JASON OF PELLUCIDAR
A story of the inner world
by Richard Senate
Pellucidar Art by Paul Privitera
Chapters 7 | 8 | 9
THE BATTLE OF MAHARA
A Sagoth woke us telling us about a meeting in the main room.
“The Emperor commands your presence!” he said in a formal way, the Sagoths seem to enjoy a formal relationship with others. I thanked him and got ready for the meeting.
The Sagoth saw Weena, and grunted, turned and left.
“We better take our weapons, the battle may well be here.” I said, after a kiss.
“Weena is ready,” she said taking the crossbow and putting the iron darts in her belt with her dagger. She took her spear as well. I had a musket, taken from a fallen rebel in Thali, and powder horn with shot, and together we made our way down the corridors to the huge room where Song-To-To was on her rise, and my father was conferring with her in sign language.
“Jason,” he said, as we walked in. “Join us, and Weena.” I saw the Sagoth Slug and several of fathers Sarian guards.
“Father,” I said to him in a low voice. “There is something I need to tell you.”
“What is it?” he blurted. “Come on, spit it out.”
“Weena is my mate.” I said boldly, holding her close.
“Your mate?” he said, a bit surprised, his look of surprise, melted into the largest smile I have ever seen. “That's the best news ever!” the other Sarians patted me on the shoulder. Even the Sagoth joined in. Then father signed the information to Song-To-To. She flapped her wings and signed back.
“I am pleased,” she said. “there will be time for a feast when the battle is done.”
“The Mahars have an abundant supply of water provided by mountain springs,” explained father. “They have stockpiles of food and fish in the lake. Really only one way into the city is up that long valley. The other ways are narrow paths where a few could hold a hundred. Our serious problem is lack of gunpowder. If we can hold out, until a rescue force comes it will be all right—its just doing that.”
A Mahar can into the chamber beating her wings in excitement. She started to sign to the Queen, who then signed it to the rest of us.
“The Gunt Rebels are in the valley, gathering there for an attack,” she signed.
“Then, follow me,” said my father. “Take some snacks and lets join those at the wall! Death to Gunt!”
There was a table of cooked fish and roasted vegetables, and we helped ourselves, because each one of us didn't know when we would have a chance to eat again. In our party were just twelve, counting the Sagoths, we ran up the stairs to the paved road that went to the wall. We joined another Sagoths, who nodded there heads to my father. They had been instructed to follow his every order. We took the crude stone stairway to the top of the wall, behind a low stone breastwork. Now I could see the army of Armaz, forming for battle. They had several crimson banners, and some of the warriors were decked out in red war paint.
“We can hold out as long as we have powder and shot,” commented My Father. He looked down at the 32 pounder being muscled in place by a team of hairy Sagoths.
“Is the cannon loaded up with scrap metal?” he yelled down to them.
“Yes, sire,” came the answer.
“Don't fire until I give the command,” ordered the Emperor. “We must make every shot count.”
He looked over at Weena and I and smiled. He gave the cave girl a hug, then looked up at me.
“Jason, you take the left, make sure no one gets over the wall.” he then looked at the Sagoth, Slug, “You, Slug, take your best Sagoths and hold the right (he pointed not trusting the gorilla men could tell left from right) Let no one cross the wall.”
“As you wish,” the hairy warrior said with a nod, “None shall pass!”
“Good, I have long learned to trust the word of a Sagoth,” he replied. “I will be in the center with my guards, marksmen everyone. Don't fire until we see the whites of their eyes!”
“What does that mean?” asked Weena,
“It's another saying from the outer world,” I told her, “It means don't fire until he gives the command—that means even your crossbow.”
“If I see Fang—I will fire.” she assured me.
“And I would not blame you,” I told her, “just don't miss.”
I glanced up the valley and saw the army was getting ready to attack. They fired their two cannons
hitting the wall, shaking the massive structure. Then, with drums beating, they ,came, walking at first, but I knew once they got in range of our muskets they would run.
