The great caravan
lumbered slowly north, in the direction of the distant Polar Ocean. The
mighty army consisted Sarian warriors, as well as handful of Thurians all
mounted upon mammoth and diplodocus. They lumbered through rich, subtropical
lands teaming with game of all sorts. Giant grass-eaters abounded:
great shaggy mammoths, primitive cattle and bison, the giant tua, or Irish
Elk, and huge ground-sloths, preyed upon by giant lions, leopards, cheetahs
and others. But not even the mightiest of predators dared to attack such
a mighty assembly of men and monsters. Predators there were aplenty—the
great plains-ryth, a huge ursine predator long of limb and feline swiftness,
able to kill such as the giant stag-moose with a single swipe of its gigantic
paw. There were also the great sabor-tooth tarags, hunting in mighty packs,
some over a hundred members strong and able to overhwhelm the mightiest
herbivora. But even these blanched before attacking the army of David Innes,
Emporer of Pelluicdar.
The emporer of the lost
land rode at the head of the army, the tandor insigne slapping upon a banner
above and inscribed on the chest of his armor. He was a hard-faced man
with his blond hair cut into a military crew cut. On the tandor to his
side rode Dangar, another man of Sari, and a Pellucidaran native. Behind
him rode another young warrior, a man of Nu-al named Tarok, and with her
arms about him was his companion and lover, the warrior-maid Valkara.
On the other side of David Innes rode Clive Neville, the red-haired outlander,
formally explorer and reporter of National Geographic, and his friends
tailed Barraboo, and Professor Alistair Simmons.
As they traveled ever northward, the
swarming subtropical parklands began to give way to open steppe country.
The ever-present humidy common throughout most of Pelluicdar was replaced
by a chill crisp atmosphere, that steadily increased. The number and amount
of game lessoned at first, then grew more numerous. Though here it was
As the entered the lands where snow
was said to fall, they saw herds of wild horses, of the same species that
still roamed the steppes of Mongolia on the surface. Here, too, were great
herds of diminutive Saiga antelope, also a known native of the Asiatic
steppes. There were great burly musk-oxen here as well. Then there were
the predators—the codon, gigantic wolves the size of ponies, prides of
giant lions with shaggy gray-white coats, and giant cheetahs, not unlike
those that roamed the lands they had recently quit, only with thicker coats
which were nearly white in color.
The caravan finally came to a
stop. They fed and watered their war-beasts, and set up tents. The gigantic
lidis, though they were able to maintain a somewhat steady temperature
due to their tremendous bulk, could venture no further without risking
death. It was decided that the giant reptiles remained camped where they
were, whist the warriors on mammoth-back continued their journey to the
lands surrounding the Boreal Sea.
continued northward. Valkara informed them that they were nearing the homeland
of her people.
“Does your tribe know of the
Mahars and their minions operating in this country?”
Valkara shrugged her shapely
shoulders. “I do not know. I have not been with my people for a great many
“Perhaps though, they do
know of the Mahars, and if they are a threat.” said Dangar. “We should
like to inquire of your people.”
“We should warn them, if there
is an invading army here, as you seem to believe.” said Valkara.
“Indeed. And also, they might
prove valuable allies, should a war with the winged reptiles prove eminent.”
When next they made camp,
they were well into the steppelands. The eternal sun of Pellucidar had
already begun to shimmer and fade behind them. The sight was a disconcerting
one to those who had lived their entire lives within a world of eternal
sunlight. Some of the warriors who had not traversed into these lands before
now began to whisper amongst themselves, saying that perhaps they were
nearing the edge of Pellucidar itself, and perhaps they would risk falling
off into the abyss where the Molop Az churned and bubbled.
Innes assured his
troops that this was nonsense, and anyway, they were only to scout the
regions of the Boreal Sea, where Mahar activity had been reported. The
men believed and trusted him, although a few remained uneasy. It had begun
to snow as they made camp, and many of them had never seen this phenomenon
Tarok and Valkara agreed
to scout ahead after the sleep period, to see if they could discern any
sign of Valkara’s people.
Dressed in cloaks of mammoth-hide,
the man and woman set out across the bleak and barren steppe, the massive
army lumbering a half-league behind in their wake.
It was a bleak, grey world, that of
the Pelluicdaran steppe. The vast land stretched out around them, a plain
of scrubby grass, moss and lichen. A perpetual sunset slanted through the
clouds to their back, a leaden grey sky above from which a steady pour
of light snow was falling, coating the bleak land with a dusting of white
Valkara had lived beneath such vistas
before, but to the Nu-al warrior they were strange and forbidding.
“Are we near the land of
your people?” he asked her.
“Yes.” said Valkara. “Valtor
is very near. Already we have crossed the border of my people’s hunting
“I find it hard to believe men can
live in such a place.”
The girl laughed haughtily. “My tribe
does not find it difficult. As you shall soon see.”
They heard a sharp whistle off to their
right, and Tarok looked. He saw a small, furry face peering up at them
from what must have been a hole in the ground. A burrowing rodent of some
sort. It chirped three times, then disappeared.
Tarok heard an answering chirp some distance
“Those are called ruts,” Valkara explained.
“Rodents that burrow beneath the steppe. They make good eating, though
not as good as gronth or tandor.”
“Perhaps, then, we should try
to catch one, for food is scarce.”
“I shall show you.” Valkara located
the burrow of one of the steppe-dwelling burrowers. She gave a perfect
imitation of the ruts’ chirping call. Within seconds, one of the beasts
appeared, which she quickly dispashed with a rock. She then taught tarok
to do the same things. Within minutes they had managed to kill six of the
small beasts. They were rather like large pikas or marmots in appearance,
only with an unlikely pair of horns above their snouts. When they
later returned to the Sarians’ camp in order to skin and clean the carcasses,
Professor Simmons identified the horned rodents as epigaulus of the Miocene.
Tarok and Valkara each
secured three of their kills to their belts and journeyed on. Tarok occasionally
glanced behind them to make certain they were still followed. The mammoth-warriors
remained just within sight.
