Back To Earth
From: At The Earth's Core
WE CROSSED THE RIVER AND PASSED THROUGH THE mountains beyond, and
finally we came out upon a great level plain which stretched away as
far as the eye could reach. I cannot tell you in what direction it
stretched even if you would care to know, for all the while that I was
within Pellucidar I never discovered any but local methods of
indicating direction--there is no north, no south, no east, no west.
UP is about the only direction which is well defined, and that, of
course, is DOWN to you of the outer crust. Since the sun neither rises
nor sets there is no method of indicating direction beyond visible
objects such as high mountains, forests, lakes, and seas.
The plain which lies beyond the white cliffs which flank the Darel Az
upon the shore nearest the Mountains of the Clouds is about as near to
any direction as any Pellucidarian can come. If you happen not to have
heard of the Darel Az, or the white cliffs, or the Mountains of the
Clouds you feel that there is something lacking, and long for the good
old understandable northeast and southwest of the outer world.
We had barely entered the great plain when we discovered two enormous
animals approaching us from a great distance. So far were they that we
could not distinguish what manner of beasts they might be, but as they
came closer, I saw that they were enormous quadrupeds, eighty or a
hundred feet long, with tiny heads perched at the top of very long
necks. Their heads must have been quite forty feet from the ground.
The beasts moved very slowly--that is their action was slow--but their
strides covered such a great distance that in reality they traveled
considerably faster than a man walks.
As they drew still nearer we discovered that upon the back of each sat
a human being. Then Dian knew what they were, though she never before
had seen one.
"They are lidis from the land of the Thorians," she cried. "Thoria
lies at the outer verge of the Land of Awful Shadow. The Thorians
alone of all the races of Pellucidar ride the lidi, for nowhere else
than beside the dark country are they found."
"What is the Land of Awful Shadow?" I asked.
"It is the land which lies beneath the Dead World," replied Dian; "the
Dead World which hangs forever between the sun and Pellucidar above the
Land of Awful Shadow. It is the Dead World which makes the great
shadow upon this portion of Pellucidar."
I did not fully understand what she meant, nor am I sure that I do yet,
for I have never been to that part of Pellucidar from which the Dead
World is visible; but Perry says that it is the moon of Pellucidar--a
tiny planet within a planet--and that it revolves around the earth's
axis coincidently with the earth, and thus is always above the same
spot within Pellucidar.
I remember that Perry was very much excited when I told him about this
Dead World, for he seemed to think that it explained the hitherto
inexplicable phenomena of nutation and the precession of the equinoxes.
When the two upon the lidis had come quite close to us we saw that one
was a man and the other a woman. The former had held up his two hands,
palms toward us, in sign of peace, and I had answered him in kind, when
he suddenly gave a cry of astonishment and pleasure, and slipping from
his enormous mount ran forward toward Dian, throwing his arms about her.
In an instant I was white with jealousy, but only for an instant; since
Dian quickly drew the man toward me, telling him that I was David, her
"And this is my brother, Dacor the Strong One, David," she said to me.
It appeared that the woman was Dacor's mate. He had found none to his
liking among the Sari, nor farther on until he had come to the land of
the Thoria, and there he had found and fought for this very lovely
Thorian maiden whom he was bringing back to his own people.
When they had heard our story and our plans they decided to accompany
us to Sari, that Dacor and Ghak might come to an agreement relative to
an alliance, as Dacor was quite as enthusiastic about the proposed
annihilation of the Mahars and Sagoths as either Dian or I.
After a journey which was, for Pellucidar, quite uneventful, we came to
the first of the Sarian villages which consists of between one and two
hundred artificial caves cut into the face of a great cliff. Here to
our immense delight, we found both Perry and Ghak. The old man was
quite overcome at sight of me for he had long since given me up as dead.
When I introduced Dian as my wife, he didn't quite know what to say,
but he afterward remarked that with the pick of two worlds I could not
have done better.
Ghak and Dacor reached a very amicable arrangement, and it was at a
council of the head men of the various tribes of the Sari that the
eventual form of government was tentatively agreed upon. Roughly, the
various kingdoms were to remain virtually independent, but there was to
be one great overlord, or emperor. It was decided that I should be the
first of the dynasty of the emperors of Pellucidar.
