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Dian The Beautiful







From: At The Earth's Core

WHEN OUR GUARDS AROUSED US FROM SLEEP WE were much refreshed. They
gave us food. Strips of dried meat it was, but it put new life and
strength into us, so that now we too marched with high-held heads, and
took noble strides. At least I did, for I was young and proud; but
poor Perry hated walking. On earth I had often seen him call a cab to
travel a square--he was paying for it now, and his old legs wobbled so
that I put my arm about him and half carried him through the balance of
those frightful marches.

The country began to change at last, and we wound up out of the level
plain through mighty mountains of virgin granite. The tropical verdure
of the lowlands was replaced by hardier vegetation, but even here the
effects of constant heat and light were apparent in the immensity of
the trees and the profusion of foliage and blooms. Crystal streams
roared through their rocky channels, fed by the perpetual snows which
we could see far above us. Above the snowcapped heights hung masses of
heavy clouds. It was these, Perry explained, which evidently served
the double purpose of replenishing the melting snows and protecting
them from the direct rays of the sun.

By this time we had picked up a smattering of the bastard language in
which our guards addressed us, as well as making good headway in the
rather charming tongue of our co-captives. Directly ahead of me in the
chain gang was a young woman. Three feet of chain linked us together
in a forced companionship which I, at least, soon rejoiced in. For I
found her a willing teacher, and from her I learned the language of her
tribe, and much of the life and customs of the inner world--at least
that part of it with which she was familiar.

She told me that she was called Dian the Beautiful, and that she
belonged to the tribe of Amoz, which dwells in the cliffs above the
Darel Az, or shallow sea.

"How came you here?" I asked her.

"I was running away from Jubal the Ugly One," she answered, as though
that was explanation quite sufficient.

"Who is Jubal the Ugly One?" I asked. "And why did you run away from
him?"

She looked at me in surprise.

"Why DOES a woman run away from a man?" she answered my question with
another.

"They do not, where I come from," I replied. "Sometimes they run after
them."

But she could not understand. Nor could I get her to grasp the fact
that I was of another world. She was quite as positive that creation
was originated solely to produce her own kind and the world she lived
in as are many of the outer world.

"But Jubal," I insisted. "Tell me about him, and why you ran away to
be chained by the neck and scourged across the face of a world."

"Jubal the Ugly One placed his trophy before my father's house. It was
the head of a mighty tandor. It remained there and no greater trophy
was placed beside it. So I knew that Jubal the Ugly One would come and
take me as his mate. None other so powerful wished me, or they would
have slain a mightier beast and thus have won me from Jubal. My father
is not a mighty hunter. Once he was, but a sadok tossed him, and never
again had he the full use of his right arm. My brother, Dacor the
Strong One, had gone to the land of Sari to steal a mate for himself.
Thus there was none, father, brother, or lover, to save me from Jubal
the Ugly One, and I ran away and hid among the hills that skirt the
land of Amoz. And there these Sagoths found me and made me captive."

"What will they do with you?" I asked. "Where are they taking us?"

Again she looked her incredulity.

"I can almost believe that you are of another world," she said, "for
otherwise such ignorance were inexplicable. Do you really mean that
you do not know that the Sagoths are the creatures of the Mahars--the
mighty Mahars who think they own Pellucidar and all that walks or grows
upon its surface, or creeps or burrows beneath, or swims within its
lakes and oceans, or flies through its air? Next you will be telling
me that you never before heard of the Mahars!"

I was loath to do it, and further incur her scorn; but there was no
alternative if I were to absorb knowledge, so I made a clean breast of
my pitiful ignorance as to the mighty Mahars. She was shocked. But
she did her very best to enlighten me, though much that she said was as
Greek would have been to her. She described the Mahars largely by
comparisons. In this way they were like unto thipdars, in that to the
hairless lidi.

About all I gleaned of them was that they were quite hideous, had
wings, and webbed feet; lived in cities built beneath the ground; could
swim under water for great distances, and were very, very wise. The
Sagoths were their weapons of offense and defense, and the races like
herself were their hands and feet--they were the slaves and servants
who did all the manual labor. The Mahars were the heads--the
brains--of the inner world. I longed to see this wondrous race of
supermen.

