The great beast swam through the turgid
depths of the primordial ocean. The monster resembled a living nightmare.
It was essentially a twenty-ton version of the great white shark of the
oceans of the upper world. The Pellucidarans know the creature as the zarith-az,
which roughly translates “tyrannosaurus rex of the ocean.” And an apt name
it is, since it is by far the most fearsome predator beneath Pellucidar's
This particular zarith-az however,
had had a severe bit of misfortune lately. It was in fact, the selfsame
monster who had swallowed alive and whole Tarok, the stalwart warrior of
Nu-al, and Valkara, the blond warrior maid of the unmapped northlands near
the polar opening.
The young man and woman were at this
moment trapped within the massive stomach of the behemoth. They still lived,
though the stench of rotting fish and half-digested plesiosaur flesh was
nearly overwhelming. There was just enough air for them both to breath.
Tarok, course warrior of his tribe that he was, began to hack and slash
with his flint knife through the tough, rubbery walls of the super-shark’s
stomach. Valkara used her own dagger, and the two of them began hacking
their way out.
The mighty predator bucked and thrashed,
at the sudden agony slashing at him from his innards.
A stream of purple-red blood poured
forth from the beast’s jaws. The charcarodon megalodon, as science knows
this terrifying predator of the ancient world, was itself capable of picking
up the scent of blood from leagues away. Other predators too, however,
are capable of scenting spilled blood as well, if their senses are not
nearly so finely honed as this top predator of the Paleolithic ocean.
Every marine hunter in the vicinity,
it seemed, could sense that the Terror of the Ocean had succumbed. Already
plesiosaurs, pliosaurs, sea-crocodiles, monstrous predatory fish, and others
were closing in upon the stricken leviathan, as it thrashed its titanic
The marine scavengers converged upon the
zarith-az in an incredible feeding frenzy that lashed the waters to rich
Meantime, Tarok and Valkara were hacking
their way out through the shark’s cartilaginous ex-skeleton.
By now, their task was made a bit easier
as the scavengers were at the same time ripping gobs of pink flesh away.
As the man and woman sliced themselves
free, the struggled to emerge from the Newly opened gash in the side of
the shark—and were faced with the multitude of thrashing saurian jaws and
necks. They fought off the predator with their knives, Valkara slashing
the snake-like neck of a plesiosaur as it made slashing grab for her.
Once clear of the reptilian fangs,
they swam for the surface, as the scavengers finished the rest of the gigantic
They were, unfortunately, far beneath
the surface of the Korsar Az, and reaching the distant surface seemed near-impossible.
Slowly the glitter of the surface became visible, yet agonizingly far off.
They had gulped what measure of foul air they could while imprisoned within
the stomach of the monster.
It was when they were nearly there
that Valkara fainted. Tarok seized her in his arms. It took a vast effort
to bear the unconscious girl to the surface, but at last his head broke
free in to the merciful light of eternal noon.
He refilled his tortured lungs with mighty
Herculean gasp. He struggled to keep the girl’s head above the surface
They were still out in the vast ocean,
and for a moment he thought they might as well have perished in the belly
of the zarith-az.
But then there occurred a seeming miracle
to his eyes. A large and heavy branch bobbed and floated nearby. With a
cry he splashed to it, dragging the semi-conscious girl with him. He seized
the log. Valkara gasped and spat. Tarok held her, helped her grasp the
log, as slowly her eyes cleared. They both looked around.
The branch, a gift from the gods themselves,
it seemed to Tarok, proved the existence of land somewhere nearby.
Yes! There it was.
The coast was much less than a league distant. He could see the sandy beach,
and the dark for of a vast, and forbidding forest, and the hills and mountains
Still, it seemed
horribly far away from where they were stranded.
But they had little choice to make for it. Once
they had rested and filled their lungs, the young warrior and the girl
began stroking, using the great branch as a make shift boat. The journey
seemed dreadfully long to the both of them, but a long last, they felt
their feet brush the sandy bottom. They both dragged themselves through
the crashing white-capped surf, and onto the hard sandy shore, to collapse
there in blessed relief.