We set about teaching the women how to make bows and arrows, and poison
pouches. The young men hunted the vipers which provided the virus, and
it was they who mined the iron ore, and fashioned the swords under
Perry's direction. Rapidly the fever spread from one tribe to another
until representatives from nations so far distant that the Sarians had
never even heard of them came in to take the oath of allegiance which
we required, and to learn the art of making the new weapons and using
We sent our young men out as instructors to every nation of the
federation, and the movement had reached colossal proportions before
the Mahars discovered it. The first intimation they had was when three
of their great slave caravans were annihilated in rapid succession.
They could not comprehend that the lower orders had suddenly developed
a power which rendered them really formidable.
In one of the skirmishes with slave caravans some of our Sarians took a
number of Sagoth prisoners, and among them were two who had been
members of the guards within the building where we had been confined at
Phutra. They told us that the Mahars were frantic with rage when they
discovered what had taken place in the cellars of the buildings. The
Sagoths knew that something very terrible had befallen their masters,
but the Mahars had been most careful to see that no inkling of the true
nature of their vital affliction reached beyond their own race. How
long it would take for the race to become extinct it was impossible
even to guess; but that this must eventually happen seemed inevitable.
The Mahars had offered fabulous rewards for the capture of any one of
us alive, and at the same time had threatened to inflict the direst
punishment upon whomever should harm us. The Sagoths could not
understand these seemingly paradoxical instructions, though their
purpose was quite evident to me. The Mahars wanted the Great Secret,
and they knew that we alone could deliver it to them.
Perry's experiments in the manufacture of gunpowder and the fashioning
of rifles had not progressed as rapidly as we had hoped--there was a
whole lot about these two arts which Perry didn't know. We were both
assured that the solution of these problems would advance the cause of
civilization within Pellucidar thousands of years at a single stroke.
Then there were various other arts and sciences which we wished to
introduce, but our combined knowledge of them did not embrace the
mechanical details which alone could render them of commercial, or
"David," said Perry, immediately after his latest failure to produce
gunpowder that would even burn, "one of us must return to the outer
world and bring back the information we lack. Here we have all the
labor and materials for reproducing anything that ever has been
produced above--what we lack is knowledge. Let us go back and get that
knowledge in the shape of books--then this world will indeed be at our
And so it was decided that I should return in the prospector, which
still lay upon the edge of the forest at the point where we had first
penetrated to the surface of the inner world. Dian would not listen to
any arrangement for my going which did not include her, and I was not
sorry that she wished to accompany me, for I wanted her to see my
world, and I wanted my world to see her.
With a large force of men we marched to the great iron mole, which
Perry soon had hoisted into position with its nose pointed back toward
the outer crust. He went over all the machinery carefully. He
replenished the air tanks, and manufactured oil for the engine. At
last everything was ready, and we were about to set out when our
pickets, a long, thin line of which had surrounded our camp at all
times, reported that a great body of what appeared to be Sagoths and
Mahars were approaching from the direction of Phutra.
Dian and I were ready to embark, but I was anxious to witness the first
clash between two fair-sized armies of the opposing races of
Pellucidar. I realized that this was to mark the historic beginning of
a mighty struggle for possession of a world, and as the first emperor
of Pellucidar I felt that it was not alone my duty, but my right, to be
in the thick of that momentous struggle.
As the opposing army approached we saw that there were many Mahars with
the Sagoth troops--an indication of the vast importance which the
dominant race placed upon the outcome of this campaign, for it was not
customary with them to take active part in the sorties which their
creatures made for slaves--the only form of warfare which they waged
upon the lower orders.
Ghak and Dacor were both with us, having come primarily to view the
prospector. I placed Ghak with some of his Sarians on the right of our
battle line. Dacor took the left, while I commanded the center.
Behind us I stationed a sufficient reserve under one of Ghak's head
men. The Sagoths advanced steadily with menacing spears, and I let
them come until they were within easy bowshot before I gave the word to
At the first volley of poison-tipped arrows the front ranks of the
gorilla-men crumpled to the ground; but those behind charged over the
prostrate forms of their comrades in a wild, mad rush to be upon us
with their spears. A second volley stopped them for an instant, and
then my reserve sprang through the openings in the firing line to
engage them with sword and shield. The clumsy spears of the Sagoths
were no match for the swords of the Sarian and Amozite, who turned the
spear thrusts aside with their shields and leaped to close quarters
with their lighter, handier weapons.