Perry learned the language with me. When we halted, as we occasionally
did, though sometimes the halts seemed ages apart, he would join in the
conversation, as would Ghak the Hairy One, he who was chained just
ahead of Dian the Beautiful. Ahead of Ghak was Hooja the Sly One. He
too entered the conversation occasionally. Most of his remarks were
directed toward Dian the Beautiful. It didn't take half an eye to see
that he had developed a bad case; but the girl appeared totally
oblivious to his thinly veiled advances. Did I say thinly veiled?
There is a race of men in New Zealand, or Australia, I have forgotten
which, who indicate their preference for the lady of their affections
by banging her over the head with a bludgeon. By comparison with this
method Hooja's lovemaking might be called thinly veiled. At first it
caused me to blush violently although I have seen several Old Years out
at Rectors, and in other less fashionable places off Broadway, and in
Vienna, and Hamburg.

But the girl! She was magnificent. It was easy to see that she
considered herself as entirely above and apart from her present
surroundings and company. She talked with me, and with Perry, and with
the taciturn Ghak because we were respectful; but she couldn't even see
Hooja the Sly One, much less hear him, and that made him furious. He
tried to get one of the Sagoths to move the girl up ahead of him in the
slave gang, but the fellow only poked him with his spear and told him
that he had selected the girl for his own property--that he would buy
her from the Mahars as soon as they reached Phutra. Phutra, it seemed,
was the city of our destination.

After passing over the first chain of mountains we skirted a salt sea,
upon whose bosom swam countless horrid things. Seal-like creatures
there were with long necks stretching ten and more feet above their
enormous bodies and whose snake heads were split with gaping mouths
bristling with countless fangs. There were huge tortoises too,
paddling about among these other reptiles, which Perry said were
Plesiosaurs of the Lias. I didn't question his veracity--they might
have been most anything.

Dian told me they were tandorazes, or tandors of the sea, and that the
other, and more fearsome reptiles, which occasionally rose from the
deep to do battle with them, were azdyryths, or sea-dyryths--Perry
called them Ichthyosaurs. They resembled a whale with the head of an
alligator.

I had forgotten what little geology I had studied at school--about all
that remained was an impression of horror that the illustrations of
restored prehistoric monsters had made upon me, and a well-defined
belief that any man with a pig's shank and a vivid imagination could
"restore" most any sort of paleolithic monster he saw fit, and take
rank as a first class paleontologist. But when I saw these sleek,
shiny carcasses shimmering in the sunlight as they emerged from the
ocean, shaking their giant heads; when I saw the waters roll from their
sinuous bodies in miniature waterfalls as they glided hither and
thither, now upon the surface, now half submerged; as I saw them meet,
open-mouthed, hissing and snorting, in their titanic and interminable
warring I realized how futile is man's poor, weak imagination by
comparison with Nature's incredible genius.

And Perry! He was absolutely flabbergasted. He said so himself.

"David," he remarked, after we had marched for a long time beside that
awful sea. "David, I used to teach geology, and I thought that I
believed what I taught; but now I see that I did not believe it--that
it is impossible for man to believe such things as these unless he sees
them with his own eyes. We take things for granted, perhaps, because
we are told them over and over again, and have no way of disproving
them--like religions, for example; but we don't believe them, we only
think we do. If you ever get back to the outer world you will find
that the geologists and paleontologists will be the first to set you
down a liar, for they know that no such creatures as they restore ever
existed. It is all right to IMAGINE them as existing in an equally
imaginary epoch--but now? poof!"

At the next halt Hooja the Sly One managed to find enough slack chain
to permit him to worm himself back quite close to Dian. We were all
standing, and as he edged near the girl she turned her back upon him in
such a truly earthly feminine manner that I could scarce repress a
smile; but it was a short-lived smile for on the instant the Sly One's
hand fell upon the girl's bare arm, jerking her roughly toward him.

I was not then familiar with the customs or social ethics which
prevailed within Pellucidar; but even so I did not need the appealing
look which the girl shot to me from her magnificent eyes to influence
my subsequent act. What the Sly One's intention was I paused not to
inquire; but instead, before he could lay hold of her with his other
hand, I placed a right to the point of his jaw that felled him in his
tracks.