When both had recovered sufficiently,
Tarok and Valkara got to their feet, and surveyed their surroundings. Exactly
how far they had come from where they had left Clive and the others neither
could say. But they were still along the same stretch of coastline. To
Tarok the country of Nu-al seemed very far away. The unknown forest rose
dark and dreadsome before them, its depths filled with the promise of unknown
“Where are we?” Valkara asked him.
“I do not know. My own land is far form here.
But I must first find Clive Neville and the others. I see now that I should
have talked him and the old man out of his mad journey. But a warrior does
not abandon his friends, unless he is certain they are no longer living.”
Valkara turned upon him. “Clive?
I am in love with him. He cannot be dead.”
“I fear he may be.” Tarok gave her
an ironic smile. “I do not wish it, but if so, it will serve a certain
advantage to me.”
“Why is that?”
“So I may take his mate of course.
Clive—a strange name that is!—did best me once in battle, but he only got
lucky. Jahlanna, his mate, still has feeling for me I can tell. While it
would not be honorable to wish the man dead, but if that is true then the
girl will be mine.”
Anger suddenly flashed in Valkara’s ice-blue
eyes. “Dead? Do not suggest to me that he’s dead, you son of a jalok! Clive
told me he was heading for Sari—once ashore he will head in that country’s
direction, and so will I. Valkara does not wish to accompany you.”
The girl turned and strode haughtily
up the beach toward the waiting forest.
Tarok gazed vacantly after her. The
warrior had originally considered scouting southward along the fringe of
beach. But he could hardly allow a female, even a warrior female to venture
into the unknown without a man to protect her. Valkara was not an unattractive
girl either, although her sudden anger surprised him some. And the girl
seemed to know in which direction the country lay. Just what she might
know about Sari, Tarok could not even guess, but he might as well take
He started after the girl,
and soon the dark jungle swallowed them both.
Once she realized
the man was following, Valkara turned upon Tarok. “I told you I did not
wish to be accompanied.”
“So you did. But I cannot allow a mere
girl to traverse the way to Sari by herself.”
Her eyes flashed icy fire once again.
“All are warriors within my tribe, man,” She hissed. “As you will soon
find out if you attempt to follow me. I do not which to slit you open as
we did the zarith-az. But will not hesitate to do so either.” With a swirl
of her gold tresses, she was off again.
Tarok waited and allowed himself to fall
behind. Then he followed, musing wryly to himself. Valkara had become smitten
with Clive, of course, and though he did care for her threats and insults,
she was behaving typical for a truly smitten female.
Unknown to both of them however, was
that another denizen was stalking the jungle in their vicinity. This one
happened to be one of the most dreaded and ferocious predators of Pellucidar,
the mighty gargor. Though the name of this beast appears nowhere within
Burroughs’ “fictional” accounts of this incredible world within the world’s
hollow center, the gargor, from the description of the beast given by Tarok’s
own account, resembles nothing so much as the gorgonops of the Triassic,
the top predator of its own vanished surface era. A mighty therapsid, or
mammal-like reptile, the gargor is in fact warm-blooded, but for all outward
appearances resembles a gigantic lizard in the body region, with a monstrous
head resembling a cross between a fanged serpent and a saber-toothed tiger.
This particular gargor was prowling
the jungle in search of helpless prey to fill its constantly ravenous belly.
It measured fully twenty feet in length from the tip of its tail to it
blunt, dog-like snout—and that is quite an amount of saurian.
And it was soon after Valkara
stormed angrily off into the forest depths that the gigantic reptile caught
the sent of woman. Sensing prey, it scuttled monstrously in the girl’s
Valkara head was still sizzling with
thoughts of Tarok’s “insults”, and his suggestion that the man she loved
might have perished that she was nearly upon the giant reptile before she
was aware of it.
The monster emerged from the saying
fern-fronds before her.
She backed up raising her knife to fend the
beast off. But what a flimsy flint knife could do beyond enrage a monster
such as this she had not the slightest notion.
The monster plodded leisurely forward,
backing the girl against a tree. The mighty-fanged jaws gaped in anticipation
of this hot meal of soft-firm girlflesh. Valkara found herself starring
horrible down the gargor’s moist, crimson gullet.