Ghak took his archers along the enemy's flank, and while the swordsmen
engaged them in front, he poured volley after volley into their
unprotected left. The Mahars did little real fighting, and were more
in the way than otherwise, though occasionally one of them would fasten
its powerful jaw upon the arm or leg of a Sarian.
The battle did not last a great while, for when Dacor and I led our men
in upon the Sagoth's right with naked swords they were already so
demoralized that they turned and fled before us. We pursued them for
some time, taking many prisoners and recovering nearly a hundred
slaves, among whom was Hooja the Sly One.
He told me that he had been captured while on his way to his own land;
but that his life had been spared in hope that through him the Mahars
would learn the whereabouts of their Great Secret. Ghak and I were
inclined to think that the Sly One had been guiding this expedition to
the land of Sari, where he thought that the book might be found in
Perry's possession; but we had no proof of this and so we took him in
and treated him as one of us, although none liked him. And how he
rewarded my generosity you will presently learn.
There were a number of Mahars among our prisoners, and so fearful were
our own people of them that they would not approach them unless
completely covered from the sight of the reptiles by a piece of skin.
Even Dian shared the popular superstition regarding the evil effects of
exposure to the eyes of angry Mahars, and though I laughed at her fears
I was willing enough to humor them if it would relieve her apprehension
in any degree, and so she sat apart from the prospector, near which the
Mahars had been chained, while Perry and I again inspected every
portion of the mechanism.
At last I took my place in the driving seat, and called to one of the
men without to fetch Dian. It happened that Hooja stood quite close to
the doorway of the prospector, so that it was he who, without my
knowledge, went to bring her; but how he succeeded in accomplishing the
fiendish thing he did, I cannot guess, unless there were others in the
plot to aid him. Nor can I believe that, since all my people were
loyal to me and would have made short work of Hooja had he suggested
the heartless scheme, even had he had time to acquaint another with it.
It was all done so quickly that I may only believe that it was the
result of sudden impulse, aided by a number of, to Hooja, fortuitous
circumstances occurring at precisely the right moment.
All I know is that it was Hooja who brought Dian to the prospector,
still wrapped from head to toe in the skin of an enormous cave lion
which covered her since the Mahar prisoners had been brought into camp.
He deposited his burden in the seat beside me. I was all ready to get
under way. The good-byes had been said. Perry had grasped my hand in
the last, long farewell. I closed and barred the outer and inner
doors, took my seat again at the driving mechanism, and pulled the
As before on that far-gone night that had witnessed our first trial of
the iron monster, there was a frightful roaring beneath us--the giant
frame trembled and vibrated--there was a rush of sound as the loose
earth passed up through the hollow space between the inner and outer
jackets to be deposited in our wake. Once more the thing was off.
But on the instant of departure I was nearly thrown from my seat by the
sudden lurching of the prospector. At first I did not realize what had
happened, but presently it dawned upon me that just before entering the
crust the towering body had fallen through its supporting scaffolding,
and that instead of entering the ground vertically we were plunging
into it at a different angle. Where it would bring us out upon the
upper crust I could not even conjecture. And then I turned to note the
effect of this strange experience upon Dian. She still sat shrouded in
the great skin.
"Come, come," I cried, laughing, "come out of your shell. No Mahar
eyes can reach you here," and I leaned over and snatched the lion skin
from her. And then I shrank back upon my seat in utter horror.
The thing beneath the skin was not Dian--it was a hideous Mahar.
Instantly I realized the trick that Hooja had played upon me, and the
purpose of it. Rid of me, forever as he doubtless thought, Dian would
be at his mercy. Frantically I tore at the steering wheel in an effort
to turn the prospector back toward Pellucidar; but, as on that other
occasion, I could not budge the thing a hair.
It is needless to recount the horrors or the monotony of that journey.