A roar of approval went up from those of the other prisoners and the
Sagoths who had witnessed the brief drama; not, as I later learned,
because I had championed the girl, but for the neat and, to them,
astounding method by which I had bested Hooja.

And the girl? At first she looked at me with wide, wondering eyes, and
then she dropped her head, her face half averted, and a delicate flush
suffused her cheek. For a moment she stood thus in silence, and then
her head went high, and she turned her back upon me as she had upon
Hooja. Some of the prisoners laughed, and I saw the face of Ghak the
Hairy One go very black as he looked at me searchingly. And what I
could see of Dian's cheek went suddenly from red to white.

Immediately after we resumed the march, and though I realized that in
some way I had offended Dian the Beautiful I could not prevail upon her
to talk with me that I might learn wherein I had erred--in fact I might
quite as well have been addressing a sphinx for all the attention I
got. At last my own foolish pride stepped in and prevented my making
any further attempts, and thus a companionship that without my
realizing it had come to mean a great deal to me was cut off.
Thereafter I confined my conversation to Perry. Hooja did not renew
his advances toward the girl, nor did he again venture near me.

Again the weary and apparently interminable marching became a perfect
nightmare of horrors to me. The more firmly fixed became the
realization that the girl's friendship had meant so much to me, the
more I came to miss it; and the more impregnable the barrier of silly
pride. But I was very young and would not ask Ghak for the explanation
which I was sure he could give, and that might have made everything all
right again.

On the march, or during halts, Dian refused consistently to notice
me--when her eyes wandered in my direction she looked either over my
head or directly through me. At last I became desperate, and
determined to swallow my self-esteem, and again beg her to tell me how
I had offended, and how I might make reparation. I made up my mind
that I should do this at the next halt. We were approaching another
range of mountains at the time, and when we reached them, instead of
winding across them through some high-flung pass we entered a mighty
natural tunnel--a series of labyrinthine grottoes, dark as Erebus.

The guards had no torches or light of any description. In fact we had
seen no artificial light or sign of fire since we had entered
Pellucidar. In a land of perpetual noon there is no need of light
above ground, yet I marveled that they had no means of lighting their
way through these dark, subterranean passages. So we crept along at a
snail's pace, with much stumbling and falling--the guards keeping up a
singsong chant ahead of us, interspersed with certain high notes which
I found always indicated rough places and turns.

Halts were now more frequent, but I did not wish to speak to Dian until
I could see from the expression of her face how she was receiving my
apologies. At last a faint glow ahead forewarned us of the end of the
tunnel, for which I for one was devoutly thankful. Then at a sudden
turn we emerged into the full light of the noonday sun.

But with it came a sudden realization of what meant to me a real
catastrophe--Dian was gone, and with her a half-dozen other prisoners.
The guards saw it too, and the ferocity of their rage was terrible to
behold. Their awesome, bestial faces were contorted in the most
diabolical expressions, as they accused each other of responsibility
for the loss. Finally they fell upon us, beating us with their spear
shafts, and hatchets. They had already killed two near the head of the
line, and were like to have finished the balance of us when their
leader finally put a stop to the brutal slaughter. Never in all my
life had I witnessed a more horrible exhibition of bestial rage--I
thanked God that Dian had not been one of those left to endure it.

Of the twelve prisoners who had been chained ahead of me each alternate
one had been freed commencing with Dian. Hooja was gone. Ghak
remained. What could it mean? How had it been accomplished? The
commander of the guards was investigating. Soon he discovered that the
rude locks which had held the neckbands in place had been deftly picked.

"Hooja the Sly One," murmured Ghak, who was now next to me in line.
"He has taken the girl that you would not have," he continued, glancing
at me.

"That I would not have!" I cried. "What do you mean?"

He looked at me closely for a moment.

"I have doubted your story that you are from another world," he said at
last, "but yet upon no other grounds could your ignorance of the ways
of Pellucidar be explained. Do you really mean that you do not know
that you offended the Beautiful One, and how?"

