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From: Pellucidar

But at last the allotted moment arrived--the moment for which I had
been trying to prepare myself, for how long I could not even guess. A
great Sagoth came and spoke some words of command to those who watched
over me. I was jerked roughly to my feet and with little consideration
hustled upward toward the higher levels.

Out into the broad avenue they conducted me, where, amid huge throngs
of Mahars, Sagoths, and heavily guarded slaves, I was led, or, rather,
pushed and shoved roughly, along in the same direction that the mob
moved. I had seen such a concourse of people once be-fore in the
buried city of Phutra; I guessed, and rightly, that we were bound for
the great arena where slaves who are condemned to death meet their end.

Into the vast amphitheater they took me, stationing me at the extreme
end of the arena. The queen came, with her slimy, sickening retinue.
The seats were filled. The show was about to commence.

Then, from a little doorway in the opposite end of the structure, a
girl was led into the arena. She was at a considerable distance from
me. I could not see her features.

I wondered what fate awaited this other poor victim and myself, and why
they had chosen to have us die together. My own fate, or rather, my
thought of it, was submerged in the natural pity I felt for this lone
girl, doomed to die horribly beneath the cold, cruel eyes of her awful
captors. Of what crime could she be guilty that she must expiate it in
the dreaded arena?

As I stood thus thinking, another door, this time at one of the long
sides of the arena, was thrown open, and into the theater of death
slunk a mighty tarag, the huge cave tiger of the Stone Age. At my
sides were my revolvers. My captors had not taken them from me,
be-cause they did not yet realize their nature. Doubtless they thought
them some strange manner of war-club, and as those who are condemned to
the arena are per-mitted weapons of defense, they let me keep them.

The girl they had armed with a javelin. A brass pin would have been
almost as effective against the ferocious monster they had loosed upon
her.

The tarag stood for a moment looking about him--first up at the vast
audience and then about the arena. He did not seem to see me at all,
but his eyes fell presently upon the girl. A hideous roar broke from
his titanic lungs--a roar which ended in a long-drawn scream that is
more human than the death-cry of a tortured woman--more human but more
awesome. I could scarce restrain a shudder.

Slowly the beast turned and moved toward the girl. Then it was that I
came to myself and to a realization of my duty. Quickly and as
noiselessly as possible I ran down the arena in pursuit of the grim
creature. As I ran I drew one of my pitifully futile weapons. Ah!
Could I but have had my lost express-gun in my hands at that moment! A
single well-placed shot would have crumbled even this great monster.
The best I could hope to accomplish was to divert the thing from the
girl to myself and then to place as many bullets as possible in it
before it reached and mauled me into insensibility and death.

There is a certain unwritten law of the arena that vouchsafes freedom
and immunity to the victor, be he beast or human being--both of whom,
by the way, are all the same to the Mahar. That is, they were
accustomed to look upon man as a lower animal before Perry and I broke
through the Pellucidarian crust, but I imagine that they were beginning
to alter their views a trifle and to realize that in the gilak--their
word for human being--they had a highly organized, reasoning being to
contend with.

Be that as it may, the chances were that the tarag alone would profit
by the law of the arena. A few more of his long strides, a prodigious
leap, and he would be upon the girl. I raised a revolver and fired.
The bullet struck him in the left hind leg. It couldn't have damaged
him much; but the report of the shot brought him around, facing me.

I think the snarling visage of a huge, enraged, saber-toothed tiger is
one of the most terrible sights in the world. Especially if he be
snarling at you and there be nothing between the two of you but bare
sand.

Even as he faced me a little cry from the girl carried my eyes beyond
the brute to her face. Hers was fastened upon me with an expression of
incredulity that baffles description. There was both hope and horror
in them, too.

"Dian!" I cried. "My Heavens, Dian!"

I saw her lips form the name David, as with raised javelin she rushed
forward upon the tarag. She was a tigress then--a primitive savage
female defending her loved one. Before she could reach the beast with
her puny weapon, I fired again at the point where the tarag's neck met
his left shoulder. If I could get a bullet through there it might
reach his heart. The bullet didn't reach his heart, but it stopped him
for an instant.