By now the snow had begun to fall stronger
and fiercer upon the vast steppe. The warrior and his warrior-mate pulled
the thick coats of tandor-hide about them, as they pressed onward. They
had ventured noticeably further by now, and the sun behind them had shrunk,
growing even dimmer than before. The twilight of this strange land—strange
indeed to one such as Tarok—had deepened into a quasi-night.
There were still a few herds
about-shaggy musk-ox, wooly antelope, and steppe-bison, and now even a
few caribou. The land ahead of them seemed ever dark and forbidding, like
they were approaching a land of eternal night.
“Perhaps we should turn back
now.” Tarok suggested.
Valkara, though used to this country,
said, “Perhaps so. The snow falls thickly and faster now. It will be best
to be in the company of the warriors and their tents. I sense a blizzard
may be coming.”
“A blizzard? What is that?”
“You will see.”
“Wait!” said Tarok. “What is
They both peered ahead through
the swirling, cascading snow. There was something ahead of them. Something
moving. But the snowfall had indeed grown very fierce, and it seemed to
increase by the second. The force of the wind chilled the man and woman
to their marrow, as they strained their eyes to see.
But something was out there.
Some huge animal. But it was camouflaged by the gale of the snow that poured
from the darkened sky and was now blanketing the land.
And it was moving
Two glaring slits
of blue fire blazed out of the whiteness.
The man and woman
gasped. “A snow-tarag!” cried Valkara.
A gigantic white
shape hurtled out of the cascading storm of flakes. Tarok was thrown over
onto his back on the hardened steppe-earth as a half-ton of primal fury
slammed into him.
The man blinked dazedly up through
a haze of pain in his skull.
He found himself staring glassily
into a snarling feline visage. It was unmistakably that of an adult tarag.
Only Tarok had never seen the likeness of a specimen such as this one.
The ruffed face was of pure downy white, striped with grey-black. The eyes
were the ice-blue of polar glaciers, and they blazed volcanically into
his own. The eighteen-inch tusks were of dull ivory. Each one swept down
form the upper jaw on either side. The beast’s breath came in ragged
puffs clouding the air in front to the downed warrior’s eyes. The snow-tarag’s
muzzle folded back, wrinkling the savage visage into an expression of incarnate
fury. Never had the Nu-al warrior felt this near to death.
Fortunately for Tarok, his mate
He heard Valkara give a wild-yell,
the cry of a Valtor warrior-maid. The tarag roared and flung off him. In
the next instant, Tarok had regained his feet, his own spear ready to face
the monster of the snows.
Valkara had jabbed the beast
beneath its right shoulder-blade, then leapt back with feline quickness.
She kept her own feral gaze trained upon the mighty beast as it slunk toward
her. Muzzle wrinkling savagely, a roaring snarl building within the beast’s
Had Tarok himself not been a
seasoned warrior, he might have fainted dead away at the sight of the giant
Its dimensions were colossal,
almost beyond belief, more massive even, than the mighty species found
throughout the bulk of Pellucidar. It was nearly the size of bull thag
or a tarap, each of which outbulk the rhinoceras of the surface world.
Its pure-white coat was incredibly thick and shaggy, paling to polar-bear
ivory on the heavily shagged underbelly. Grayish-black stripes, of the
same patterning as the common tarag, decorated its snarling face and forequarters,
fading into the snowy whiteness toward its rear legs.
Once again, the beast snarled mightily,
as it slunk savagely toward the barbarian girl. Valkara kept her spear
trained upon the vast carnivore, as beast and warrior-maid warily circled
one another, both appearing savage deadly animals, survival skills honed
by this savage wilderness.
Tarok hefted his own spear, determined
to aide his savage mate if need be.
But the mighty beast sprung at
the Onah warrioress, an incredible hurtling juggernaught of fangs, fur,
bone and muscle. The mighty sledge-hammer paws, able to shatter the skull
of a musk-ox with a single tremendous blow, might have crashed Valakra
to the ground, the mighty saber-fangs shearing clean through the girl’s
skull like butter. This, undoubtedly is what the feline monster intended.
But Valkara, wise to the ways to the great beasts of her primordial realm
ducked beneath the savage onslaught, driving her spear deep into the beasts’
chest, penetrating his savage heart.
The snow-beast gave terrific
vent to a roaring scream of agony, dreadful to hear, for the termination
of the cry that burst form the tremendous lungs sounded like that of a
strangled woman. The beast crashed to the earth, as Valkara rolled free,
narrowly avoiding being crushed beneath its titanic bulk, the spear going
Tarok helped her to her feet.
“Are you all right?” he asked
“Of course,” she said, sounding
somewhat surprised. “I have once before killed such a beast on my own rite
of warrior-hood. Only it was a steppe ta-ho, rather than a tarag. But the
ways of the snow-tarag are so terribly different. Killing it was not difficult.”
Tarok was about to tell her that
only the males of his own tribe were warriors and it was all very strange
to him, but thought better of it.
They turned around. The snow
was now falling very fiercely, and they would need shelter. But the mighty
forms of the great mammoths of Sari were now looming out of the blinding
curtain of snow. One of the men dismounted and came toward them.
“Tarok!” he shouted.
Tarok then saw that
it was his friend Clive.
“Clive!! We are most glad
you are here. We nearly became a meal for this beast. And the freezing
whiteness falls thicker and harder now!”
“Clive stared stupefied
at the slain body of the gigantic, saber-toothed snow tiger.
“How did you slay it?”
“I did not.” grinned the warrior.
Clive glanced at her in surprise.
“It was easy.” she told him.
The army made camp to wait out
They unrolled the tents and huddled
within them, as the mammoths hunkered down in a tight circle, protecting
themselves and their small masters from the whipping winds and deadly cold.
Once the storm had passed, Valkara
showed them how to skin and butcher the tarag’s carcass without damaging
the magnificent pelt. Since food was relatively scarce on the steppe, and
the warriors would need much energy, they roasted and ate the flesh of
the giant tiger. Most of the warriors did not normally partake of tarag
meat, but they found it was not all that bad tasting. The pelt the fashioned
into four cloaks as protection against the savage cold.