"I do not know, Ghak," I replied.

"Then shall I tell you. When a man of Pellucidar intervenes between
another man and the woman the other man would have, the woman belongs
to the victor. Dian the Beautiful belongs to you. You should have
claimed her or released her. Had you taken her hand, it would have
indicated your desire to make her your mate, and had you raised her
hand above her head and then dropped it, it would have meant that you
did not wish her for a mate and that you released her from all
obligation to you. By doing neither you have put upon her the greatest
affront that a man may put upon a woman. Now she is your slave. No
man will take her as mate, or may take her honorably, until he shall
have overcome you in combat, and men do not choose slave women as their
mates--at least not the men of Pellucidar."

"I did not know, Ghak," I cried. "I did not know. Not for all
Pellucidar would I have harmed Dian the Beautiful by word, or look, or
act of mine. I do not want her as my slave. I do not want her as
my--" but here I stopped. The vision of that sweet and innocent face
floated before me amidst the soft mists of imagination, and where I had
on the second believed that I clung only to the memory of a gentle
friendship I had lost, yet now it seemed that it would have been
disloyalty to her to have said that I did not want Dian the Beautiful
as my mate. I had not thought of her except as a welcome friend in a
strange, cruel world. Even now I did not think that I loved her.

I believe Ghak must have read the truth more in my expression than in
my words, for presently he laid his hand upon my shoulder.

"Man of another world," he said, "I believe you. Lips may lie, but
when the heart speaks through the eyes it tells only the truth. Your
heart has spoken to me. I know now that you meant no affront to Dian
the Beautiful. She is not of my tribe; but her mother is my sister.
She does not know it--her mother was stolen by Dian's father who came
with many others of the tribe of Amoz to battle with us for our
women--the most beautiful women of Pellucidar. Then was her father
king of Amoz, and her mother was daughter of the king of Sari--to whose
power I, his son, have succeeded. Dian is the daughter of kings,
though her father is no longer king since the sadok tossed him and
Jubal the Ugly One wrested his kingship from him. Because of her
lineage the wrong you did her was greatly magnified in the eyes of all
who saw it. She will never forgive you."

I asked Ghak if there was not some way in which I could release the
girl from the bondage and ignominy I had unwittingly placed upon her.

"If ever you find her, yes," he answered. "Merely to raise her hand
above her head and drop it in the presence of others is sufficient to
release her; but how may you ever find her, you who are doomed to a
life of slavery yourself in the buried city of Phutra?"

"Is there no escape?" I asked.

"Hooja the Sly One escaped and took the others with him," replied Ghak.
"But there are no more dark places on the way to Phutra, and once there
it is not so easy--the Mahars are very wise. Even if one escaped from
Phutra there are the thipdars--they would find you, and then--" the
Hairy One shuddered. "No, you will never escape the Mahars."

It was a cheerful prospect. I asked Perry what he thought about it;
but he only shrugged his shoulders and continued a longwinded prayer he
had been at for some time. He was wont to say that the only redeeming
feature of our captivity was the ample time it gave him for the
improvisation of prayers--it was becoming an obsession with him. The
Sagoths had begun to take notice of his habit of declaiming throughout
entire marches. One of them asked him what he was saying--to whom he
was talking. The question gave me an idea, so I answered quickly
before Perry could say anything.

"Do not interrupt him," I said. "He is a very holy man in the world
from which we come. He is speaking to spirits which you cannot see--do
not interrupt him or they will spring out of the air upon you and rend
you limb from limb--like that," and I jumped toward the great brute
with a loud "Boo!" that sent him stumbling backward.

I took a long chance, I realized, but if we could make any capital out
of Perry's harmless mania I wanted to make it while the making was
prime. It worked splendidly. The Sagoths treated us both with marked
respect during the balance of the journey, and then passed the word
along to their masters, the Mahars.

Two marches after this episode we came to the city of Phutra. The
entrance to it was marked by two lofty towers of granite, which guarded
a flight of steps leading to the buried city. Sagoths were on guard
here as well as at a hundred or more other towers scattered about over
a large plain.





Next: Slaves

Previous: A Change Of Masters



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