“There are so many of them,” commented Weena. “Please, Jason, my love, promise me you will not let them take me---alive.”
“ We will hold out,” I comforted her. “These bandits will never get though the wall.” She looked at me, then gave me a long kiss.
I heard a number of clicks and glanced over to see the Sarian riflemen cock their weapons, I did the same. Everyone had a grim expression etched on to their faces as the screaming horde started to run towards us, a few of the the rebels pausing to discharge their muskets and pistols. One painted rebel held aloft the red flag of Gunt and took the lead, heading right towards the mouth of the cannon.
Everyone on the wall held their fire, as they drew near. My heart pounded in my chest as I could see the grinning faces of the enemy. They were now one hundred feet from the wall.
Then over the yells of the enemy and their savage drums, one voice echoed though the valley. It was my father giving a one word order-- “Fire!”
All of the Sarians fired at once then I fired and I heard the twang of Weena's Crossbow. Smoke blinded us as we saw twelve of the rebels fall, but still the mob came on, screaming. Somehow the flag bearer was unharmed and kept rushing the wall. The Sagoth, Slug, fired a blunderbuss at him and he fell, with a wound to his chest, dropping the red flag to the dust. He had gotten twenty feet from the wall. Just then, the cannon was fired. The road was deafening, smoke filled the valley. After the blast there was a moment of silence. The wall was shaken by the detonation. Cinders and smoke lingered for a long moment, then, as the winds blew it away, the space before the wall was a scene of carnage. Bodies and parts of bodies, were everywhere. Those who survived were going back up the valley to Gunt's lines. The old scrap metal had done its evil work.
Weena was silent, looking over the scene of horror. The cannon blast had taken the steam out of their attack.
“Maybe they will leave now,” she said.
“Maybe,” I answered, “”But I don't think we can count on that.”
I saw my father was with the Sagoth crew helping them reload the cannon. He was yelling encouragements to the defenders. The Sagoths were smiling—they loved nothing better than a fight.
I looked over the scene of battle and was stunned to silence at the vision of death before me. Still, I knew my duty and drew my powered horn and ramrod to re-load my musket. I could see Weena pulling back the string on her crossbow as well. She too was in awe of the battlefield.
I could see that the followers of Gunt were re-organizing for another attack and I yelled his down to my father, as he pulled the 32 pounder back in firing position.
“They are getting ready for another charge!” I cried.
“Make every shot count,” he ordered loudly so all could hear.
“Here they come!” shouted Weena.
Now the tribe of Armaz, with drums beating and red flags waving starting moving down the valley. The tribe was known for their bravery. Now they were chanting 'Down with the Mahars!' and I noticed many had capes and carried crude ladders made of bamboo. They would try to scale the wall. Now they were discharging their muskets in an attempt to keep our heads down.
I looked over the approaching tribesmen, trying to find Gunt or Fang but they were not in the front ranks. Gunt should have been at the head of his army and not waiting in the back. I guess he knew that it would be much safer to remain behind.
Like before, my father ordered us to hold our fire until there was no chance of missing. Some Sagoths had Korsair Blunderbusses, the rest cross bows, a few, former followers of Gunt, had better muskets.
None fired until the order was given.
Then, as one volley we cut loose, felling a good dozen of the rebels but still they came on. The 32 pounder spoke with a defining roar, as smoke blinded us. I noticed Weena was in tears from the sound of the cannon.
When the smoke cleared, I saw the rebels were walking over their dead, coming towards us! I saw some of them pull dark things from their capes. They were hand bombs! That was the plan to clear the wall with these, silence the cannon and scale the walls to overpower our ranks with sheer numbers.
They started to toss them, a few landed on the bulwarks. I picked up one and tossed it back before it exploded. I saw Weena do the same. I heard a blast and saw several Sagoths were badly wounded, they were too slow to re-act to the hand bombs. The Emperor was with the Sagoths, reloading the cannon, one was tossed in the gun port. He picked it up and tossed it up to me.