Tarok, of course, heard the girl’s
cry and the monster-reptile’s thunderous hissing, and he rushed to her
rescue. As he emerged into a small jungle clearing, the terrible tableau
that greeted the Nu-al warrior was this one. The blond girl was back against
the mighty bole of a forest giant. In front of her: a terrible hissing
reptile, jaws agape, which he instantly recognized as a gargor.
Instantly, and with a savage war-cry,
Tarok rushed the great reptile, stone ax held aloft. The monster swerved
to face him, red gullet exposed and hissing. The beast rushed forward with
a hideous speed which belied its awesome size. But such monsters were commonplace
in Tarok’s world and the young cave-warrior swiftly dodged the lunge
of the predator. The gargor’s mighty fangs—each larger than those of a
tarag---sliced empty air.
Tarok leapt upon the monster’s scaly
back and brought his ax smashing down upon the huge blunt skull.
The blow was a shattering
one. But the vitality of the reptilian are not to be taken lightly; the
monster lunged sideways, throwing the warrior from it onto his back among
the moss and creepers.
“No!” Valkara shrieked.
With a hissing screech, the gargor
pinned the man under a clawed forefoot.
In that instant she demonstrated
her people’s warrior skills as she dashed madly forward.
“Got off him, you filthy lizard!” With
a thrust of her capable wrist, Valkara plunged her knife deep into the
monster’s eye. The gargor went mad thrashing and bucking in pain and agony.
The reptilian body smashed against her sending her crashing against the
tree, knocking the wind from her.
Valkara struggled to her feet, but already the
monster was bolting in her direction. Tarok still lay where he’d fallen,
prone and insensible.
But at that moment a cry sounded from
above. A fur-pelted manlike form flew down upon the gargor, driving a spear-shaft
into the place where the neck joined with the body. A chorus of loud, bestial
cries sounded form the trees above, and a storm of other such shapes rained
down into the clearing, spearing the gorgonops. The mighty mammal-like
reptile thrashed around at its inhuman attackers, the mighty tail taking
out a few of them. But at last the mighty-tusked predator whined and sank
lifelessly into the rotting jungle floor.
Dazedly, Valkara got the first look
at their rescuers: They were human enough in form though covered in matted
fur. There was nothing remotely human regarding their heads at all, however.
Their hideous faces resembled those of dogs crossed with gargantuan rats—not
too unsimilar, in fact to the heads of jaloks, or hyeanodons, which, though
doglike predators, have a somewhat rodent-like appearance about them as
well. The necks of these beings sported slight manes of fur as well, not
unlike jaloks’ manes. Their muzzles were elongated and filled with bestial
fangs. Their furred and sinewy arms terminated in hands equipped with talons.
In their hands they bore stone axes, spears and cudgels. Crude and filthy
loincloths were the only clothing articles they wore.
Tarok was rising to his feet, staring
in a daze at their bizarre new captors—if captors they should prove.
One of the jalok-men—as Valkara had
now mentally dubbed them—turned and rasped something to one of his companions.
The other appeared to answer. Though Valkara could understand nothing of
what had just passed between them, it was clear that these creatures spoke
in no human tongue—it sounded only like a series of growls and coughing
barks to her.
But the creatures understood each other well
enough for the one spoken too seize Tarok by his shock of black-tressed
head and brought his cudgel down sharply against the young warrior’s skull.
Valkara shrieked in protest, but Tarok
was out cold. Then, at the command of the leader of the Jalok-men her own
and Tarok’s wrists were bound, and they were marched off into the forest
The beast-men marched their captives for
what seemed like miles and miles. All the while the forest about them grew
thicker and wilder. At last, in the midst of a gloomy stretch of forest
where the branches above interwove to block out the glorious sun, they
reached a village.
Tarok and Valkara were marched through
what passed for the village’s streets. There were many other beast-folk
about, including women and children. The latter growled and snapped, hostile
at the two captive gilaks, some even venturing to prod them cruelly with
sticks, their elders having to shoo them away. The women of this bizarre
race had a curious arrangement of breast; like most of Pellucidar’s human
tribes, they exposed them freely; but what was curious was that each mature
female bore one pair of prominent mammaries, while underneath ran a series
of successively smaller dugs not unlike those possessed by female carnivores.
