JASON OF PELLUCIDAR
A story of the inner world
by Richard Senate
Pellucidar Art by Paul Privitera
Chapters 1 | 2 | 3
I woke up and glance up at the sky. The sun was high overhead at zenith as it always was. This didn't surprise me in the least as it had been constantly noon since the day of my birth. I am called Jason Innes, the son of David Innes, the Emperor of Pellucidar and his wondrous mate Dian the Beautiful. I have grown to manhood in the city of Sari, the greatest, and some say the only, city in all of Pellucidar. I was taught how to hunt by Ghak the Hairy One, my grandfather and king of Sari, how to sail the seas by Ja of Amoroc, how to run by Hodon the Fleet One. Abner Perry was my able teacher and instructor in both reading and writing. From him I learned of the wonders of the outer world where he and my father were born. He told me of their perilous trip in the “Iron Mole” to Pellucidar. I must say I found it hard to imagine a world that was not upward curving and not like a great bowl. His best description of a “horizon” seemed difficult to accept. Harder still was the thing he called a sunset and sunrise. Even the darkness of a night with stars and a moving moon seemed the stuff of fantasy. I could not take such things seriously, believing these things just could not exist or if they did, they must be things that may have been at one time, but not now. But, from good old Perry I did learn some useful things, like how to make gunpowder and fashion rifles. With these we could stand against the great beasts and savage peoples that are found within my father's empire.
It is more a loose confederation of tribes than a real state, the way Perry described empires on the outer world. Before the coming of my father these tribes where constantly at war with each other. He ended that and joined them with treaties to establish trade and manufacturing. So strong are the links that few even remember the old ways, save at the very fringes of the empire were savagery can be found. What were once paths are now roads and peace the prevailing universal state. For me it is hard to imagine the chaos of the past where strangers were seen as something to fear and killed on sight. My father had given peace to much of the inner world.
Much of the credit can also be given to old Abner Perry and his many inventions and innovations from bringing water to Sari to farming and industry. Not that everything he did was a success. He had several times attempted to perfect a flying machine—a thing he called an airplane. Each time his odd machine would end in failure. When he tested it the last time the whole population would come down to the flat field he had made and watched the attempt. His creation managed to move along the ground—backwards. Its propeller spinning, the engine coughing smoke, until it burst into flames and old Perry had to leap for safety before it was consumed with several magnificent explosions! The whole population of Sari clapped at the entertainment of the thing. Abner was jumping around in anger at his failure. My father was watching and went to him with a smile and a hug.
“You will get it to fly next time,” he consoled him. “I am convinced that air travel will help all Pellucidar as much as the invention of ships have helped trade and exploration.”
It was this attempt to build an airplane that, I now reflect, set into motion the events that fill this narration. My father knew that an airplane had once flown in the skies of the inner world. It had been brought to the inner world by his friend Jason Gridley, my godfather, in his great dirigible O-220. The ship had crashed in the mountains of Thipdars in distant Zoram. My father set up an expedition to go to the crash site and recover parts of the aircraft . It was hoped with them Perry could make a working airplane. My father took an extra strong guard of veteran warriors with him for this perilous journey. There was a great feast before he left and he bid all of his people good-bye. It was with great reluctance my mother let him go at all and was tempted to follow the party. He estimated it would take fifty sleeps to go to the crash site and return. I carved a nick on a stick—counting them, each time I woke up. When I had 100 cuts on the counting stick I began to worry as did all of Sari. My mother was most worried but she was confident that David could take on any challenge. The most worried was old Abner that he was gone for such a long time. He was most worried that no word had come from my father. It was at this time that something happened that gave us all something larger to worry about.
Now I am sure it was stimulated by my fathers long absence from the Empire. A revolt broke out lead by Gunt of the Armaz Tribe. He sent his warriors against the Empire to the neighboring tribes after loot and slaves. The tribes of Thuria and Kali were sacked in these savage raids. Gunt even boasted of making the Empire his own and forever destroying the work of my father. He even said that the great David Innes was dead and vowed to take Sari and make Dian the Beautiful his mate! The Armaz was one of the far tribes and so had little contact with the civilizing influences of the Empire. They only accepted the sword to replace the club and the rifle to replace the spear. Gunt also appealed to all the malcontents within the Empire winning them over with promises of slave girls and loot to any warrior who would abandon the Empire and swear loyalty to the Armaz and king Gunt.