It was then that a strange thing happened. I heard a great hissing
from the stands occupied by the Mahars, and as I glanced toward them I
saw three mighty thipdars--the winged dragons that guard the queen, or,
as Perry calls them, pterodactyls--rise swiftly from their rocks and
dart lightning-like, toward the center of the arena. They are huge,
powerful reptiles. One of them, with the advantage which his wings
might give him, would easily be a match for a cave bear or a tarag.

These three, to my consternation, swooped down upon the tarag as he was
gathering himself for a final charge upon me. They buried their talons
in his back and lifted him bodily from the arena as if he had been a
chicken in the clutches of a hawk.

What could it mean?

I was baffled for an explanation; but with the tarag gone I lost no
time in hastening to Dian's side. With a little cry of delight she
threw herself into my arms. So lost were we in the ecstasy of reunion
that neither of us--to this day--can tell what became of the tarag.

The first thing we were aware of was the presence of a body of Sagoths
about us. Gruffly they commanded us to follow them. They led us from
the arena and back through the streets of Phutra to the audience
chamber in which I had been tried and sentenced. Here we found
ourselves facing the same cold, cruel tribunal.

Again a Sagoth acted as interpreter. He explained that our lives bad
been spared because at the last moment Tu-al-sa had returned to Phutra,
and seeing me in the arena had prevailed upon the queen to spare my
life.

"Who is Tu-al-sa?" I asked.

"A Mahar whose last male ancestor was--ages ago--the last of the male
rulers among the Mahars," he replied.

"Why should she wish to have my life spared?"

He shrugged his shoulders and then repeated my question to the Mahar
spokesman. When the latter had explained in the strange sign-language
that passes for speech between the Mahars and their fighting men the
Sagoth turned again to me:

"For a long time you had Tu-al-sa in your power," he explained. "You

might easily have killed her or abandoned her in a strange world--but
you did neither. You did not harm her, and you brought her back with
you to Pellucidar and set her free to return to Phutra. This is your
reward."

Now I understood. The Mahar who had been my involuntary companion upon
my return to the outer world was Tu-al-sa. This was the first time
that I had learned the lady's name. I thanked fate that I had not left
her upon the sands of the Sahara--or put a bullet in her, as I had been
tempted to do. I was surprised to discover that gratitude was a
characteristic of the dominant race of Pellucidar. I could never think
of them as aught but cold-blooded, brainless reptiles, though Perry had
devoted much time in explaining to me that owing to a strange freak of
evolution among all the genera of the inner world, this species of the
reptilia had advanced to a position quite analogous to that which man
holds upon the outer crust.

He had often told me that there was every reason to believe from their
writings, which he had learned to read while we were incarcerated in
Phutra, that they were a just race, and that in certain branches of
science and arts they were quite well advanced, especially in genetics
and metaphysics, engineering and architecture.

While it had always been difficult for me to look upon these things as
other than slimy, winged crocodiles--which, by the way, they do not at
all resemble--I was now forced to a realization of the fact that I was
in the hands of enlightened creatures--for justice and gratitude are
certain hallmarks of rationality and culture.

But what they purposed for us further was of most imminent interest to
me. They might save us from the tarag and yet not free us. They
looked upon us yet, to some extent, I knew, as creatures of a lower
order, and so as we are unable to place ourselves in the position of
the brutes we enslave--thinking that they are happier in bondage than
in the free fulfilment of the purposes for which nature intended
them--the Mahars, too, might consider our welfare better conserved in
captivity than among the dangers of the savage freedom we craved.
Naturally, I was next impelled to inquire their further intent.

To my question, put through the Sagoth interpreter, I received the
reply that having spared my life they considered that Tu-al-sa's debt
of gratitude was canceled. They still had against me, however, the
crime of which I had been guilty--the unforgivable crime of stealing
the great secret. They, therefore, intended holding Dian and me
prisoners until the manuscript was returned to them.

They would, they said, send an escort of Sagoths with me to fetch the
precious document from its hiding-place, keeping Dian at Phutra as a
hostage and releasing us both the moment that the document was safely
restored to their queen.