There were elders as well, mostly sitting cross-legged and engaged in menial
tasks, their manes of fur gray and grizzled with age. They were marched
to what they assumed was the hut of the chief, larger than the rest.
Inside, they were brought before a
beast-man who happened to be far uglier, even then his fellows, reclining
upon a huge throne built entirely from human and animal bones. The grinning
skulls of saurians and mammals hung suspended from above. This fellow sported
several seemingly ingrown and broken tusklike fangs. One of his eyes was
missing, replaced by a red-purple ruin, the effect of some long ago battle,
the other slitted and rat-like. The chief—if indeed such was this hideous
personage—snarled visibly at them, the folds of his bewhiskered muzzled
drawing back from the hideous array of fangs in an unwelcoming snarl.
Tarok felt the girl clutch suddenly
at his arm, and he smiled inwardly in spite of their predicament.
The jalok-men warriors
made some barking comments to one another, and then to their chief. Tarok
and Valkara could still make out nothing of their strange language—it sounded
like nothing more than grunts and chirruping barks to them. But the chief
seemed to be called Gurf. And the warrior who addressed him was Rurl.
At length it seemed decided what should
be done with the two prisoners. They were then herded through the village
to the edge of a deep open pit. Tarok and Valkara gazed worriedly within.
It was a rectangular dirt pit. At the opposite end, was an entrance of
some sort, with a heavy wood grating. A sudden roar, as of some unknown
predator of the jungle, issued from this.
At that moment, both the prisoners
realized their fate.
“Oh, Tarok!” cried Valkara. “Wh-what
“It sounds like a tarap.” He replied.
“What is that?” she asked. Apparently such
as the mighty tarap were not native to her own country, which she claimed
lay far to the north.
“It is a terrible beast.” Tarok said.
“These things seem to intend for us to end up within the belly of one.”
Valkara gasped, and drew nearer to
him. She seemed to have been on the edge of imploring him for his protection
at that moment. But then she drew back, seeming to recover her haughty
pride. “Then they shall see how a warrior maid does battle,” she said.
“Yes,” agreed Tarok. “Let us
show them how warriors face death. But I am not sure if they intend to
allow us weapons.”
“If they do not, they are merely killing
“Indeed they are, for the tarap are huge
and savage monsters—only a very skilled warrior can hope to kill one.”
They noticed that there was a thick
wooden framing around the edge of the pit. There was a platform on the
other end, and above this was suspended a huge brass gong. At that moment,
two of the jalok-warriors struck the gong repeatedly. The booming of the
gong reverberated trough the village. Tarok and Valkara looked around as
the courtyard surrounding the pit began to fill with villagers, summoned
hither by the striking of the gong.
Much to the relief of the two captives,
both were accorded spears. They were then made to stand upon a platform
attached to a crude pulley system, attached to the scaffolding. Standing
on it thus, the captives were swung out over the pit itself, and then lowered
down into it.
They stepped off, and the platform
Tarok and Valkara looked up.
Jalok warriors, as well as some of their women and children were now surrounding
the edge of the pit. The hideous Gurf was there as well, still seated upon
his macabre throne. Four of his servants had brought him, throne and all,
for this “entertainment.” The beast-men began pounded their spears,
and uttering hoarse, barking coughs in anticipatory unison.
Then, with a raise of a taloned hand, Gurf
barked a short command. The wood grating drew up. The cough-barking crowd
From that rectangular aperture of blackness
twin emerald blotches burned lambently forth. Two great coughing snarls
Then the beast itself emerged into
the muted sunlight.
Valkara shuddered and nearly screamed,
involuntarily seizing her companions’ arm once again. For the beast was
even more huge and deadlier in appearance than she had even anticipated.