The revolt was growing and everyone could see that something had to be done and done fast or all of the Inner World would be once again plunged into barbarism. Still there was no word of my father.
THE CRY OF BATTLE
Ghak the Hairy one wanted to lead an attack against the rebellious Armaz but I would have none of that. He was needed in Sari to keep the imperial government working. After hours of tribal debate it was decided that I should lead a small, well-armed, force against the rebels while Ghak organized a larger force to be lead by Tanar. It was hoped that my counter attack would take Gunt by surprise and scatter his army, finishing him off with one decisive battle. It was a daring plan, but I suspected Gunt had yet to face disciplined Imperial Troops and be unprepared for the move. I was the emperors son, and though I was inexperienced, I rashly believed my youth and drive would win the day. While I was gone Ghak could organize a stronger army as well as prepare to defend the capital if Gunt managed to press his attacks all the way to Sari.
I had the palace guard and local warriors, some three hundred strong, mostly veteran warriors loyal to the Empire. I even had a hundred Sargoths, the ape like mercenaries, once used by the lizard-like Mahars to enforce their rule over the inner world. The Sagoths were hard fighters, if a bit slow. They loved to fight and found more than their fill of battle with my father.
My Mother didn't want me to go but she realized that I must defend my father's interests. I packed and left the Imperial Palace built by the grateful people and designed by Abner Perry. It had tall stone columns, and stood two stories tall with a stone tower. It dominated the whole of Sari. The Sarians simply called it “the Big Cave.” I walked down the street to the not so lavish residence and laboratory of Abner Perry. He greeted me at the door his eyes filled with tears.
“Jason, I'm glad you came my boy,” he said embracing me. I was glad none of the warriors or Sagoths had see this sort of display—-I would have faced many jokes and comments on the march because of this seemingly effeminate gesture.
“I have a gift for you,” he continued. “I made them as a present for your father but I think you have better need for them.”
He presented me with a pair of well-made revolvers, with bone handles. They also came with a leather set of holsters and a belt—with extra ammunition.
“These are great,” I said taking them from him. “They are so light weight.”
“I believe they are better than any of the Colt pistols we brought from the outer world. Don't worry, I tested them myself,” assured the old man, “I believe they are the best the Imperial Arsenal has ever produced.” Now tears came to my eyes as we embraced again. Old Abner was like a grand father to me. He patted me on the back and recovered himself.
“You be safe out there!” he said, “I can't be with you but I hope these little toys will help you stand against beasts and rebel tribesmen.”
“Don't worry, This will not take long,” I assured him. “One battle and it will all be over.”
Rather than comfort him, his face became dark and a look of worry came to his eyes.
“That's what they said at Bull Run, in the Civil War,” he answered slowly. “That war lasted four years!
I have had an idea run though my mind of a new weapon, maybe now is the time to build it.”
“What sort of thing is it?” I asked, always interested in his plans.
“It is a weapon that will dispatch any and all who would dare to approach the imperial capital.”
There was a smile on his face, he was never more happy than when he was developing some awesome new weapon.
“War Rockets!” he exclaimed. “Why not? We have gunpowder, metal to make the casings and plenty of long bamboo poles to make sure they fly right.”
I didn't know what he was talking about but he set to work making drawings and calculations on some paper made from large leaves. I bid him good-bye and strapping on my pair of six shooters walked to the town square where my army was forming up. Most of the population of Sari was here to see us off.
They were there waiting, the red, white and blue flag of the empire flying above them. They saw me and cheered. There was a small rise made of stacked flat stones in the center of the square, I took the rise and in my most booming voice addressed them.
“Warriors of the Empire,” I started, “We march to defeat the enemies of David Innes and all he has given to Pellucidar! I Jason Innes vow to lead you to victory over Gunt and his rebels! Follow me and let us end forever this threat from the north!” With that they cheered and I started to walk out of the city and north, my army behind me.