“Jason, Take care of this!” he cried.
I caught it and flung the bomb over the wall into the ranks of the Armaz where it detonated with terrible effect. I saw Weena take a another bomb and flung it back. Now the rebels were placing ladders on the walls and trying to mount them. I had no time to reload my musket so I drew my pistol and started to fire at those who were mounting the wall. Weena was using her spear now, so to were the Sagoths. some had swords draw as well. I picked up my musket and using it as a club, knocked several rebels in the head with the stock. I heard a scream and turned as an big Armaz warrior had seized Weena's ankle. I put a single bullet from my pistol in the man's back and he fell off the wall. For each one killed another came up the ladders.
Now the Sagoths were doing well, They were experts at hand to hand fighting. The cries of battle filled the air. I glanced down to see my father and his ape-like crew moving the cannon back in place, they had re-loaded the weapon. He put a slow match to the touch hole, and the wall shook with the blast. For a moment there was acrid smoke and silence, then as the breeze, came up the space before the wall was carpeted with the dead. The fighting continued, but with the losses they suffered, many of the rebels were falling back, many carrying and helping their wounded comrades. The Sagoths and Sarians cleaned off the wall, some tossing the rebel warriors from the wall. My Father was coming up the stairs to join us, We had taken a number of losses, maybe twenty Sagoths dead, two of the Sarians as well. I felt something warm on my cheek, I checked it was blood. A bullet had nicked my cheek.
“Well, we fought off that attack,” said my father, He too had a slight wound on the leg. “We are getting low on powder, only enough for one more shot of the cannon.”
I heard a cry, and looked back towards the city, A group of one hundred Sagoths reserves were rushing to join us. They were armed with crossbows and spears. We needed them now more than ever, but we also knew this was almost the last of the reserves. I glanced over the wall and we could see that the rebels were massing for a new attack, this one larger than the last. We reloaded our weapons with the last of our powder, I had two cartridges left for the pistol. I vowed to save one for Weena if we should be overran by the Armaz.
The Sagoths and two Sarians loaded the last of the powder into the cannon. Pulling it back into place. We had inflicted terrible losses on the enemy but there was no sign they were done. I began to feel that the next attack would finish us.
“It looks bad, son,” said my father as he placed a hand on my shoulder. Weena was using a rag to wrap his leg wound. I had done the same to my cheek.
“We gave them a fight!” I answered him. “This battle shall never be forgotten, as long as warriors sing songs or tell tales in Pellucidar.”
My father ordered a Sagoth with a wounded arm to contact Song-To-To. He ordered him to let the Queen know how the battle was going. She should send any additional gunpowder—and be ready to deploy the incense of death. He also ordered Weena to withdraw from the wall, but she refused.
“My place is beside my mate,” she said defiantly. My father just nodded.
Now with defeat and death facing him, My father didn't seem overly excited. His courage inspired all, Sarian, as well as Sagoth. I now understood how he managed to overcome so many dangers in early times when he first arrived in the inner world. In fact he almost seemed to be enjoying himself.
“Another charge like that and they may well break though,” he said grimly.
“We are not defeated yet!” said Weena.
“Look, sire!” boomed Slug, the Sagoth, pointing to the enemy lines.
A single figure was walking toward the wall with a stick that held a white flag. The flag symbolized a truce. As it drew near, I saw it was Fang, with a cape. Fang, the Thalian who betrayed is own people to Gunt. Without realizing it I put my musket to my shoulder to fire, taking deliberate aim at the traitorous Fang.
My father grabbed the barrel and pulled it away.
“Stop,” he shouted, “ we can't kill him, he's under a flag of truce. I know who it is and nothing would please me more than to put a bullet in his sorry hide. But, we have to hear what he has to say.”