There was no doubt but that they had the upper hand. However, there
was so much more at stake than the liberty or even the lives of Dian
and myself, that I did not deem it expedient to accept their offer
without giving the matter careful thought.

Without the great secret this maleless race must eventually become
extinct. For ages they had fertilized their eggs by an artificial
process, the secret of which lay hidden in the little cave of a far-off
valley where Dian and I had spent our honeymoon. I was none too sure
that I could find the valley again, nor that I cared to. So long as
the powerful reptilian race of Pellucidar continued to propagate, just
so long would the position of man within the inner world be
jeopardized. There could not be two dominant races.

I said as much to Dian.

"You used to tell me," she replied, "of the wonderful things you could
accomplish with the inventions of your own world. Now you have
returned with all that is necessary to place this great power in the
hands of the men of Pellucidar.

"You told me of great engines of destruction which would cast a
bursting ball of metal among our enemies, killing hundreds of them at
one time.

"You told me of mighty fortresses of stone which a thousand men armed
with big and little engines such as these could hold forever against a
million Sagoths.

"You told me of great canoes which moved across the water without
paddles, and which spat death from holes in their sides.

"All these may now belong to the men of Pellucidar. Why should we fear
the Mahars?

"Let them breed! Let their numbers increase by thou-sands. They will
be helpless before the power of the Emperor of Pellucidar.

"But if you remain a prisoner in Phutra, what may we accomplish?

"What could the men of Pellucidar do without you to lead them?

"They would fight among themselves, and while they fought the Mahars
would fall upon them, and even though the Mahar race should die out, of
what value would the emancipation of the human race be to them without
the knowledge, which you alone may wield, to guide them toward the
wonderful civilization of which you have told me so much that I long
for its comforts and luxuries as I never before longed for anything.

"No, David; the Mahars cannot harm us if you are at liberty. Let them
have their secret that you and I may return to our people, and lead
them to the conquest of all Pellucidar."

It was plain that Dian was ambitious, and that her ambition had not
dulled her reasoning faculties. She was right. Nothing could be
gained by remaining bottled up in Phutra for the rest of our lives.

It was true that Perry might do much with the contents of the
prospector, or iron mole, in which I had brought down the implements of
outer-world civilization; but Perry was a man of peace. He could never
weld the warring factions of the disrupted federation. He could never
win new tribes to the empire. He would fiddle around manufacturing
gun-powder and trying to improve upon it until some one blew him up
with his own invention. He wasn't practical. He never would get
anywhere without a balance-wheel--without some one to direct his
energies.

Perry needed me and I needed him. If we were going to do anything for
Pellucidar we must be free to do it together.

The outcome of it all was that I agreed to the Mahars' proposition.
They promised that Dian would be well treated and protected from every
indignity during my absence. So I set out with a hundred Sagoths in
search of the little valley which I had stumbled upon by accident, and
which I might and might not find again.

We traveled directly toward Sari. Stopping at the camp where I had
been captured I recovered my express rifle, for which I was very
thankful. I found it lying where I had left it when I had been
overpowered in my sleep by the Sagoths who bad captured me and slain my
Mezop companions.

On the way I added materially to my map, an occupation which did not
elicit from the Sagoths even a shadow of interest. I felt that the
human race of Pellucidar had little to fear from these gorilla-men.
They were fighters--that was all. We might even use them later
ourselves in this same capacity. They had not sufficient brain power
to constitute a menace to the advancement of the human race.

As we neared the spot where I hoped to find the little valley I became
more and more confident of success. Every landmark was familiar to me,
and I was sure now that I knew the exact location of the cave.

It was at about this time that I sighted a number of the half-naked
warriors of the human race of Pellucidar. They were marching across
our front. At sight of us they halted; that there would be a fight I
could not doubt. These Sagoths would never permit an opportunity for
the capture of slaves for their Mahar masters to escape them.

I saw that the men were armed with bows and arrows, long lances and
swords, so I guessed that they must have been members of the
federation, for only my people had been thus equipped. Before Perry
and I came the men of Pellucidar had only the crudest weapons wherewith
to slay one another.

The Sagoths, too, were evidently expecting battle. With savage shouts
they rushed forward toward the human warriors.