I have no need to retell the many dangers we faced in that long trek across savage Pellucidar—needless to say we were attacked many times by the mightiest of creatures of the inner world. Our rifles alone and our numbers kept us safe. We slept and ate many times before we approached the district of the rebellion. We passed many caves of once friendly tribes, now deserted after suffering from the hands of Gunt's horde. A few stragglers came out of hiding when they saw the red, white and blue of the imperial flag. Each of the survivors had a story of surprise and savagery. Many of those who didn't fall in the first attack were slaughtered with only the beautiful women saved to become slaves. Only a few managed to flee and hide in the forest until the Armaz Tribesman left to raid others.
One man sought me out, he was a small man, with a rat like face. He was thin and his eyes were close set. He bowed respectfully to me and introduced himself as “Fang” I could see how he got the name, his teeth were sharp and long. He boasted he was born with a tooth in place.
“I ask to accompany you great Jason,” he said with a leer. “I seek the murders of my mother and father. I was away on a hunt when the Armaz attacked. I wish that I had been there! I would have killed many of them! I would have ripped out their hearts! But, I just saw what they had done.”
The fellow seemed slightly mad but who could blame him after the scenes he must have seen?
“Great Jason of the Empire, I, Fang, can lead you to Gunt's camp! I have followed them, watching waiting for my chance to exact revenge. They are many times greater than you, and their numbers grow each day, but Fang can lead you behind them. He knows a way and you can fall upon them by surprise! Then you can kill them all!” At that he smiled in a menacing way.
“Perhaps,” I said to him. “Wait as I confer with the others.”
I gathered some of the leaders of the expedition in a circle a hundred yards out of the camp.
“I do not trust this Fang,” grunted the Sagoth Guzz, as he shook his head.
“What do we know of him?” asked another tall Sari Warrior.
“I think he had been driven to near madness by his grief and hate,” I answered. “He can be the one thing that will give us an edge over the larger rebel forces. I am inclined to trust this Fang.”
The big hairy Sagoth just shook his head again, but I knew they are, as a group, less likely to trust humans.
Now I think back, and believe I should have heeded the advise of the Sagoth.
I returned to Fang and told him we would let him guide us to the Armazite Camp. At that he smiled showing his sharp, uneven teeth.
He led us though dense jungles and across wide reptile infested swamps. We lost several warriors to the huge crocodiles that dwell in these marshes. Next Fang directed us over a range of tall mountains where poisonous vipers took ten more of my brave troops. It seemed as if he was deliberately leading us along the most difficult track imaginable. In the mountains, the Sagoth, Guzz wanted to toss him over a cliff, would that I had listen to the big ape-man. On and on we traveled, using up our supplies. I was almost convinced Fang had lost his way. Still, the rat faced Fang kept assuring us it was just a bit farther.
We were sent though a dense wood as our water supply ran out, then the forest became a dry, wasteland. Our tongues grew thick with thirst, and this seemed to make Fang all the happier.
“Its just a little father—and there is plenty of water!” he pointed down a path and danced . “Water for all!” Now the army started to move quicker, as they saw it, a small running brook of water. Once they saw this, all started to run. Fang was not with them, and I held back as my men plunged into the stream and drank their fill. I was happy for them as they leaped and shouted as they relaxed . Slowly the whole of the army was at the stream quenching their thirst. I was about to drink myself when one of the men let out a scream.
I looked up and saw a man holding his stomach in pain. Another and another did the same. One of the stricken men yelled one word; “Poison!”
The water had been deliberately poisoned upstream. At that moment, when dozens were doubled up in pain, a cry was sounded from someplace and rifles began firing at the exposed army from both sides. The riflemen were well hidden behind rocks and brush on each side of the fatal stream. It was a trap! I looked to find Fang, with a drawn revolver, I wanted to place a bullet into his treacherous heart, but he was no where to be found, he had vanished with the first volley.