I could see Weena was aiming at him with her crossbow. I pulled it down.
Fang came closer, smiling with all his teeth. Others on the wall, were aiming at him, but didn't fire.
“Peace,” yelled Fang with a sort of bow. “Let me speak. You have killed many of our best warriors!”
As he spoke he walked closer to the gun port.
“There is rebellion in the ranks of Gunt,” he continued. “We seek a truce.”
“What are your terms?” asked David Innes. Fang was within ten feet of the cannon, looking down the barrel of the 32 pounder.
It was then that he made his move. From under his cape he drew a dark object and quickly tossed it into the gun port. It was a hand bomb! He quickly rolled to one side, behind a large rock for protection. I aimed and fired but the bullet missed. Then there was a detonation. The wall shook as smoke filled the air. When the dust cleared, I saw five of the gun crew were dead and the 32 pounder was blown off its wheeled mounting. The cannon was aiming at an odd angle, and worthless. Fortunately there was no powder to explode near the weapon. But it was ruined.
“Here they come!” yelled one of the Sagoths. And rebel cannons started to hit the wall. Now, the rebels were using their artillery with good effect. They were trying to breach the wall. A ball hit the wall sending rock and stone everywhere. A second shot hit the hidden door and blew it open! At this a cry went up from the rebels as they rushed us with drums beating and red flags waving.
I could hear my father ordering the men to block the door with what ever they could find. He rushed down the stairs to help defend the opening, knowing that would be the focal point of the attack.
I held Weena close, and kissed her. I reloaded my musket, There was only enough powder for one shot more. Another cannon ball hit the wall almost shaking me to my knees. Another flew over the wall striking a Sagoth and carrying his body away.
It looked like the whole of Gunt's force was descending upon us now. I even made out the bearded figure of Gunt himself, in scarlet war paint, leading the attack. This would be the last assault. Flags flying and yelling 'Death to David Innes' some of the rebels were carrying ladders too. Now they were firing at the wall and those at the top of the fortification. I aimed at a flag bearer and fired. I saw him fall, taking the flag with him. It seemed impossible that we should weather this storm. I glanced at Weena, she was in tears. Still she aimed and fired her crossbow.
“I have no more bolts,” she said, tossing away the weapon, and talking up her spear.
“I have only two bullets in my pistol,” I answered as I held the musket as a club. I glanced back at the city and saw ten more Sagoths with spears and shields coming to help. It was the last of our reserves. I was hoping they might have more gunpowder, but they didn't.
I looked at the smoke, it was lowing towards the wall, the poison gas of the Mahars would be worthless now. The incense of death could only be used when we were all dead. I feared that without it our cause was lost.
Gunt's tribesmen were almost upon us when I saw my father jump to the cannon and put a lighted match to the touch hole. It fired, but as it was off its mount most of the scrap metal it fired went into the air. Only a few of the rebels closest to the cannon were hit, but the smoke and blast did slow down the enemy advance for a moment. Then the battle was on. The ladders were set on the wall as dozens tried to make their way though the doorway. Out of ammunition, I picked up large rocks and tossed them down upon the foes, Weena was doing the same. When one warrior mounted the wall she stabbed him in the chest with her spear, but as he fell back he seized the haft of the weapon and pulled it with him. I found an unloaded Sagoth Blunderbuss and used it like a club to strike an attacker. One gained the wall and I hit him so hard the weapon's stock splintered. As he fell, I pulled two single shot pistols from his belt and, cocking them, fired into the ascending face of two more. Then, I tossed the heavy pistols down on another. I took a Sagoth spear and tossed it to Weena, drawing a sword from a dead Sarian.
I glanced down to see my father and ten Sagoths holding Gunt's men back at the blasted doorway. He was was using his sword and shouting orders to the gorilla men. I kept pushing back the ladders as bullets flew all around me. I was helped by several Sagoths with spears and crossbows, until Gunt's men cut them down with accurate musket fire. One of them, struck in the chest, screamed out “Mahara” and jumped down from the wall, a dagger in his hand, killing three more on the ladders before he was shot by more of the rebels and died.