It varied but little from the former one which had brought us from the
outer to the inner world. Because of the angle at which we had entered
the ground the trip required nearly a day longer, and brought me out
here upon the sand of the Sahara instead of in the United States as I
For months I have been waiting here for a white man to come. I dared
not leave the prospector for fear I should never be able to find it
again--the shifting sands of the desert would soon cover it, and then
my only hope of returning to my Dian and her Pellucidar would be gone
That I ever shall see her again seems but remotely possible, for how
may I know upon what part of Pellucidar my return journey may
terminate--and how, without a north or south or an east or a west may I
hope ever to find my way across that vast world to the tiny spot where
my lost love lies grieving for me?
That is the story as David Innes told it to me in the goat-skin tent
upon the rim of the great Sahara Desert. The next day he took me out
to see the prospector--it was precisely as he had described it. So
huge was it that it could have been brought to this inaccessible part
of the world by no means of transportation that existed there--it could
only have come in the way that David Innes said it came--up through the
crust of the earth from the inner world of Pellucidar.
I spent a week with him, and then, abandoned my lion hunt, returned
directly to the coast and hurried to London where I purchased a great
quantity of stuff which he wished to take back to Pellucidar with him.
There were books, rifles, revolvers, ammunition, cameras, chemicals,
telephones, telegraph instruments, wire, tool and more books--books
upon every subject under the sun. He said he wanted a library with
which they could reproduce the wonders of the twentieth century in the
Stone Age and if quantity counts for anything I got it for him.
I took the things back to Algeria myself, and accompanied them to the
end of the railroad; but from here I was recalled to America upon
important business. However, I was able to employ a very trustworthy
man to take charge of the caravan--the same guide, in fact, who had
accompanied me on the previous trip into the Sahara--and after writing
a long letter to Innes in which I gave him my American address, I saw
the expedition head south.
Among the other things which I sent to Innes was over five hundred
miles of double, insulated wire of a very fine gauge. I had it packed
on a special reel at his suggestion, as it was his idea that he could
fasten one end here before he left and by paying it out through the end
of the prospector lay a telegraph line between the outer and inner
worlds. In my letter I told him to be sure to mark the terminus of the
line very plainly with a high cairn, in case I was not able to reach
him before he set out, so that I might easily find and communicate with
him should he be so fortunate as to reach Pellucidar.
I received several letters from him after I returned to America--in
fact he took advantage of every northward-passing caravan to drop me
word of some sort. His last letter was written the day before he
intended to depart. Here it is.
MY DEAR FRIEND:
Tomorrow I shall set out in quest of Pellucidar and Dian. That is if
the Arabs don't get me. They have been very nasty of late. I don't
know the cause, but on two occasions they have threatened my life.
One, more friendly than the rest, told me today that they intended
attacking me tonight. It would be unfortunate should anything of that
sort happen now that I am so nearly ready to depart.
However, maybe I will be as well off, for the nearer the hour
approaches, the slenderer my chances for success appear.
Here is the friendly Arab who is to take this letter north for me, so
good-bye, and God bless you for your kindness to me.
The Arab tells me to hurry, for he sees a cloud of sand to the
south--he thinks it is the party coming to murder me, and he doesn't
want to be found with me. So good-bye again.
A year later found me at the end of the railroad once more, headed for
the spot where I had left Innes. My first disappointment was when I
discovered that my old guide had died within a few weeks of my return,
nor could I find any member of my former party who could lead me to the
For months I searched that scorching land, interviewing countless
desert sheiks in the hope that at last I might find one who had heard
of Innes and his wonderful iron mole. Constantly my eyes scanned the
blinding waste of sand for the ricky cairn beneath which I was to find
the wires leading to Pellucidar--but always was I unsuccessful.
And always do these awful questions harass me when I think of David
Innes and his strange adventures.
Did the Arabs murder him, after all, just on the eve of his departure?
Or, did he again turn the nose of his iron monster toward the inner
world? Did he reach it, or lies he somewhere buried in the heart of
the great crust? And if he did come again to Pellucidar was it to
break through into the bottom of one of her great island seas, or among
some savage race far, far from the land of his heart's desire?
Does the answer lie somewhere upon the bosom of the broad Sahara, at
the end of two tiny wires, hidden beneath a lost cairn? I wonder.
Next: Prelude John Carter Comes To Earth
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