As the bullets began to crack over my head I lost all interest in water and aimed at a spot where I saw smoke from a concealed foe. I fired twice and was rewarded as one of the enemy rolled out of the brush, dead. I glanced over the battlefield, most or my proud company were ill from the foul water, the rest were seeking what cover they could, and returning fire. We were exposed, reluctantly I knew what I had to do.
“Retreat!” I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Fall back, down stream!” I picked up a rife from a dead warrior and fired at the rebels, as I stood up to direct the forces away from the ambush. Bullets zipped around me, as I stood up and gestured to withdraw. No order was better understood, others repeated the order, and a rear guard was hastily organized and we began a slow, painful withdrawal. Cavemen are loath to turn their backs on an enemy but, clearly, they had no chance in this murderous trap. So with some helping their comrades, they made the slow retreat. I exposed myself firing, keeping the tribesmen of Gunt busy. Still, I saw many were left behind, floating face first in the poison waters.
I knew it was all my fault for going against the advice of my men and trusting the traitor Fang. Once what was left of my force got into the forest they could find shelter behind the trees and rocks on each side of the fatal brook. Now the rebels attacked us from three sides, one force splashing down the stream, the others coming from the left and right. We held them back more by the accuracy of our fire than numbers. Still, we were doomed without water and in time we would be overrun. Now I could see that Gunt's plan was to exterminate the whole force.
“Retreat!” I ordered again, half expecting one of my own men to shoot me for my incompetence as a leader.
I stood up and gestured for what was left of my people to fall back further. Bullets flew around me
until I heard a voice yell out.
“Don't Shoot Jason Innes!” it rang out, “I want him alive!” It was Gunt I assumed, and once he said this, no more bullets came my way. It didn't stop me from firing at them. I reloaded my pistols several times, and saw several fall before my fire. I knew their goal—I was to be captured. I ran off to the left, leaving my command. I was sure they would follow me rather than the survivors of my men. That might give them a fighting chance to return to Sari and let them know what happened. I vowed to not let old Gunt take me alive. I would not be a pawn in his plans to take Sari and the Empire.
I now wished that the thing called night existed here in Pellucidar to make my escape, as I plunged deeper into the forest, a tangle of trees and brush that soon evolved into a true jungle. I could hear the cursing of Gunt's men as they were in hot pursuit. Now I was thirsty as I have never been before. I saw a vine I knew, took my knife and cut a section. It held sweet water. I paused for only a moment but the refreshment gave me new strength to run on. If I got away I vowed to trace my path back and rejoin my retreating men. I vowed to find Fang and kill him with my own hand.
I climbed a tree and found concealment in the leaves, only the chattering of the monkeys might tell of my hiding place. I watched as fully fifty well armed men rushed below me, still trying to follow me. I smiled, resting, as they ran further on. They would need to faster than that to hunt Jason Innes. After a time, I came down and started down a different trail. I traveled quickly for I knew the tracking skills of the inner world. I used every trick Tanar ever taught me to conceal my way. I do not know how long I ran, but finally, I grew exhausted and fell into a soft mass of vegetation. I climbed a thick tree with my last reserves of strength. The tree produced a sweet fruit and I feasted on them and used the juice to slake my thirst. I waited, hidden by the leaves and vines, for the sounds of pursuit but none came. I had escaped Gunt's men but now, I faced a different dilemma, I was quite lost.
The people of Pellucidar have evolved the gift to find their way back home. It was hoped that as I was half Sarian, I would have this ability as well. But, alas, it seemed I took after my father and had no inner compass, as Abner Perry called it. I counted my assets. One of the pair of pistols was gone. It had fallen from my holster as I ran. I still had one and some ammunition. I had my pack with a bit of dried meat, and a few items, like a bound journal to record the trip, a pen and a small bottle of ink. I also had a dagger and a long, sharp steel spear point. If my bullets should run low I could make a spear to hunt and defend myself. It wasn't much. I found a part of the tree where two branches met and slept, for how long, I do not know.