From descriptions related later to professor
Simmons and Clive Neville, the beast, although called a tarap, did not
appear to be the same species as the great mammalian predator slain by
Clive and Jal-mar when they had rescued the cave-maiden Jahlanna. While
indeed the beast was similar, and known by the same name by the Pellucidarans,
there were differences. Like the other beast that shared its name, the
monster resembled a cross between a lion a wolf and a hyenas in size, crammed
into a hulking body the size of a half-grown elephant. But while the beast
Clive saved Jahlanna from was probably identifiable with the creodont magistotherium,
a possible forerunner of modern carnivores, this creature, according to
Professor Simmons, is much more likely identified as Andrewsarchus, which
was actually a condylarth, a genus of gigantic carnivorous mammals which
were the unlikely relatives of modern porpoises and whales. The most striking
difference separating the two monsters, was that this beast’s jaws, though
somewhat wolf-like, were grotesquely elongated, reaching almost crocodilian
proportions in relation to its body. And instead of the huge claws of the
magistotherium, the andrewsarchus bore upon each toe and huge and heavy
hoof. Here was a species of ancient predatory carnivore which specialized
in running down its victims with hoofed feet of its own!
Such a beasts seemed
a scientific anomaly, but both the gilak captives identified the monster
as death incarnate.
The extremity of the gigantic muzzle
drew back in a terrible snarl, thick wads of saliva oozing from the giant
fangs. The beast shouldered into the small dirt arena toward its prey.
To the girl Valkara, it seemed a veritable hill of fur and fury, but she
was determined to face her death bravely.
Both captives positioned their
spears at the fore. The tarap’s great head swept form side to side, a growl
in its throat like a soft peal of thunder.
Then the monster attacked.
It lunged in Tarok’s direction first, the
monstrous jaws gaping to snatch the man up. A chorus of cheers—though they
sounded like guttural snarling and coughing—sounded from the audience above.
The young Nu-al warrior dodged easily
out of the way of the thrusting jaws. Valkara had before treated Tarok
a bit harshly, but in their present predicament, she realized that both
of them were in the same peril, and she acted at once, driving her own
shaft home beneath the muscle of the beast’s humped shoulder.
“Leave him alone!” she cried.
The andrewsarchus thrust its muzzle
heavenward and roared its agony. The wild jibbering of the spectators increased.
Valkara withdrew her spear and spun back out of the way as the enraged
Titan lunged for her. Valkara ran around the perimeter of the pit. But
the beast proved awesomely swift for something of such vast bulk. In a
mighty lunge, it pinned the warrior-girl beneath a hooved paw.
Tarok yelled a barrage of taunts
and insults in beast’s direction, jabbing the monster in its rump with
his spear. The beast screamed again and whipped around to maul the man
who had injured it.
Tarok continued insulting the beast’s percentage
as he dashed from its chomping gnashing fangs. Out of the corner of one
eye he saw Valkara raise to her feet—apparently the girl was relatively
Reaching a corner of the pit. Tarok
spun around, yelling at the oncoming behemoth.
The shaggy monster bore down upon him, its
elongated jaws gaping of the kill. Tarok stood ready. Then the lithe warrior
ducked beneath the jaws as the crashed together. Then with all the might
in his supple limbs, Tarok drove his pear up and clear through the beast’s
lower jaw and clean through those mighty jaws, pinning them together.
He then leapt and rolled free, as the
tarap thrashed about in agony, struggling to rid itself of the scarlet
agony. It rolled upon its back, great legs thrashing, the two human morsels
forgotten was it whined and growled.
Valkara was more then willing to oblige
the beast. At that moment, she rushed in, and drove her own spear home
into the beast’s chest cavity. The beast spasmed and died.
The two humans clung to each other,
panting, having accomplished the impossible.
For a moment there was nothing
but silence from their bestial spectators. Now some tribes, human or otherwise,
might have granted two captives their freedom, having accomplished such
a task as this.
The jalok-men, however, did not prove
to be good-sporting in this manner. Tarok had no notion of their actual
language, but the growls he heard coming form around the lip of the pit
he took correctly to be hostile in the extreme. In the next instant he
heard Gurf bark a short command to his followers—clearly the chief of the
beast men sounded furious at their triumph.
