slivery weapons
like steel war clubs, but could spout fire and could kill foes from a great
distance. But of that fabled land we never saw, for I was told the former
Cid was once defeated by the Sarians, and he did not wish to repeat that
same mistake.” The gorilla man fell silent for a moment.
Alistair Simmons, who had been taking
all of Mogor’s story in, said abruptly, “You still haven’t told us how
you wound up here.”
Mogor looked at the old man squarely.
“We were on another of the Borak’s raiding parties. We had landed on a
distant shore, and set out searching for slaves to for Korsar, or to sell
to other tribes. We knew there were a number of gilak tribes in the area,
and Borak sent me out to find any gilak females that I could. I was to
then report to him, or steal one or more women if I could. My skills at
tracking are stronger than those of my human companions you see, and Borak
knows this well. I am also strong enough, that once I was even able to
bear off two strong young girls, one female under each arm.” Mogor gave
chuckle at this. He paused for a moment of reflection, then continued.
“But this time I happened upon the most beautiful young woman of your puny
race I had yet looked upon.” He gazed suddenly at Tarok as he said this
last, as though deliberately attempting to goad him. The young Nu-al warrior
turned fiercely red, but he said nothing. “As I told you, I am an expert
tracker, and the girl knew nothing of my presence-until it was too late,
of course. But I was still admiring her beauty when a zorag set upon her.”
Zorag. The word sliced through
Clive Neville’s memory. He had heard the Pellucidaran word before, and
recently, but for some reason, he couldn’t place it. But it somehow had
made him suddenly uneasy about the sagoth’s story. Why?
would have killed her too,” Mogor continued. “Had I not shown up in time.
Just as the zorag was upon the she, I killed the beast by jamming my spear
up into its brain. Of course, the girl did not appreciate entirely what
I had done for her—"
And in a flash, Clive knew, saw the
entire story before his eyes before Mogor had even finished telling them
his tale. Zorag—that was what Tarok had called the beast they had
dead, slain by a warrior’s spear when they were searching for his mate,
the Princess Jahlanna. They had located the fleeing girl’s prints, had
identified the beast pursuing her as a zorag, one of the brutes which prof.
Simmons had identified as a missing link between land mammals and whales.
The beast had indeed been slain in the very manner Mogor had just described.
And the tracks indicating the slayer had then pursued and abducted the
Princess had indeed looked like those of a sagoth.
“—and she resisted my advances.
Of course, I had been ordered by Borak to turn over any female captives
I might find to him at once. But this particular girl I intended to take
for myself. This much I told her, but still she resisted She did not outdistance
me for long, however. But the Borak and his warriors found us before I
could recapture her, and I was forced to abandon my plan. But not for long.
I had by then decided to take the girl as my own, even though the Cid himself
decided to make her his personal mate. But the Cid’s former mate, a fierce
and pantherish lass named Korsar lass named Nasheema, was very jealous
of the girl. Then, during one of the sleeps, I lay awake, and patiently
waited for Nasheema to try to gain her revenge on the girl. I took advantage
of the situation, and the girl and I fled the ship in one of the boats.”
Clive Neville felt rage suddenly surge
within him. But he struggled to keep it from his voice. “What happened
to her?” he found himself demanding suddenly. “Where is this girl now?”
For a moment, he felt unsure whether
Mogor had noted the sudden anger in his voice. But the man-ape’s leathery
visage was impossible for him to read.
“We were well away from Borak’s
ship during the sleep period, and the ship was bound for Korsar. Naturally
I made in the opposite direction, heading for a wild stretch of coastline
where we could disappear into the forest without fear of capture. Still,
the young she let me know that she utterly despised me, as she would have
despised any member of my race. But I would have made certain she would
come to appreciate me, know you that! Hah! The two of us would begin a
new tribe, a whole new race once we had fled far enough. My own plans to
kill the Cid who had murdered my tribe were gone. Jahlanna and I would
be parents of a new nation, and I would make her my queen.”
Clive bristled as Mogor actually used
the Princess’s name. He glanced at the others, and realized that they knew
as well, had known ever since the sgoth got to the part where he had saved
the girl form the zorag. He saw that Tarok was growing very red, doubtless
at the mention of starting a new race with a woman of his tribe. What Tarok
was feeling now went far beyond a mere rivalry over potential mate—it was
his entire race against that of Mogor’s But none of Clive’s companions
said anything. Jal-mar’s own primitive visage remained impassive, but Clive
guessed he had begun to realize what had occurred at the same time the
“It was not to be, though.”