I saw a new group of reinforcements for the rebels rushing to the wall with more ladders. More Sagoths mounted the wall, with poles to push away the ladders. Now I was using my sword more, keeping down, as was Weena, One Armaz tribesman jumped up and faced me, a pistol in his hand. He fired and missed by inches. I drew mine and hit him in the upper chest, he fell dead and I took his pistol. It was a five shooter revolver, Two chambers fired, I used the other three, but it was a poor copy of a Sarian weapon and I hit only one foe, now empty, I tossed it down striking a rebel in the head, forcing him to fall back to the ground.
THE BLACK FINGER
I could feel it was only a question of time before, we were crushed by the weight of the attack. I had one more bullet in my pistol. I would save it for Weena when there was no more hope. I would not let her be captured by the rebels. I looked over the valley, the surging masses were coming toward the wall.
It was then that I heard a low whistle that grew in volume and pitch until it almost defined me. For a moment I believed it was one of Gunt's war flutes, then a heard a low explosion, more a pop than anything else. I saw a dark black cloud of smoke envelope the rebels. Then, in the sky, came another descending black trail that fell upon the rebels, landing and sending a mushroom cloud of black inky smoke.
“The Black Finger!” cried a Sagoth nearest to me. “What wonder is this?”
The smoke was causing the rebels to rush about in confusion, blinded and fearful over something they had never seen before. I thought it might be some ancient Mahar weapon. Then more and more of the black trails littered the sky and fell among the enemy. As more and more fell the whole of Gunt's horde were trapped in the black smoke. It was carried towards us, and I smelled gunpowder and something that caused the eyes to burn. I glanced down to my father, hoping he had an answer to this riddle. He was talking in finger speak to a Mahar, who was flapping her wings with excitement.
He let out a loud yell of joy, waving his hands in excitement.
“They are here!” he shouted to all. “The men from Sari are here! We are saved!”
I looked up and saw several hundred warriors coming down the road from the Mahar city with rifles. They had entered the valley by one of the other pathways. Before them they carried the red, white and blue of the Imperial flag. I recognized Hodon, the fleet one and Tanar. They were making there way at a run, to mount the walls and join the fight. I saw even the laconic Sagoths were cheering. One of the new men handed me a an extra rifle he had and started firing down on the men of the Armaz. Weena embraced me as the battle still raged, giving me a kiss. The rebels mounted another attack, but this time they didn't face a few Sagoths and men with old blunderbusses, but expert Sarian marksmen with the most modern rifles.
They were cleared from the base of the wall and pushed back with many losses.
As more and more troops came I recognized several from my ill-fated expedition. Later I learned that most of my command had retreated back to Sari and now sought revenge upon the rebels. For the ambush that had killed so many of their comrades. Dozens of the Armaz fell with each volley as they rushed us though the smoke that blinded them into our guns. The Imperial troops fired as fast as they could until the bodies piled up before the wall.
I left the slaughter and joined Ween and my father as he was talking to Tanar.
“We have old Gunt now!” said my father as he rubbed his hands together. “Tanar reinforced us with a thousand riflemen, as Ja of Amoroc hit Gunt's army with another five thousand from the rear. Gunt's men are trapped in the long valley. Old Abner Perry is with Ja. He is the one who fired those smoke filled rockets that masked the counter attack. We have them now. Ghak the Hairy One has another three thousand invading the territory captured by Gunt as well as the tribal lands of the Armaz.
The crack of gunfire was replaced by artillery, this time Imperial cannons, from the twenty guns that were brought by Ja of Amoroc. Once they began to shell the rebels, they launched one more attack on the Empire forces seeking to escape out of the valley. When it failed, and Gunt was killed, the white flag of truce came out, to seek surrender. The shooting stopped and silence replaced it, with only a few cry's of pain from the wounded.