When I woke, I found more fruit and finished the last of my dried meat. I would need some fresh game, if I was to survive until I could make my way back to my men or Sari. I took my knife and cut a long sapling, cut it down and mounted the steel spear point. Now I felt safer, I could conserve my bullets as I wandered. Maybe, with a bit of good luck, I might run into someone who could point the right way home, and not bump into some of Gunt's men. I found a small stream, tasting it to make sure it wasn't poisoned, and filled my flask. I managed to bring down a small deer and feasted well for a time, I only regretted I could not take the whole carcass with me, but I had to leave much of it for the predictors. I started a counting stick, carving a new mark at each sleep. I wandered, free, enjoying the wilds of the jungle, and avoiding the large saber toothed cats, the Thag, that prowled here. I saw no other humans, apes or Sagoths, in my wanderings. At the time I thought and re-thought, my actions in the battle. I was taken in by Fang and I underestimated King Gunt. I would have thought it impossible for him to have set up such an elaborate ambush. I vowed to never underestimate the man or his agent Fang, again.
As my counting stick reached ten sleeps, I started to despair that I would find my way out of this section of Pellucidar. Now I had a feeling what my father must have felt when he and Perry first arrived here in the “iron mole”. I was wandering in my depression when I heard something I never would have imaged—a scream. It was the scream of a woman. I ran towards the sound of the yell, only to come into a glade where I saw a small woman, armed with a stone tipped spear facing a large Thag. The tremendous saber toothed feline was crouching low to spring upon the girl, who bravely stood her ground, even though the small spear was as good as nothing against the huge Thag. I didn't pause to think, I pulled back my arm and cast my heavy spear on to the creature's back, striking in towards the back of the neck. I am not one to boast, but I an good with a spear, and I can hit what I aim for. The big animal leaped up, turning, facing me with gleaming eyes. I slowly drew my revolver. I had hoped my spear would bring down the feline. Now I wish I had one of the rifles we had with the Army.
I stared to yell at the top of my lungs, waving for the girl to flee. I was hoping my verbal shouts and demonstration would distract the monster and at least give the girl a chance to run. To my surprise, she stood her ground, not leaving me to what ever fate might have for me.
I started to fire my pistol as the thing charged, I aimed for the heart, as the girl tossed her spear at the Thag, hitting it in the left side, the point burying deep into the things flesh. As it charged, I aimed for the head, striking the animal in the right eye, My last shot turned in the cylinder, I took careful aim with both hands and squeezed the trigger. The bullet hit the thing in the forehead and it drop at my feet, stone dead. I was shaking all over, never had I felt so close to death.
I looked up, the girl was walking, slowly to the fallen creature, She grabbed her spear and pulled it from the animal, she then took the thicker haft of my spear and pulled it from the feline. She looked at the steel point with admiration, then tossed the weapon to me. I had a chance to look her over and I saw that she was one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. Her reddish hair fell in flowing heaps around an oval smiling face. She was dressed in a sleek panther skin, done as a sort of tunic that covered one shoulder, and ended in a short skirt. She wore many ornaments of bone and shell beads.
“I am called Weena,” she said her hand on the hilt of a stone knife.
“I am Jason Innes,” I answered, extending my hand in friendship. “I am the son of David Innes, the Emperor of Pellucidar.”
“You are from the Empire?” she asked, her face alive with joy. I was glad she received the empire so well. For a moment I thought she might be of Gunt's tribe.
“I am from the tribe of Thali,” she explained, “ The Armaz came among us. They pretended it was a peaceful trade mission. Then, when they were in our caves, they attacked. I managed to run away into the jungle. Now you are here Jason, you can lead a great army against Gunt and punish him for his attack.”
Now I felt a little embarrassed. To think I was deprived of my army so easily by a traitor. I then recalled that Fang had said he was of the Thali Tribe.
“Do you know a warrior named Fang?” I asked her. At the mention of that name she face became a mask of hate!
“What have you to do with Fang?” she yelled, her eyes filled with utter contempt. Her hand drew her knife.
“He is a traitor to the Empire,” I quickly answered, stunned by her response. “I have vowed to kill him!” At this declaration she relaxed slightly.
“Fang is of my tribe,” she stammered, replacing her knife in its leather sheath. “he is a beast, a killer of women, I hate him, but I am to mate with him. Fang is my husband!”
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