On they journeyed across
the barren ice-bound waste. The mass of darkened clouds had dispersed,
and the sun shown once again, but even feebler than before. Tarok and Vlkara
again took the lead, though the Sarian army remained closer behind them
Soon they heard the unmistakable sounds
of combat issuing form somewhere ahead. There were the sounds of human
voices raised in combat, mingled with the grunts and bellows of some gigantic
beast of the steppe country.
The Nu-al warrior and his mate increased
their pace, at last ascending a small knoll. At its top, they lay flat
upon their bellies and peered over.
Below their vantage point, a
mighty battle raged. A party of warriors were engaged in a titanic struggle
with a huge primordial beast. The warriors were very striking to Tarok’s
eyes, for all of them had hair and beards the golden shade of shorn flax,
very rare within Pellucidar. They were all lean muscled men. They carried
flint, fire-hardened spears, and were dressed in fur-trimmed buckskin garments
of caribou hide. Three of their number already lay dead upon the snowfield,
victims of their quarry.
And such a beast! Tarok had never
seen its like. It most closely resembled a wooly rhinoceros, a fairly common
beast within Pellucidar, along with the more familiar tandor. But this
monster was three or four times the size of that beast, mightier and more
massive than the tandor itself. It was clothed with a thick and luxuriant
shaggy coat of fur of a russet hue, more red than that of a mammoth or
the common woolly rhino, the fur on its sides and underbelly of such extraordinary
length and shag that it nearly brushed the ground. Its legs were thick
and columular, terminating in massively hooved toes, but the legs appeared
curiously short as they were partially hidden by the beast’s coat. The
tail was long and bore a heavy tuft at the end. The skull was huge and
brutishly shaped, with small, piggy ears and eyes. But the most amazing
feature was the single colossal horn of dull ivory which sprouted from
this skull. In breadth it took up nearly the entire head of the beast.
It must have been eight to ten feet in length, that horn, and tapered to
a needle tip. This, along with the long tuft-tipped tail, made the beast
resemble nothing so much as a gigantic, shaggy unicorn.
“My people!” breathed Valkara.
“We have found them.”
“What is that beast they are
“It is a gronth. They are the
most formidable beasts of the steppe. They are ferocious and most difficult
to kill, as you can see. But their flesh is very delicious. There is nothing
like a gronth steak grilled over a wood fire.”
The horned monster was
battling savagely for its life amongst the small humans. It continued to
rear and toss its great head. As Tarok watched the beast managed to spear
one of the hunters upon its titanic horn. The man screamed as he was skewered,
then his cry was cut short, as the gronth tossed him away with a casual
flip of its head. It smashed another warrior to red ruin beneath
its mighty hooves. The beast, protected as it was by its thick shaggy coat
and layer of fat, was already bleeding form a number of spears in its flanks.
But still it battled on, determined to take as many of its tormentors with
“If your warriors are determined
to bring down that monster,” said Tarok. “Then perhaps we should help.”
“Indeed. What are we waiting
for?” Valkara arose, preparing to race down the slope with a wild war-cry.
“No!” said Tarok gripped her
shoulder. “I will not see you killed trying to bring down that beast. I
meant that our warriors form Sari should do it.”
He could see that his mate wanted
to join her comrades in the thrill of battle, but Valkara recognized his
concern for her, and realized that she would not which him to risk his
Besides, the first of the mammoth
warriors was already ascending the knoll. The others were close behind
it. There was some astonished murmuring amongst the warriors of Innes’
army; apparently none of them had seen warriors such as the Valtor, or
a beast such as the gronth until now. But Dangar urged his mount foreword.
Recognizing that these must be men of Valkara’s tribe, he determined to
ride to their aide. The great war-mammoth, bred for battle, raised its
trunk and roared a challenge to the super-rhino.
The gronth bellowed in answer,
as though his species and that of the mammoth were ancient adversaries,
as perhaps they were. The Valtor warriors, temporally distracted, looked
on as the huge shaggy gronth charged the tandor. Dangar’s mount met the
attack head-on clashing with terrifically, mighty trunk and curling tusks
smashing into the gronth’s great ivory horn. The two primordial monsters
backed up, bellowing their fury. They began to circle one another like
two enormous, shaggy gladiators in the bleak world of the Pellucidaran
Then, finding a slight opening, the
It bore down upon Dangar and his mighty
mount, a living mountain of incarnate fury. As Tarok and the mammoth warriors
looked on in awed astonishment. The mighty gronth drove its titanic horn
deep into the side of its opponent, literally skewering the great tandor
clean through. The mammoth gave an ear-splitting squeal of agony and defeat,
as it found itself actually lifted of its churning columular legs, still
impaled like a spitted partridge upon the gronth’s horn.
Tarok, watching in a daze, could
scarcely credit his eyes. Dangar, he felt, was surely done for. But then
he saw the lithe warrior leap form the back of his doomed mount to catlike
upon the hardened turf.
The gronth lowered its mighty horn, and began
to pull it free form the gigantic carcass of its vanquished foe. But doing
so left it vulnerable, and the Valtor warriors closed in on both sides.
The clever warriors speared the beast on both sides, one man finding the
creature’s throat. The gronth pulled free its bloodied horn, and wailed
at the leaden sky before collapsing to the earth with a mighty crash.
The warriors of Sari dismounted
and greetings were exchanged. Dangar might have assisted them in slaying
the gronth, but the leader of the blond warriors seemed suspicious at first;
never had he seen a great assembly of men and monsters.
“Who are you, and what are you
doing in our land?” he demanded.
“My name is Dangar.” Dangar said.
“We are warriors from the land of Sari.”
“I have never heard of that tribe.”
“It is far away. We are in this land
searching for sign of the Mahars. We have word that they are massing a
great army that may be a threat to all of Pellucidar.”
“There are no Mahars in our
land.” He said. “Or reptiles of any kind. They live only in the jungled
south. What is your real business here?”