At his command, Rurl and another of the jalok-headed
warriors leapt down into the pit. They snarled threateningly at the two
captives, advancing toward them with spears raised.
“What are they doing?” Valkara
cried. “Do they want to kill us anyway?”
Tarok nodded. “It would seem so.”
Rurl hissed at them in an almost
catlike manner, saliva flicking from his jaws.
Tarok met his gaze evenly “Stay back!”
he warned. “We slew the beast you meant to kill us. Now let us go in peace.”
Rurl wasn’t listening.
He rushed at Tarok as though the sound
of the man’s voice enraged him, aiming his spear at Tarok’s belly. Tarok
though, was a skilled warrior in his prime, and in spite of his opponents
near-animal quickness, the man dodged the thrust with quickness of his
own, and slammed the butt of his own spread into the beast-man’s side,
knocking Rurl off his feet. Rurl sprang at him with a hate-filled snarl.
But Tarok stood his ground and ran the beast-warrior through.
Rurl screamed and died, twitching spasmodically
as the human yanked free his spear.
The other jalok-warrior was already driving
his spear toward Valkara. But the girl, too, was a seasoned warrior, just
as she had boasted. She, too, dodged quickly to one side, bringing up the
butt of her spear to smash it forcefully into the beast-man’s muzzle. He
drew backing releasing his weapon and pawing at his face, emitting a very
doglike whine. Valkara seized the opportunity, and ran him through.
Seeing two of his finest warriors lying
in pools of their own split gore by the two gilak captives, Gurf roared
in rage, then began gibbering hideously.
At this, the beast-men began
pouring down into the pit. All of them were snarling, their eyes aflame,
all grimacing horribly at the two prisoners, the two puny gilaks, who had
dared to destroy two of their own.
Gripping their weapons tightly, Tarok and
his female captive awaited the attack, prepared to die if die they must.
The moment came, as the gibbering horde
of half-men closed over them, with gnashing jaws and slashing talons. Fortunately,
none of the other of the enraged horde bore weapons—they had come to see
the entertaining spectacle of two soft-skins being torn asunder by a mighty
monster from time’s dawn, not to fight a battle. And they were confident
enough in their own natural fighting skills that they seemed to suppose
their natural killing tools were all they needed.
But they had not encountered the likes
of the Tarok of Nu-al and Valkara of the northlands. The black maned young
warrior stabbed and thrust into the ravening horde, killing all that approached
him. Some sought drag him down to the where their doglike fangs could rip
out his throat. But though their was strength aplenty in their sinewy limbs,
the lean, clean strength of the young warrior won out. And at his side,
the savage warrior-maid of the north matched his blows thrusting with her
spear and kicking her savage opponents in their abdomen and groin as they
flung themselves at her.
At length, the horde of ravening half-humans
began to back off. A great mound of beast-man corpses had by now piled
up. Seeing their chance Tarok agilely sprang up upon the gruesome pile
dead and squirming bodies. He helped the girl up after him.
Tarok leaped and seized the edge of the pit. Valkara followed.
They looked about, saw that they were still surrounded by the things, but
now the beast men looked more hesitant.
But Gurf was
still seated upon his throne of bones, still roaring out his orders to
At that moment, Tarok
decided exactly what he must do. He rushed toward the gruesome chief and
thrust his spear deeply into him.
screech like a human infant, the chief of the beast-men died.
Tarok yanked free his spear,
and looked about.
A great clamor went up
form the onlookers, as though they could hardly credit the death of their
chief at the hands of a mere gilak.
“Where will we go?” Valkara cried.
They ran, dashing through the village
streets, as startled beast-folk gazed up from their tasks at their passing.
In back of them, Tarok heard the barking
commands of another of the village warriors urging the others on to recapture
They were soon lost within the mazes of the
forest. But they heard the massed roar of vengeance behind them. Their
pursuers would soon be hot on their heels.
The man and woman ran and ran, dodging in
and around the great boles of the forest giants.
At length, they burst into a shallow
clearing. They stopped to catch their breath. But the jibbering they heard
in back of them made them certain it would not be for long.