Mogor said. “For a great Tandor-az attacked our boat. I fought the beast
as best I could with my considerable warrior’s skill. I nonetheless believed
both myself and my new mate lost, if a party of these sea-beings had not
happened upon us at that very moment. They fell upon the thrashing saurian
and slew it. The girl and I were captured, and taken to this city beneath
the waves. She was taken from me of course, to be sold as a slave. These
fish-faces underestimate me though, just as Borak and the Korsars did.
I will escape soon, I will find the girl. And I will take her as my own
Clive swallowed thickly, forcing down
his rage. But then he thought of what Mogor had said--that Jahlanna was
here in the city! She was here now!
“What if some Az-al noble
has already purchased this girl?” he asked Mogor. “Remember, she is to
be sold as a slave.”
“Hah!” the sagoth growled. “Mogor
will find the weakling and kill him. I do not yet know how, but I shall
find a way soon enough. As long as I live, nothing in Pellucidar or beneath
the Korsar Az will keep me from her.”
Clive remembered uncomfortably how
Mogor had referred to Jahlanna as his “new mate”. Had this coarse brute
actually gotten his grimy paws on her? If he had—"
Just then there was a rattling of keys. The
door swung upon, and the seated prisoners looked up at once as two Az-al
soldiers entered. “Enough talk, prisoners! On your feet! It is time for
The prisoners rose.
“What about Simmons?” Clive asked, pointing out his friend, the aged professor.
The guards looked at Alistair,
noting that the man was too old to be of much amusement in the arena. “You
are correct, my red-furred friend.” one of them said. “He must be the one
the king sent for.”
“What do you mean?” Clive
“He is beyond the age for
combat, so King Sark has other duties for him to perform.”
“What other duties?” Clive wanted to
The guard shrugged. “Only the
king knows. Perhaps he needs a new palace servant. In any event it is no
concern of yours, slave.”
The guards took hold of the professor,
and gently prodded him with their spears. “Come along.”
“Don’t worry about me, my boy.”
Simmons told. “I am certain I will be fine. The king must have some use
for me, and he realizes I would likely be wasted if I were in your shoes.
Just remember to come looking for me when you find the means to escape.”
“There is no escape, old man.” The
guard opined. “For you or for your companions.” The guard led Simmons away.
His companion turned to the other prisoners."
“The rest of you new captives come
with me—that includes you sagoth! And do not defy us again.”
Mogor got to his feet. He was an imposing
near six foot four inches. “I won’t—for now.”
“Still your insolent tongue, beast-man!”
said the guard. “I’ll have you know my spear is fitted with a stun-generator.”
Mogor made no reply, but Clive could
sense he was inwardly still mocking the guard. He had already developed
more than a bit of respect for the shaggy gorilla-man.
prodded their backs, and they moved out of the door and down the hall and
then through more corridors. Clive found himself wondering about Allistair.
Was the old man safe? He supposed that he was, but still he could not help
but worry some about him. He and the professor had been through so much
They came abruptly
to a door. The guard unlocked it, and he and the captives entered a small
deep arena. There were bleachers above for a small, perhaps private audience
but all the seats were empty at present. There were all sorts of weapons
laying around—maces, morning stars, swards, daggers, tridents, all fashioned
from the strange copperish alloy favored by the Az-al. The new recruits
were told to pick up the weapons. Clive chose a short sward which he thought
suited him. Four Az-al soldiers entered the arena from a door opposite.
Their training began. The arena served as
a gym for training. They were taught all the arts of gladiatorial combat.
Clive was forced to spar with his friends Tarok, and Jal-mar. And with
Mogor. He found the burly sagoth’s strength, not surprisingly, to far exceed
that of a human warrior. But all the time he could not help his thoughts
straying to his mate, Jahlanna, and that she was here in the city at this
The training continued for an interminable
time, It might have lasted weeks, maybe months of surface time—who knew?
In this hidden city buried deep beneath a fathomless prehistoric ocean
in a world inside the earth’s core, it was impossible to tell. But during
the period, Clive found himself growing stronger and fitter. Already since
entering the realm of eternal daylight he had grown sleek and muscular
through the hardships and adventures that had immediately occurred. But
here his strength was tempered into that of a veteran fighter.