“They perhaps have an army
of their servants the sagoths. They may have a strong power base—it is
probably located below ground, as are their cities.”
“I know of no such army.
Begone from our land.”
“Wait, Othar!” said a second
man. “There are strange men in our land—men such as we have never seen.
Do you not remember?”
Othar seemed to consider this.
“Yes…” he said. ‘The only army we have seen in our land is yours. But we
have seen strange warriors not of our race, who do not belong to any steppe
“Tell us about them.” said
“We have often glimpsed
them form afar. They are garbed for the cold, but not like other men. Always
their fur hoods are pulled tightly about their faces. Once they had two
giant beasts among them.”
“Greater than your tandors. They did
not appear to have any head or limbs. Yet they moved, crawled across the
steppe somewhat a huge insect. We followed the warriors from a distance.
Then the ground itself swallowed them up. We did not think it wise to pursue
them further, for they might be evil spirits or some such.”
“They disappeared into the ground?”
Dangar’s gaze hardened. “We believe
these strange men may be a great threat to your people. Let us be allies,
until we can search them out.”
Othar appeared to consider this.
At that moment, Valkara spoke.
“Othar…do you not remember me?”
The Valtor leader immediately recognized
her as a member of his race. “Valkara…is that you?”
The warrior-girl ran forward
and through her arms about him.
“I have not seen you since
you were a small boy!” she cried.
“And you…you were still a young lass
when they bore you off! We had long thought you lost.”
The other warriors were coming
forward too. All of them looked at Valkara and seemed to recognize her.
She introduced them to her mate, Tarok. There was a far greater air of
The host of Sarian warriors accompanied
the blond warrior to the village of the Valtor tribe. Valtor, where they
made their further plans. The village was somewhat similar to tribes of
Inuit bordering the arctic circle, constructed lodges constructed of stone,
mammoth bone and hide. There were a great many of the blond warriors around.
The women of the Valtor, two were warriors, and their yellow locks were
braided not unlike the maidens of the Vikings. There were woolly coated
village dogs, undoubtedly trained for hunting, which had undoubtedly been
bred from the codon.
In the lodge of the chief,
a great burly man named Wolnar, they laid their plans. It was agreed upon
that they should venture forth to the place where the ground had swallowed
up the strange warriors. In the meantime a grand feast was held in the
lodge of the chief. A strange, potent drink something like ale was brewed
poured into flasks fashioned from mammoth ivory. The great carcass of the
gronth provided a grand feast. Huge, juicy steaks were craved form the
giant rhino-beast, or elasmotherium, as Professor Simmons identified the
animal. The gronth steaks were then grilled to perfection over a deep charcoal
fire pit, and served hot, red, and juicy, swimming in a gravy-like sauce
made from some sort of steppe lichen. The massive head of the wooly great
wooly unicorn of the steppe was preserved as a trophy for the tribe of
Afterward, they all slept on
thick furs of mammoth and snow-tarag, before setting out upon awakening.
The mammoth warriors set
out, now accompanied by Othar, and a number of other blond men of the Valtor.
The vast wild steppelands stretched about them, grim and bleak. Their trek
now led in a northeastern direction, and the sun grew yet gradually yet
dimmer in their wake.
They reached the area where the
men had been seen. There were indeed tracks here, as of many fur-booted
men. But astoundingly, there, too were the tracks that could only have
been made by a man-made vehicle. There were at three such vehicles.
“They must be men of the surface.”
“You may be right,” agreed Simmons.
“These are doubtless the tracks of the “beasts” Onthar’s warriors saw.
“Perhaps the machines were made by
the Mahars themselves.”
Clive looked at David Innes who was
standing to their side, for conformation of this. “They may be.” said Pellucidar’s
emperor. “The Mahar are certainly advanced enough a race. I have not know
them to construct such a moving vehicle before. Perhaps that is because
the Mahars have wings, and transportation for them is not a problem. But
here in this cold bleak land, they may be using such to transport weapons
the tracks. They led to steep incline which in turn led to a pair of huge
metal doors set into the base of a raised hillock. On either side of this
were twin raised pillars of white marble-like stone similar to those that
customarily marked the entrance to one of the Mahars’ underground cities.
It was shut tightly however,
and they could find no means of entrance. But the tracks of the warriors
and the tread of the vehicle led directly to this entrance.
After some debate, it was decided
that they should make camp nearby, and ait until the next sleep to see
if anything untoward occurred. This they did.
Tarok and Valkara agreed to scout
ahead once more. As they approached the area of the strange entrance they
saw the distant march of what was indeed a party of cowled and hooded warriors.
There were four great metal beasts, that somehow “rolled” over the steppe
“What are they?” Tarok
“I have never seen their
like. But they must be the “beasts” Othar and the warriors told us of.”
Tarok and his mate lay flat bellied
on the cold steppe ground for a long time, observing the strange party.
They crawled forward several inches in the manner of caribou hunters. Then,
when the party had nearly passed form view they dared to stand up and trail
the party at its rear.
Sure enough, it turned out they
were headed for the strange under ground entrance. Tarok and Valkara watched
as the vast metal doors drew apart, and the party marched down within.
Both were contemplating how they might fall behind them unobtrusively when
some primal instinct bade both warrior and warrior-maid to whirl about.
Four of the strange warriors were at
their back, having somehow managed to sneak up behind them. Each warrior
bore a spear, which meant they were outnumbered. They warriors were dressed
for the harsh land, not unlike the Valtor. They wore heavy furred boots
and tunics, only these, and their leggings, were not of tanned caribou
leather, but of some unidentifiable material. The fur-lined hoods of their
tunics were pulled over their heads. Their ragged breaths plumed the frigid
air. But now Tarok could clearly see their faces, and it was evident they
were not men after all, as he had earlier supposed.
They were sagoths.
were you doing following in our wake?” demanded the one who had spoken,
who appeared to be their leader.
“We are hunters.” Said Tarok.
“My name is Tarok of Nu-al. The girl is Valkara of the Onah people. We
were hunting caribou when—"
“Enough!” growled the sagoth.