Then a monstrous form shouldered itself
gigantically out of the ferns in front of them. A mighty prehistoric mammal
lumbered massively into the clearly. It was the size of two earthly rhinos,
and built much like them, but rather than one or two horns arrange one
in front of the other on his squarish snout, it sported two mighty upcurved
horns of ivory upon the crown of its skull.
Had he been present, Prof. Simmons
would doubtless have identified the beast as the arsinotherium of the Miocene.
“What is it?” Valkara gasped.
“It is a tarask.” Tarok informed
her. “Take to the trees. “
Fortunately, the bole of gigantic tree
was nearby. There were no branches nearby, but some huge shelf-fungi, afforded
them all the handholds that they need.
Reaching a sturdy limb, the warrior
swung himself up with simian agility, and sat down. He pulled the girl
up after him. They sat and stared down as the huge herbivorous mammal bellowed
“Does he mean to eat us?” The
girl asked him.
“No-- the tarask is an herbivore, as
is the dyryth. But like the dyryth, he is very aggressive. We will wait
until he leaves.”
At that moment there bust through the
trees one of the Jalok –men who had been on their trail. The tarask, sensing
his presence, swerved to face him.
The Jalok man, to the surprise of both Tarok
and Valkara, did not retreat, but began circling the clearing, rather like
an enraged jalok, snarling and hissing at the ten-tonne monster. The arsinotherium
bellowed terrifically and pawed at the ground.
Then other’s of the beast-man horde
began flowing into the clearly. They took no notice that their quarry was
above them in the tree; all their attention was focused on the arsinotherium.
Then incredibly, as though their original
quarry was abandoned, the horde surrounded the bellowing horned monster.
And then they swarmed over it.
Tarok and Valkara watched in horror
as the gibbering jalok-men sought to overwhelm the Titan. Most of them
were armed with nothing but natural armament, but some among them bore
spears and stone axes. These they brought to bear upon the brute, and had
they been prepared they might have prevailed.
But the aggression of the super-rhino
proved too overwhelming for the savagery of the jalok-men. The arsinothere
swung its massive horned head, tossing and smiting its small foes. It gored
the jalok-men through against the mighty tree, until its ivory horns were
stained crimson with the reeking gore of its victims. Others it squelched
to red ruin under beneath its colossal tonnage, and sent flying across
the glade to smack broken against the boles of the mighty trees.
One last time, the enraged
monster spitted at screaming beast-man on a mighty horn ramming its twin
horns against on whose limb Tarok and the girl perched with arms entwined.
The whole tree shook vastly with the impact. With a mighty toss of its
head the beast flung the jalok man away. The few survivors of the battle,
just emerging from the forest, ran yelping back the way they had come abandoning
the chase for good.
The tarask snorted mightily at them. Then,
rearing its horned head in triumph over the ruin of gory and broken near-human
bodies, bellowed its victory to the horizonless vistas above.
The maddened monster then rumbled back
into the jungle whence it came.
Having taken in this entire incredible
tableau, Tarok and the girl each allowed themselves a sigh of relief.
Still several moments elapsed before
they forced themselves down into the clearing. They recovered spears and
stone ax from the bodies of the dead beast-men, then went their way into
the primeval forest, ever glancing backward fro any sign that they might
yet be pursued by their recent captors.
At last, when they had gone many
a league from the village of the jalok-men—and done all they could to cover
their scent, by wading a steam, and zigzagging their course—they allowed
themselves a much needed rest.
The girl and warrior located another streamed and
ventured within to wash off the layers of grime and dust, and to nurse
their various bruises cuts and scrapes received during their ordeal.
After that, Valkara sought out various
herbs they could use to treat their injuries. They made camp, and prepared
the herbs by boiling water within a hollowed out gourd –shell. Tarok allowed
her to massage and treat the cuts on his back, wincing when she applied
the stinging medicines.
“You were very brave,” Valkara
told him finally.
“As were you,” Tarok said. “Do
you agree now that we should stick together until we find my friend, Clive
“That we must. Valkara agrees.”