They were forced to use the arts of all the
weapons. How to thrust to merely wound or disable a humanoid opponent,
or to kill him. How to the chain mail net to blind an opponent. How to
affect shield and parry an attack. They were taught to fight on dry land,
and immersed in water as well. This they found to be the most difficult.
Jal-mar’s and Mogor’s fur was not waterproof, and it had to be sheared
short before they could begin. Soon, however, they were able to maneuver
themselves while swimming with great ease, thanks to their veteran instructors.
Vents opened in roof of the arena, and flooded it with water. And they
were taught the art of fighting beast and monsters as well. Once a marine
mammal was turned loose in the arena—an az-lurg or danalystis. They killed
the beast easily, but were told many larger and more ferocious monsters
And then, a dozen sleep-times later, they were
told they were ready, and would now perform before the city’s aristocracy.
They were led to their
training arena. The vents in the ceiling opened, and once more, streams
of water cascaded down. Clive and his companions had been fitted with translucent
headgear of clear crystal which served the same purpose as a diver’s helmet.
On their backs were strapped the large, coiled shells of prehistoric cephalopods,
which served as breathing tanks. Breathing apparatuses covered their mouths,
and tubes ran from them from the headgear into the shells.
Water slowly filled the arena. Once they were completely
beneath it, the guards opened a small door, one they all that taken note
of before, but never used. He opened this and the newly recruited gladiators
were ushered through it and down its dim length. At the end of the tunnel
was another Az-al guard, who subsequently opened the door into another,
far larger enclosure. Light blazed from it.
Clive and his companions swam into the light.
They gasped. For a moment, he thought the source of the overhead brilliance
to emanate from the noonday sun of Pellucidar, yet that was hardly likely
this far beneath the Korsar Az. He could not really make out its source,
but it was clear they arena they were now in was much larger that the once
that had served them in training. Like the one they had just quit, the
floor was smooth and sandy. The arena was circular in shape. But the slopes
that rose smoothly lacked any visible tiers. Instead, what looked like
huge, translucent bubbles packed together floated suspended above were
the eats should be. Within these weird bubbles were the audience members,
relaxing in laid-back sitting positions. Most of them were Az-al. There
were families, children, men and women, and again Clive noted the striking
contrast between the male and female members of this most extraordinary
race—something his friend Prof. Simmons would have called “sexual dimorphism”,
he thought. It expressed itself in both the men and the women, the boys
and the girls. One particular bubble was larger than the rest. In it, there
sat King Sark himself, surrounded by a mass of his courtiers and nobles.
They were all draped resplendently, in silks of crimson and purple, and
fantastic jewelry of shells and corals. Clive’s gaze roved amongst them
to see is he could discern the fair face and shapely form of his love.
But if Princess Jahlanna was anywhere among them, he did not see her. It
did catch his eye however, that an attractive and shapely female of his
species was positioned in the bubble next to the King of the Merans. She
was shapely and well-formed, with smooth, tanned limbs. Her ample breasts
were concealed with strips of tandor hide. Her face, even from this distance,
he could see was proud and haughty, not unlike Jahlanna herself. But unlike
the glossy ebon tresses of the Nu-al girl, this girl’s locks were the color
of ripe and unshorn wheat. And they were braided in manner that reminded
slightly of the maids of the Norse folk in his own world. Certainly, she
was no Az-al. Even from his own postion, Clive could tell the girl was
proudly avoiding any contact with the king, who was obviously her captor.
She did not once glance at Sark’s bristled face. Clive could somehow sense,
even from this distance, that there was a visible sneer on King Sark’s
The light from the unknown source flooded
the arena, and everything was lit with a wavering, sea-green luminance
that bathed everything from the sand to the arena walls to the massed spectators.
There was a signal from King
Sark in the form of a raised finger. On the far side of the arena, another
door slowly slid back.
The new combatants tensed. What new
horror was to emerge to meet their challenge for their captor’s callous
There was a moment of tense anticipation,
as all their eyes focused squarely on that patch of blackness.
And there glided forth into the
arena thirty feet of scaled reptilian horror.
Clive’s blue eyes grew wide above his
breather. At first he assumed the beast to be a monstrously large crocodile.
But he saw this was no croc such as the surface world had known in many
millions of years. For one thing, it was quite a few feet longer than any
croc ever had a right to be. For another, every thing from the sleek celerity
of its movement, to its stunted limbs which had atrophied into flippers
and its thrashing shark-finned tail told him here was a crocodile that
had given up land-dwelling in some remote age, and taken on a life that
was entirely aquatic. When told of this adventure, Professor Simmons correctly
identified the beast as the metriorynchus of the Triassic age, one of the
first true sea-crocodiles, an order of crocodilian that had returned to
existence in the deep.