“You are spies, and will be treated accordingly, according to the will
of the great ones.”
Tarok and Valkara were
marched by their sagoth captors to the rear of the party, and through the
huge metallic doors, which then shut behind them with a resounding boom.
Sure enough, it appeared
to be genuine Mahar city. Tarok found the streets and general layout to
be not unlike the city of Zhuma. There were a great many other sagoths
about, now without their hooded tunics.
They were marched to a great room, larger than any
which Tarok could have conceived as possible. It was vast, warhouse-sized.
There were several of the huge crawler machines about. Some appeared to
be parked, in stationary rows. The one accompanied by the sagoth warriors
now opened in the front. A ramp descended.
And down this ramp waddled a Mahar!
So this was how the Great Lords were
able to operate a city so far from the interior of Pellucidar. Each of
the great crawlers must have contained one of the monstrous winged reptiles.
Tarok felt Valkara clutch at
his arm. “What is that thing?”
“It is one of those David Innes
and Professor Simmons warned us of. It is a Mahar.”
“Oh! What a dreadful and hideous creature
“Indeed it is.” Agreed Tarok
“Then you have seen such monsters
“Indeed I have. And they are
not mere beasts, but something far worse.” He explained briefly his own
experience in the Mahar city of Zhuma. He related the winged saurians’
dreadful mental powers.
“How will we escape form such
“I do not yet know.” He said.
“But Clive and the others are still out there. When they find that we did
not return, they will come for us?”
“But how can they save us from
this awful place?”
Tarok shrugged. “I know not.
But adventuring with them has taught me one thing; there is hope even when
hope seems naught. We may yet escape as long as we draw breath, just as
we did form the belly of the zarith –az.”
“But that horrid thing.” Said
Valkara, meaning the Mahar. ‘I am frightened.”
Tarok admitted that he was too,
and it was a bit unnerving to see the fearless warrior cowed by the appearance
of the weird reptile. But, tarok remembered, she had every right to be.
“Silence, gilaks!” said
the sagoth behind them. We are taking you to the chief scientist. There
your fate shall be decided.
They were escorted to a large
chamber, somewhat like a giant throne-room. Three of the gigantic winged
reptiles hunched there. The three reptiles examined the captives. Tarok
bade Valkara to turn away from the frigid gazes of the sentient reptilians.
But They seemed intent only on examining the captives. Telepathic
communications beamed back and forth amongst the winged saurians. Of course,
tarok and Valkara could hear nothing of this, but they were aware that
some type of communication was taking place, some vital decision was being
conferred. Then tarok felt a mental wave pass from one of the winged monsters
into his brain, invading it deep recesses. It was not meant to bend him
to the creatures’ will, but it was far from pleasant. The man groaned and
cried out. Valkara had the same sensation, she shrieked and shuddered.
Then the sensation was gone.
They were then led away by the
sagoth guards, ushered deep within the labyrinth of tunnels, and placed
in a cell with other prisoners. Some of the prisoners were human. One to
the right of Tarok, however, appeared to be of some other species entirely.
Like a man in form he was, with thickly
knotted and powerful limbs, though with a thick pelt of shaggy fur, not
unlike a shaggy bull or bison. On either side of his brutish skull there
grew a long and heavy horn, like that of the plains-thag, the mighty long-horned
bison of the Pleistocene. His brutish face showed a curious mixture of
the bovine and the human.
Tarok had heard tell of beings
such as this one. They were called ganaks, or bison-men. They were said
to inhabit a country far away, and use humans for cruel, inhuman rituals.
The bison-man looked at
Tarok and Valkara as they sat across form him.
“More Gilak captives?”
the bison-man growled, a sound deep within his barrel-chest. ‘It seems
the Mahars have been even more industrious of late.”
“My name is Tarok of Nu-al.”
Tarok said. Though would not trust this creature normally, did not trust
him, he thought it would be best to treat the creature as a friend than
an enemy under the circumstances.
“And I am Valkara of Onah.”
“Mine is Grunth.” said
the ganak, “a warrior of the tribe of Furth far east and south of here.
My tribe was at war with the Snarg tribe of sagoths. I killed many of them
defending our homeland, but I was captured at last. The sagoths, realizing
my value as a warrior sold me to the Mahars for use in the arena.”
“Why did the Mahar take us captives?”
Tarok did not want to give away that they actually were spies, even though
the Mahars seemed to have searched his mind.
“Why do they take any gilak captives—or
ganak for that matter? They grow bored, and use such as you and I for their
amusement. All the captives in this room are to be forced to fight in the
“There is an arena here?”
“Yes. We are the captives
who are to be thrown to the great beasts. Or perhaps they will have us
kill each other. Whatever happens, I shall be ready.”
Tarok was greatly relived
that they had apparently not probed his mind deeply enough to discover
what he and his mate were doing here in the city.
“What is this place—why did the Mahars
build a city this far north?”
Grunth shrugged his sahggy shoulders.
“I do not know why. There is talk that the plan to conquer a new world.
That a new land lies somewhere beyond Pellucidar where the sun does not
stand still in the sky, but travels over the edge of the world, leaving
the land in darkness, only to reappear on the other side. But if this is
what they seek, than the Mahars are fools after all. They have built many
great metal beasts and are traveling north—but if they go on further, they
will fall off the edge of the world and into the Molop Az. No such world
as they seek can possibly exist.”
So they were right! Tarok
thought. The man called David Innes was correct—he must be. There was a
hidden world out there somewhere. At one time he would have undoubtedly
agreed with the ganak. He had found it difficult to believe that Clive
Neville and his friends had actually heralded from such a world, and realized
that he had had trouble grasping it until now. But it must be correct,
and the Mahars were truly bent on launching a conquering army.
Just then the door to the cell opened.
A sagoth guard with a whip entered. He surveyed the captives, including
four humans huddled against the far wall then at Tarok, Valkara, and Grunth.
He gestured his whip at the three. “Come. Your prowess is to amuse they
They were prodded down
an array of confusing corridors, and through a door, into a vast arena.