Then a strange thing happened. The leader of the human beings stepped
forward with upraised hands. The Sagoths ceased their war-cries and
advanced slowly to meet him. There was a long parley during which I
could see that I was often the subject of their discourse. The
Sagoths' leader pointed in the direction in which I had told him the
valley lay. Evidently he was explaining the nature of our expedition
to the leader of the warriors. It was all a puzzle to me.

What human being could be upon such excellent terms with the
gorilla-men?

I couldn't imagine. I tried to get a good look at the fellow, but the
Sagoths had left me in the rear with a guard when they had advanced to
battle, and the distance was too great for me to recognize the features
of any of the human beings.

Finally the parley was concluded and the men continued on their way
while the Sagoths returned to where I stood with my guard. It was time
for eating, so we stopped where we were and made our meal. The Sagoths
didn't tell me who it was they had met, and I did not ask, though I
must confess that I was quite curious.

They permitted me to sleep at this halt. Afterward we took up the last
leg of our journey. I found the valley without difficulty and led my
guard directly to the cave. At its mouth the Sagoths halted and I
entered alone.

I noticed as I felt about the floor in the dim light that there was a
pile of fresh-turned rubble there. Presently my hands came to the spot
where the great secret had been buried. There was a cavity where I had
carefully smoothed the earth over the hiding-place of the document--the
manuscript was gone!

Frantically I searched the whole interior of the cave several times
over, but without other result than a complete confirmation of my worst
fears. Someone had been here ahead of me and stolen the great secret.

The one thing within Pellucidar which might free Dian and me was gone,
nor was it likely that I should ever learn its whereabouts. If a Mahar
had found it, which was quite improbable, the chances were that the
dominant race would never divulge the fact that they had recovered the
precious document. If a cave man had happened upon it he would have no
conception of its meaning or value, and as a consequence it would be
lost or destroyed in short order.

With bowed head and broken hopes I came out of the cave and told the
Sagoth chieftain what I had discovered. It didn't mean much to the
fellow, who doubt-less had but little better idea of the contents of
the document I had been sent to fetch to his masters than would the
cave man who in all probability had discovered it.

The Sagoth knew only that I had failed in my mission, so he took
advantage of the fact to make the return journey to Phutra as
disagreeable as possible. I did not rebel, though I had with me the
means to destroy them all. I did not dare rebel because of the
consequences to Dian. I intended demanding her release on the grounds
that she was in no way guilty of the theft, and that my failure to
recover the document had not lessened the value of the good faith I had
had in offering to do so. The Mahars might keep me in slavery if they
chose, but Dian should be returned safely to her people.

I was full of my scheme when we entered Phutra and I was conducted
directly to the great audience-chamber. The Mahars listened to the
report of the Sagoth chief-tain, and so difficult is it to judge their
emotions from their almost expressionless countenance, that I was at a
loss to know how terrible might be their wrath as they learned that
their great secret, upon which rested the fate of their race, might now
be irretrievably lost.

Presently I could see that she who presided was communicating something
to the Sagoth interpreter--doubt-less something to be transmitted to me
which might give me a forewarning of the fate which lay in store for
me. One thing I had decided definitely: If they would not free Dian I
should turn loose upon Phutra with my little arsenal. Alone I might
even win to freedom, and if I could learn where Dian was imprisoned it
would be worth the attempt to free her. My thoughts were interrupted
by the interpreter.

"The mighty Mahars," he said, "are unable to reconcile your statement
that the document is lost with your action in sending it to them by a
special messenger. They wish to know if you have so soon forgotten the
truth or if you are merely ignoring it."

"I sent them no document," I cried. "Ask them what they mean."

"They say," he went on after conversing with the Mahar for a moment,
"that just before your return to Phutra, Hooja the Sly One came,
bringing the great secret with him. He said that you had sent him
ahead with it, asking him to deliver it and return to Sari where you
would await him, bringing the girl with him."

"Dian?" I gasped. "The Mahars have given over Dian into the keeping of
Hooja."

"Surely," he replied. "What of it? She is only a gilak," as you or I
would say, "She is only a cow."





Next: A Pendent World

Previous: Friendship And Treachery



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