At the moment, however, Clive cared
nothing for whatever the reptile’s scientific nomenclature might be; his
only instinct was to make certain he and his comrades survived. Even though
he had little love of Mogor and vice versa, all of them were into the same
Clive sense an inaudible murmur from
the audience as the beast slowly circled them. Its miniature brain had
already classified them as either potential threats or as possible edibles,
and he could tell the monster was sizing them up. The sheer size of the
monster reptile was unnerving. Clive had seen sharks in an aquarium once,
and he was reminded of that here, as the monster glided before his awed
gaze through the wavering translucent jade. Only there was no secure glass
pane separating himself from the scaled behemoth. The thing’s snout alone
was nearly six feet in length and it gaped to reveal a very large array
of savage teeth set in rows.
Clive held his spear at the ready,
waiting for am attack.
And then, of a sudden, it came!
The beast struck, flashing through
the water toward him, fang bristling jaws wide. Clive maneuvered out of
reach. The beak-like jaws of the saurian snapped shut, disgorging a chain
of watery bubbles. Sensing the sudden opening, Clive paddled forward furiously
in a sudden lunge, thrusting his spear deep into the monster’s side where
the neck met with the shoulder. This, he remembered from the training,
was the most vulnerable portion of a saurian at close range.
The beast bellowed in fury, disgorging
a cloud of bubbles. Its mighty finned tail whipped about, its dorsal spade
slamming into Clive, sending the man off-balance. He was sent hurtling
toward the far wall. The man shook his head to clear his senses. His spear,
it seemed had merely partially wounded the leviathan, and it had been knocked
from his grasp. It lay on the sandy floor, a few feet from him.
Realizing the utter vulnerability of
his situation, Clive dived forward for it. He regained his weapon, and
looked up. Thick, oily purple-mauve blood was pouring from the monster’s
wound, clouding the arena. He had half-expected to see the huge reptile
lashing down upon him once again. But the beast had turned its attentions
upon his three companions who were now fighting for their lives. Mogor
had managed to drive the tip of his spear into the beast’s underbelly.
The mighty sea-croc was lashing terrifically sending waves shuddering through
the arena. Jal-mar and Tarok had just been thrown clear be the beast’s
convulsions. The sagoth seeded to have located a vulnerable spot on the
reptilian. Given the massive strength of the gorilla-man, Clive reasoned
dazedly that perhaps the reptile had met his match, and in a few moments
Mogor would prevail.
But something made Clive’s eyes stray
to the arena door. Once again, it was sliding back! Apparently Sark had
decided the match was at an end and had already decided to loose some fresh
horror upon them.
Into the Meran arena there undulated
fantastic terror. Clive had seen nothing like it on earth or within it;
it was not a reptile, though he had expected another of Pellucidar’s huge
marine saurians. It resembled a monstrous insect or arachnid more than
anything he could place. It had a long tubular body, segmented like that
of a millipede, terminating in a single fearsome pincer-like claw.
A series of jointed legs tipped with paddles sprouted on either side, six
on each. Huge compound eyes like weird clusters of facets of green jewels
were set on either side of what passed for its head. Fearsome claws, as
of some colossal scorpion thrust out in front of it, obviously the function
of which was to rend and dismember prey. Dizzily, Clive actually thought
he half-remembered seeing a restoration of a monster such as this one in
his boyhood, pictured in a schoolbook illustration of prehistoric life—something
that was supposed to have lived millions of years before the dinosaurs,
at a time when all life was still confined to the sea. Had Professor
Simmons been present at that moment, he had have identified the creature
as megalatraptus, one of the species of true sea-scorpion of the Ordivician,
a full four hundred million years in the surface world’s primordial past.
But at the moment, none of that mattered;
the beast was zooming straight toward the enbattled sagoth and thrashing
The sea-croc had in that moment,
managed to cast the sagoth from him; even the brutish strength of gorilla-man
gave out, and he was hurtled across the arena. The reptile, tenacious of
life as was all his reptilian breed, would have doubtless have turned his
frenzy upon Clive and other gladiators in that incident. But in that selfsame
moment, the monstrous scorpion was upon him!
Perhaps drawn by the scent of blood,
the pincer-clawed monstrosity ignored the puny man-things, and clashed
terrifically with the wounded saurian. The two primordial monsters locked
immediately in furious combat, each seeking to rend and dismember the other.