The sagoths gave each of them weapons. Two long spears for the warrior
and his mate, and a short-sword for the bison-man.
Tarok was stupefied that such a vast
amphitheater could exist below ground; but he knew that the Mahar race,
hideous though they were in appearance, were workers of marvels.
The arena was already filled.
The Mahars, the “Great Lords” of Pellucidar were already thronged throughout
the vastness of the stadium. All around them were the hunch-winged, scaly
hordes of winged saurians. There was a raised platform in the center, where
squatted the three chief scientist. And above them was a strange apparatus
of metal. One familiar with outer-world technology would recognize the
resemblance of this to a type of high-tech weapon. But Tarok, having no
such frame of reference, supposed it to be some bizarre fetish of some
kind to whatever gods such as the Mahar might worship.
Valkara, warrior-maid though she was
clung to her mates burly shoulder at the sight of the hideous multitude.
“Ooooh! Tarok, there are so many of the bird-lizards!”
“We’ll fight our way to
freedom.” Growled the warrior, though he was less than confident underneath.
‘We will fight,” agreed Grunth. “But
we shall never leave the city. Those who are captives of the Mahars remain
captives until they are killed.”
“We will see about that!” Tarok hissed.
Once, he, too had remained fatalistic about such things, but the overthrowing
of Zhuma had seemingly accomplished the impossible, and his ensuing adventures
with Clive and Alistair, he and they had overcome similarly implausible
“We can merely hope to fight to the
end, and to die a swift death.” said Grunth.
The arena door was now opening.
Within the darkness therein,
they saw two burning emerald splotches, the orbs of some gigantic predator
of times dawn.
A second later, the monstrous owner
of those incandescent orbs padded majestically into the arena.
Tarok recognized the beast
instantly. It was non other than a gigantic tarag, the tremendous saber-tooth
cave-tiger of the Paleolithic. It was of the common, striped tarag found
throughout the jungles and plains of the inner-earth, rather than the huge
gray-white beasts of the steppes, with which Tarok and his mate had so
recently done battle. Nonetheless, the beast was of awesome size, nearly
the bulk of a Volkswagen. Yet it stalked into the arena with fluid feline
grace. The monster raised its muzzle as it caught the scent of the man-things
which were its intended pray. The great muzzle wrinkled back, forming a
deadly snarl of hideous hunger, as its burning eyes fixed upon them.
“Prepare for death, black-hair.” Tarok heard
Grunth say by his side. He expected the beast, now gathering its mighty
strength, to spring across the arena sands in a mad dash, then spring titantically
upon the three of them. Indeed, this is what would surely have happened
had not another event suddenly occurred.
Another door in the wall of the
arena opened. To his surprise, Tarok witnessed yet another giant denizen
of the Paleolithic age emerge into the arena. This one was a gigantic stag,
nearly the size of a small elephant, crowned with a fantastic spread of
antlers over twelve-feet wide from tip to tip. The beast was clothed in
shaggy, russet fur, remarkably thick and full on its mighty neck. Tarok
recognized the beast as a Tua, the gigantic Irish Elk of the Pleistocene,
as men of the surface world call the beast.
The monstrous cervid snorted gigantically
and pawed the arena sands in bull-like fashion. The presence of the giant
deer had an immediate effect upon the saber-tooth tiger. The huge feline
turned its attention immediately from the puny manlings, to the far more
satisfying prey. Doubtless the monster had been starved to fury for this
use in the arena. The Tua, as well, had been purposefully goaded into a
frenzy by the Mahars’ sagoth servants. The gigantic elk, seeing its hereditary
predator, the monstrous cave-tiger, turned its muzzle heavenward and bellowed
forth a mighty challenge.
In the next instant, the two
primordial monsters each charged upon the other, while the captives looked
on in awe. No surface man of the modern era has ever beheld such a combat
as the one that then exploded within the massive Mahar amphitheater, save
recently Clive Neville and Allistair Simmons had witnessed such a duel
between these very same Pleistocene Titans as now Tarok Valkara and Grunth
bore mute witness.
The titanic tiger sprung mightily upon
the charging elk, his mighty paws seeking to dash the beast’s skull to
fragments. The charging tua swept is mighty crown of fantastic horns to
either side, striving to smash its adversary to the ground. At length it
succeeded in tossing the mighty tarag from it with a wide sweep of the
enormous antlers. In a flash the giant tiger was up and springing upon
the flank of the super-stag. It clung there, while the tua backed and contorted,
attempting the gore the tiger with its horns. Meanwhile the huge cave-tiger
raked and trashed savagely with its gigantic hindquarters, slashing the
thick furred hide of the elk to bloody ruin, until the massive ribcage
with nearly exposed. Then the elk managed to jab the spear of its left
antler tip into the flank of the tarag. The tiger yowled and tore itself
loose, ripping free an entire portion of the elk’s flank, exposing the
raw, red musculature underneath.
The tua was now gushing blood,
seemingly gallons of it staining the white arena sands a gory crimson.
The mighty stag-monster stood its ground, though its sturdy limbs shook
with the effect of massive blood-loss. The tarag, too, quivered from
the same, as blood poured voluminously from the injury in its side. It
barred its gigantic ivory fangs nonetheless. Both monsters were prepared
to continue the duel to the last of their breath was spent.
A strange, eerie whining filled the arena.
The sound was incredibly height pitched,
nearly inaudible. Yet the effect pierced the skulls of Tarok and his companions.
It lasted what must have been several second. More than that, Tarok felt
would have been intolerable.
But the effect on the two beasts
was even more extraordinary. As the bizarre scream fell silent, the tow
primordial monsters turned their attentions away from one another. Both
fixed their gazes upon the three puny creatures in their midst.
“What is happening?” Tarok asked Grunth.
“I do not know.” answered the bison-man.
“This is not as beasts should act.”