After that, they hunted in the forest for
some of the orthopi, dimunitive ancestors of the modern stallion, though
only the size of hairs. They managed to bring down tow of the little beasts,
and roasted them spitted over a fire. They made certain to keep the fire
low, in case some of their recent captors might still be about.
Once they had eaten enough, they decided
to spend their sleep period curled within the crook of a mighty tree.
Neither had spoken much since their
flight from the jalok-men. But here, nestled within the space, they felt
the warmth of each others bodies, and hidden urges began welling up within
both of them….
her arms abruptly about the Nu-al warrior and they kissed. Tarok responded
mightily, showering her lovely face and full, pouting lips with hot and
They kept on, until their bodies
were gloriously entwined, and waves of mating-rapture were roiling through
them. It had to have been more than two hours of surface-time before they
both collapsed from the exertion of lovemaking.
And finally allowed the deep
pall of sleep to envelope them.
When they next awoke, Tarok and
his newfound mate resumed their journey. Although nothing had molested
them, they made certain to remain alert for any sighs of pursuit.
They traveled more leagues of vast
forest. It was evident by now, that Valkara no longer hungered for the
company of the red-haired surface man. She might still find him intriguing
and a great warrior in his own right. But after what they had endured,
it was clear to them now, that they both loved one another more than anything.
They might have opted therefore
to seek out Valkara’s homeland. But Tarok was honor-bound to certain what
had befallen his friends and comrades. Though Valkara was not over-eager
to meet up with princess Jahlanna again, she agreed.
At length, the forest at last began
to peter out into a parklike region of woody savanna, dotted here and there
with groves of conifers and eukalyptus. There was game here aplenty, and
the warrior and his she had no problem filling their bellies.
Then, having resumed
their journey following another sleep period, they were suddenly confronted
by an awesome and terrifying sight.
The ceaseless sound of animal noise
and abruptly ceased, and this immediately advised the two young people
to be on their guard. For it immediately signaled that one or another of
the gigantic killers were aprowl.
What confronted them as they rounded
a grove of trees was nothing less than a full-grown zarith feasting upon
the body of a thag.
The size of the great carnivorous
dinosaur was nothing short of overwhelming, especially to Valkara, who
had little knowledge or experience with the monsters that roamed the hollow
earth’s interior south of her own homeland on Pellucidar’s rim.
Thought the titantic reptile was already
gorging it vast appetite, even a bull thag, gigantic predecessor of modern
cattle, was a bit too small to satisfy its bottomless craving.
So once its tiny eyes spied the fear-frozen
couple, a scream like a locomotive bellowed forth from its blood-slathered
and ghastily-grinning jaws.
“Zarith!” cried the warrior in a noble yet
despairing voice. “Run, or we are lost!”
Run they did, as the ground shook massively
beneath the titantic thread of monster-reptile.
When such as the large mammalian carnivore attacked, the trees in such
a forest as this generally provided ample refuge. But not so with the zarith;
such a monster as this could snatch them from a tree limb with ease, or
simply tear the tree from its roots to get at them. To the warrior-maid
Valkara, it was like a nightmare. The zarith was like nothing she had ever
imagined, the impossible creation of a mad dream. Yet she knew it was all
too real, as the deadly footfalls increased beneath their maddened flight.
“To higher ground!” Tarok
Desperately, they raced
in the direction of a sloping hill. They scrambled up, hoping the dinosaur
would have difficulty following. Their efforts did not appear to slow the
tyrannosaur, though, as it plodded after them, at a slow but unstoppable
At last, backed against a high, craggy cliff,
the warrior and his maid turned to face their oncoming Doom.
The tyrannosaur was approaching. It
ghastly jaws seemed to grin diabolically, as though its minuscule brain
sensed that its’ cornered prey could not escape.
“We are finished.” said Tarok
Valkara embraced and once more, and
perhaps for the final time, the lovers kissed. “If that is so, let us die
fighting.” She told him.
Again they faced the approaching
mountain of reptilian Death. The jaws of the tyrannosaurus rex parted to
release a thunderous hiss.
Tarok raised his stone ax, and
his mate gripped her stone knife in one small capable fist, as they awaited
the zarith’s charge….