The rebels came forward tossing their muskets on the ground before my father, at the base of the wall. The weapons formed a pile, each of the Armaz wore a broken look of defeat. They didn't know what was going to happen to them. Many thought they were to be killed.
“What are you going to do with the prisoners?” I asked my father.
“I will pardon most of them,” he said. “All except that rat Fang.” In groups of twenty they were herded into Mahara under the watchful eyes of Sagoth warriors.
The huge copper colored Ja walked up to us, saluting my father, with him was old Abner Perry.
“Praise be to God!” the old man said as he rushed to embrace my father and I. “Your both still alive! When the Sagoth Nash arrived with your message I feared we might be too late. Did you see my rockets?”
“I never thought you could do it,” added my father. “It was simply brilliant. A smoke screen to mask and confuse the enemy. I believe that is the first something you invented worked right the first time.”
“What's this about a smoke screen?” the old man said with a puzzled look on his face. “They were war rockets, they were to explode upon impact, causing death and destruction to the enemy.”
“But the smoke screen worked well too,” added Ja with a smile and a laugh.
Perry vowed to correct the mistake to his weapon.
“Next time you see such explosions! I will perfect my war rockets.”
Just as everyone was in a light mood I saw something on my right move. It was a warrior hiding among the dead. He moved with astonishing speed and agility. He jumped behind Perry and put a knife to the old man's throat. He pulled the old man in front of him as a shield. The steel knife flashed in the sun light. It was Fang! He had hidden among the dead to avoid capture. Seeing the conference, he seized the opportunity and took the beloved Abner Perry as a hostage.
“Move not!” the traitor yelled, “or the old one is dead!”
We froze in our tracks. Hodon the fleet one had a rifle ready but my father motioned for him to lower the weapon.
“What do you want, Fang?” my father asked.
The long toothed Thalian grinned and pulled a pistol from Perry's holster and aimed it at my father.
“You have won, Emperor -who- is- not- of- Pellucidar. You have slain Gunt and crushed his forces. But you have not defeated Fang. I, the greatest warrior of all. I know you can have me killed once I slay the old one, but I can do something that will hurt you more. I can kill your only son!”
Fang then pointed the gun towards me, aiming at my chest. A chill raced down my spine as I saw him cock the weapon.
“No!” yelled my father, Perry tried to deflect the gun but was too weak to do so. I heard Weena cry out. I heard the pistol go off, and the flash and smoke. I saw a blur of hair. She had leaped in front of me. The bullet meant for me found her tiny heart, As the pistol fired Fang tried to fire another shot but Perry pulled free and Hodon's rifle fired, killing the traitor dead.
I was at Weena's fallen body, weeping as the light of life left her eyes. I was stunned by shock. I was filled with rage and got up, pulling my sword, I plunged it into the body of Fang again and again. At last I felt two powerful hands pull me away, it was my father.
“Its all over now,” he said softly, “the killing is over. She saved your life but at the price of her own.”
I felt Abner Perry embrace me as well.
“She was my mate,” I said. “I loved her.”
“I am sure she loved you as well,” my father said as he lead me away from the battle site and towards the palace of Song-To-To. There was a victory feast that I didn't attend. The army slept twice before heading back to Sari. The prisoners were released and told to return to Armaz, only a few were permitted to keep their firearms for protection.
It was a sad march back to Sari for me. But the revolt that had threatened the peace of the Empire was crushed, my father was alive and safe. Soon we would be back at the great palace. The memory of little Weena would always be with me. She was buried in a splendid tomb in the long valley, built by the grateful Mahars and their Sagoth mercenaries, who would tell stories of Weena for as long as the sun shines in Pellucidar. From this time on the long valley would be renamed the valley of Weena-who-saved-the-Empire.
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2013 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.