The two monsters, mortal enemies since
the dim dawn of creation, began to circle the arena, each intent upon Tarok
and his fellow-captives. The tarag slunk toward them, head lowered, painted
ears flattened in feline menace. The tigers eyes blazed in killing-fury,
as its muzzle wrinkled and writhed back. A cavernous snarl escaped its
mighty lungs. The giant elk, antlered head lowered, bellowed mightily,
tearing at the sand with a gigantic hoof, preparing to thunder down terrifically
The three were trapped
between the two monsters with no apparent hope of escape or rescue.
“Now we die.” Grunth said.
“Then we shall fight to
the last.” Tarok growled.
“We will!” said Valkara.
“I am with you, gilaks.”
They readied their weapons.
The tarag was the first
to spring. The feline monster hurtled itself upon them in a monstrous spring.
Tarok readied his spear. The tarag, already weakened form his battle with
the tua, crashed down upon the Nu-al warrior. Tarok was a seasoned fighter,
and he knew exactly where to run his weapon so that the spear shaft thrust
into the chest-cavity of the giant tarag, through fur muscle and tissue,
until it penetrated the mighty heart of gigantic creature. The tarag yowled
thunderously, as impaled upon the warriors spear, it sell forward in a
crash, as tarok rolled to one side to avoid being crushed beneath that
mountain of shag and muscle.
Grunth and Valkara were upon the beast
in the next seconds. With the savage cry of a warrior-maid, the blonde
girl thrust her spear deep within the tarag’s ribcage. The bison-man thrust
into the other side with his sword. The monster whined and died, emerald
eyes glazing over.
But now the tua readied
himself for the attack.
Its thunderous bellow quaking
the arena, the stag-beast charged terrifically upon the warriors.
The three readied their weapons. In the next instant the beast was upon
them. They leaped to either side. The giant elk swept its fantastic array
of horns to either side. Grunth attacked first. Rather than use his sword,
the ganak rammed into the side of the tua, goring the beast with his left
horn. The tua bellowed in pain and fury, thrusting about its tremendous
crown of antlers. The ganak warrior was not quite quick enough and the
edge of the horn caught him, and swept him off his feet with a strangled
But Tarok had hunted tua before,
and ducked with a panther’s savage quickness beneath the killing thrust
of the antler. He then dove him thrusting his spear through the partially
exposed ribcage, and into the mighty heart. Vlakra attacked the monster-elk
form the other side. Its legs buckling, the giant elk fell to its knees,
issuing a loud wail of death. They continued to thrust with their spear,
until the tua, already severely weakened form its duel with the cave-tiger,
collapsed, leaking volumes of blood into the arena sands.
Dazed and blood-spattered, Tarok and his
mate rose to their feet. Tarok’s first thought was to check on Grunth,
see if the bison-man was fatally wounded. He found that he had been gored
very deeply and was loosing blood fast.
Tarok placed his hand on the
bison-man’s shoulder. “You have fought well, my friend.” he said. “May
the gods treat you kindly.”
‘You, too fought
well.” said Grunth. “I hope we shall meet in the next life…”
Two sagoth warriors approached.
“On you feet, gilak.” One of them told him.
Tarok gazed at him steely. “Your
masters have cost the ganak-warrior his life.” He said.
“The bison-man will not die.”
The guard said. “The lords have decreed his life shall be spared.”
“He is mortally wounded.” said
“He is to be taken to the hospital.
The Mahar physicians will see to him.”
The Nu-al warrior, not knowing at all
what the guard meant, merely shrugged. Grunth was taken away on a stretcher.
He and Valkara were returned to their cell.
Some indeterminate time later,
Grunth was returned to them. He showed them his wound, which tarok noted
with amazement, was almost completely healed.
“How did they do this?” he asked.
When ever a warrior of Nu-al was unfortunate to have received such an injury,
he was presumed done for.
Grunth shrugged his burly shoulder.
“I do not know. I only know that the Great Lords have most extraordinary
powers of healing. I must admit that they know things that you and I do
Tarok could not help himself
form wonder—what if his own tribal shaman had known of such incredibale
healing power—what if every sickness and injury were readily available
to the men and women of his own tribe. He remembered many brave warriors
who had died in battle from injuries less serious then Grunth’s. Too, he
thought of the many children of Nu-al who had died of disease or mishap.
What if they could harness the power of Mahar for themselves?
“What else can they do?” he asked.
“Can the Mahars even overcome death?”
The ganak shook his
horned head. “They cannot revive someone whose spirit has already fled
to the Beyond. But I have heard they can heal almost any injury or sickness.
They themselves do not suffer death as do the gilak and the other races,
or so I am told.”
Tarok had to admit that the prospect
was overwhelming. Perhaps David Innes should not attempt to kill or exile
the Mahars. There was evidently much they could learn from them.
“Do you have any idea why the
beasts suddenly attacked us?”
“The guards told me.” said Grunth.
“It was the strange weapon they have. You saw it, over the pedestal in
“That thing was a weapon?” Tarok
‘Yes. It is a terrible thing of magic
that can control the minds of the beasts. With such weapons they plan to
conquer the world they believe lies beyond the rim of Pelluicdar.”
Tarok understood now. The thing had
to be one of the fabled super-weapons that the Mahars were producing.
It must work in manner similar to the Mahars own mental powers, only greatly
amplified. Somehow the Mahars and their servant s were constructing a vast
legion of those things. They had to be stopped, or else none within the
realm of Pellucidar—and perhaps without as well—would remain safe.”
“Do you know the secrets of their
construction?” he asked Grunth.
“I know nothing of how the weapons
are made, only that they are being assembled by teams of trained sagoths
within this very city. Listen! Here the sounds beneath this floor? It is
the labor of the Mahars servants, building their weapons of doom!”
Tarok and Valkara listened—and
they heard. He had noticed the weird noises before, but had paid scant
attention. They were sounds no man of the Paleolithic had ever heard. But
Tarok now knew the portended something monstrous indeed.
It was sometime later,
shortly after their sleep-period, that Tarok heard the rattling of keys
at their cell door. He looked up.
The door opened. Three figures
wearing heavy-furred cloaks entered.
Right off, Tarok knew that these
could not be the sagoth guards. Though their features were hidden, he could
tell by their size and general build that they were not sagoths. “On your
feet.” The first one said.