Clive and the others swam to a safe distance as the battle raged.
The sea croc managed to wrench off one of
the scorpion’s pincer-clawed arms. Weird, greenish ichor seeped forth from
the severed limb to mingle with the reptilian gore of the saurian. The
arthropod coiled it segmented body about the mailed length of its’ tormentor,
and began ripping into its foe with its other claw.
But then, at that very moment,
something totally unexpected occurred.
A motion above caused Clive to
turn his gaze toward the audience. King Sark had unexpectedly thrust the
blond-haired slave girl through the bubble. There was a strange popping
sound as she was thrust through. Down, down into the arena the thrashing
form of the girl drifted.
Downward toward the enabattled
Acting almost simultaneously, Clive
paddled furiously in the direction of the girl. He seized her up in her
arms before she could be torn apart by the slashing predators. The surface
man felt the girl’s slim arms around his neck, his arms under her thighs.
He streaked away, the waves incurred by the battling brutes providing push.
Once at a relatively safe distance, he had the girl watched while the battle
raged on, she still clutched securely in his embrace.
The primordial sea-titans continued
to slash and tear at one another, until each had succumbed to the other’s
fury, and the arena was fogged by their ichorous blood.
The girl looked up at Clive.
For a moment, he was spellbound by the closeness and beauty of her face.
For he could see that she was undoubtedly beautiful, this girl, with a
face that might have belonged to an angel or a Valkerie, with small, softly
delicate features, and wide, slanted almond eyes of a deep China-blue.
Pencil-thin eyebrows arched elegantly over thick lustrous lashed. And she
was gazing deeply mesmerizingly into his own, the male who had just snatched
her from the jaws and pincers of doom. In a daze, he felt her remove his
glass helmet, then felt his breather removed from his mouth.
Then the girl placed each of her slim-fingered
hands on either side of the face of her rescuer, and drew his naked lips
to her mouth in a long, warm, and passionate kiss.
Clive was suddenly caught up as within
a dream. He suddenly awakened from his reverie to the realization that
the girl was without a breather, that King Sark had thrown her out of the
bubble—which doubtless contained air suitable for surface-breathers—on
the supposition that she would be killed.
He quickly drew her away, and placed the
breathing device over the girl’s own lips. She tried to push it away, as
though she did not wish to live, but Clive held it there securely.
And above them, in the audience,
a certain young princess felt her heart rent asunder.
The guards came and used them out of
the gore-clouded arena, through the tunnel and back into the training arena.
They paddled to the surface, and gaped
for air, Clive making certain to raise the girl’s head above the flood.
She gasped, drinking air through her pretty lips, her blond hair plastered
on each side.
The water drained from the arena. Clive was
still clutching the girl in his arms. But then two of the Az-al guards
came and wrenched her from him, dragging her off. He tried to stop them,
but more Az-al halted him with upraised spears fitted with stunners.
They were escorted back to their cell.
Later, however, they were told that they had fought well, and to the great
amusement of King Sark. The king had apparently enjoyed the last part he
most, when he had rescued the slave girl.
“Where is the girl now?” Clive asked.
“That is not your concern.” Skurg replied.
“It is, for I rescued her. Why did
the king wish her to die?”
“You will hold your tongue. But in
answer to your question, no, the King did not wish her to die. He was merely
testing your skill. I believe that he may have wished some of you to die.
He often likes it when at least one man is killed. But your performance
pleased him greatly nonetheless. You are to be rewarded greatly. That is
the news I have brought.”
Clive was still unsure what Skurg meant.
They followed Skurg through a series of corridors
until they arrived in a section of the palace they had not before seen.
They were each given suite-like rooms, which, they were told, would be
their new quarters as long as they continued to be good gladiators. There
were still guards posted at the end of the hall, so they were, technically,
still prisoners. But the rooms were each a vast improvement over their
former confines. There were comfortable beds with linen like sheets, as
well as chairs and other accommodations. In addition to their private quarters
there was also a common room where they could meet, and socialize, and
another spacious room that served as another gym for their training.
They were also told that they could
now have a mate of their choosing, if they so desired. They could choose
among the many female slaves sold in the city market. When he asked if
the yellow-haired slave girl would be there, he was told that no, she was
a member of King Sark’s private harem.
Arrangements were made, and they were ushered
out into the bustling city of Az-al, and to the local slave market.