Tarok was greatly relieved, for
he knew the voice well.
The warrior grinned. “Clive…?”
The man through back his hood, revealing
the red-hair and honest visage of the surface man. The second man revealed
himself to be Allistair Simmons, the aged scientist, and the third one
was none other than Jal-mar, their strange furred companion.
Tarok calpped his friend
on the shoulder. But Clive silenced. “Shhh! We must try to make our escape
form the city.”
“How did you find us.”
We camped not far form the city. Jal-mar,
Alistair and I, ambushed some sagoth warriors and took their cloaks.”
“Can you get us out?”
“I believe so.”
Then Tarok remembered Grunth. “If we
are to leave, then this ganak will accompany us.”
“Who is he?”
“My name is Grunth.” said
“He is a fellow warrior.
We fought in the arena. We are in this together, though our peoples would
doubtless be enemies in circumstances other than this.”
Clive agreed. Then he noticed
the other human slaves in the cell. There were three of them, in the far
corner, all male. These did not appear to be warriors, only servants. ‘We
cannot abandon these men either.”
Tarok feared escaping would be
more diffult the more of them there were, but reluctantly he agreed. He
simply could not abandon them to the cruel whim of the Mahar.
Clive bade the three men approach.
“We are escaping.” He said. “We wish to take you with us.
The men looked at him
wonderingly. “There is no escape from here.” said one of them. “Our lives
are to serve the Great Ones.”
Tarok grunted in disgust. “Then perhaps
we should leave you at their mercy.”
“There is a world beyond this city.” said
Clive “we will bring you to freedom if you join us.”
“If we are caught, they will
“Then come is you like.” Claive
told him. “In any case, we are leaving.”
The men, with some reluctance
agreed to join them. Tarok remained disgusted, but allowed the three servants
to accompany them. They remained behind Clive, Alistair and Jal-mar, who,
hidden under their cloaks, pretended to be sagoth guards escorting the
salves through the city. They encountered few guards, and other then one
or two curious glances, they attracted no unfavorable attention. Tarok
was unsure where Clive and the old man were leading them, but he trusted
they had found the route out of the city. The corridors and passages were
maze-like and bewildering.
At last they passed
out onto a narrow walkway overlooking a vast ware-house-sized room. The
size of the place was staggering to the senses of the Nu-al warrior, greater
even then the arena, especially since it was this far below ground.
“Here is where they create their
engines of war!” he heard Grunth hiss.
And so it was. The vast space
below them was filled with scores of the gigantic, canon-like war-machines,
in various stages of construction. Everywhere sagoth servitors labored.
Most all of them wore shiny, metallic-looking tunics. They worked with
strange metal tools, such as Tarok and his mate had never seen. Some wore
visors, and were working with what were essentially blow-torches. The entire
place rang with the sounds of labored construction.
They passed on, through
a door and into another plain hall of quartz-like white stone. Tarok’s
mind felt dazed and horrified by what he had witnessed. The machines were
capable of terrible destructive power, each one perhaps equal to the mental
powers of twenty Mahars.
As they rounded a corner, one
of the gigantic winged saurians leaped directly in front of them. The Mahar
hissed shrilly at them, beating its volumous wings.
Clive through aside his tandor-hide
cloak and brandished a long-sword, obviously provided to him by the warriors
Another Mahar flapped down in front
of them. It had entered though a vent in the ceiling designed for just
“Do not look into their
eyes!!” Tarok warned.
But Clive already knew
of the Mahars mental powers. He leaped to the side, keeping his gaze away
form the cold gaze of his foes’ reptilian orbs, forcing the winged reptile
to lunge forward with its ghastly array of teeth and claws. The surface
man slashed upward with his sword, slashing the creature’s breast. The
pterosaur shrieked deafeningly.
Meanwhile the other creature advanced
upon Alistair, Tarok, and the others. Jal-mar dashed forward, his cloak
falling away to reveal a spear clutched tightly within the Barraboo warrior’s
grasp. He rushed forward with the skill and speed characteristic of his
species, driving the point of his weapon deep into the Mahar’s breast.
Clive moved in on the other
wounded creature slashing the monsters scraggly throat, even as the creature
slashed down upon him with its tooth-filled beak. The Mahar went done in
a welter of reeking reptilian gore.
Jal-mar continued to drive his
weapon home. Unexpectedly, Grunth leapt to the attack. Though he was now
weaponless, the ganak warrior attacked with his horns, slashing them from
side to side in the manner of the bull bos. He gored his reptilian foe,
until the creature collapsed with a weak cry.
Jal-mar withdrew his spear, and rammed
it home again, making certain the incredible vitality of the saurian was
put to rest.
He then turned to the ganak.
“My thanks, friend.” he said.
“My pleasure.” said Grunth. “But
the masters have somehow been alerted to your presence. There will be more
on the way.”
As if in answer to the ganak’s
prediction, a small army of sagoth guards rounded the corner.
Clive and his companions
readied their weapons.
But the sagoths carried
weapons as well—strange new weapons that resembled somewhat Clive’s pistol.
Tarok had not seen their like before, and he felt his boded ill.
slain two of the Lords!” said one of the guards.
cried in horror. ‘That one is Za-rah! She was our engineer of Cyrstal Technology!
The filthy gilak slaves have killed her.”
“Then we must kill them!”
said a third.
“No!” commanded the first
guard. He aimed his weapon directly at Clive. “This one is the red-furred
surfacelander! We are ordered to capture him and his companions unharmed.
The sagoth fired his weapon.
It did not emit a bullet, or even a laser, as Clive soon discovered. He
weird sound like a super-sonic squeal invaded his brain, making him want
to scream. The effect was rather like nails across a chalk board, the same
unpleasantness, only magnified a thousandfold.
Clive collapsed to the
floor, his sward clattering from his grasp.
His companions were soon
“What shall we do with them?”
asked one of the sagoths to their captain.
“Tu-rah commands that the
red-haired one and his companions be taken to the Dead World—the Moon of