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The Raid On The Cave-prison

From: Pellucidar

His head was turned over his shoulder as I first saw him--he was
looking back toward the village. As I leaped for him his eyes fell
upon me. Never in my life have I seen a more surprised mortal than
this poor cave man. Before he could utter a single scream of warning
or alarm I had my fingers on his throat and had dragged him behind the
boulder, where I proceeded to sit upon him, while I figured out what I
had best do with him.

He struggled a little at first, but finally lay still, and so I
released the pressure of my fingers at his windpipe, for which I
imagine he was quite thankful--I know that I should have been.

I hated to kill him in cold blood; but what else I was to do with him I
could not see, for to turn him loose would have been merely to have the
entire village aroused and down upon me in a moment. The fellow lay
looking up at me with the surprise still deeply writ-ten on his
countenance. At last, all of a sudden, a look of recognition entered
his eyes.

"I have seen you before," he said. "I saw you in the arena at the
Mahars' city of Phutra when the thipdars dragged the tarag from you and
your mate. I never understood that. Afterward they put me in the
arena with two warriors from Gombul."

He smiled in recollection.

"It would have been the same had there been ten warriors from Gombul.
I slew them, winning my free-dom. Look!"

He half turned his left shoulder toward me, exhibiting the newly healed
scar of the Mahars' branded mark.

"Then," he continued, "as I was returning to my peo-ple I met some of
them fleeing. They told me that one called Hooja the Sly One had come
and seized our village, putting our people into slavery. So I hurried
hither to learn the truth, and, sure enough, here I found Hooja and his
wicked men living in my village, and my father's people but slaves
among them.

"I was discovered and captured, but Hooja did not kill me. I am the
chief's son, and through me he hoped to win my father's warriors back
to the village to help him in a great war he says that he will soon

"Among his prisoners is Dian the Beautiful One, whose brother, Dacor
the Strong One, chief of Amoz, once saved my life when he came to
Thuria to steal a mate. I helped him capture her, and we are good
friends. So when I learned that Dian the Beautiful One was Hooja's
prisoner, I told him that I would not aid him if he harmed her.

"Recently one of Hooja's warriors overheard me talking with another
prisoner. We were planning to combine all the prisoners, seize
weapons, and when most of Hooja's warriors were away, slay the rest and
retake our hilltop. Had we done so we could have held it, for there
are only two entrances--the narrow tunnel at one end and the steep path
up the cliffs at the other.

"But when Hooja heard what we had planned he was very angry, and
ordered that I die. They bound me hand and foot and placed me in a
cave until all the warriors should return to witness my death; but
while they were away I heard someone calling me in a muffled voice
which seemed to come from the wall of the cave. When I replied the
voice, which was a woman's, told me that she had overheard all that had
passed between me and those who had brought me thither, and that she
was Dacor's sister and would find a way to help me.

"Presently a little hole appeared in the wall at the point from which
the voice had come. After a time I saw a woman's hand digging with a
bit of stone. Dacor's sister made a hole in the wall between the cave
where I lay bound and that in which she had been confined, and soon she
was by my side and had cut my bonds.

"We talked then, and I offered to make the attempt to take her away and
back to the land of Sari, where she told me she would be able to learn
the whereabouts of her mate. Just now I was going to the other end of
the island to see if a boat lay there, and if the way was clear for our
escape. Most of the boats are always away now, for a great many of
Hooja's men and nearly all the slaves are upon the Island of Trees,
where Hooja is having many boats built to carry his warriors across the
water to the mouth of a great river which he discovered while he was
returning from Phutra--a vast river that empties into the sea there."

The speaker pointed toward the northeast. "It is wide and smooth and
slow-running almost to the land of Sari," he added.

"And where is Dian the Beautiful One now?" I asked.

I had released my prisoner as soon as I found that he was Hooja's
enemy, and now the pair of us were squat-ting beside the boulder while
he told his story.

"She returned to the cave where she had been imprisoned," he replied,
"and is awaiting me there."

"There is no danger that Hooja will come while you are away?"

"Hooja is upon the Island of Trees," he replied.

"Can you direct me to the cave so that I can find it alone?" I asked.

He said he could, and in the strange yet explicit fashion of the
Pellucidarians he explained minutely how I might reach the cave where
he had been imprisoned, and through the hole in its wall reach Dian.

I thought it best for but one of us to return, since two could
accomplish but little more than one and would double the risk of
discovery. In the meantime he could make his way to the sea and guard
the boat, which I told him lay there at the foot of the cliff.

I told him to await us at the cliff-top, and if Dian came alone to do
his best to get away with her and take her to Sari, as I thought it
quite possible that, in case of detection and pursuit, it might be
necessary for me to hold off Hooja's people while Dian made her way
alone to where my new friend was to await her. I impressed upon him
the fact that he might have to resort to trickery or even to force to
get Dian to leave me; but I made him promise that he would sacrifice
everything, even his life, in an attempt to rescue Dacor's sister.

Then we parted--he to take up his position where he could watch the
boat and await Dian, I to crawl cautiously on toward the caves. I had
no difficulty in following the directions given me by Juag, the name by
which Dacor's friend said he was called. There was the leaning tree,
my first point he told me to look for after rounding the boulder where
we had met. After that I crawled to the balanced rock, a huge boulder
resting upon a tiny base no larger than the palm of your hand.

From here I had my first view of the village of caves. A low bluff ran
diagonally across one end of the mesa, and in the face of this bluff
were the mouths of many caves. Zig-zag trails led up to them, and
narrow ledges scooped from the face of the soft rock connected those
upon the same level.

The cave in which Juag had been confined was at the extreme end of the
cliff nearest me. By taking advantage of the bluff itself, I could
approach within a few feet of the aperture without being visible from
any other cave. There were few people about at the time; most of these
were congregated at the foot of the far end of the bluff, where they
were so engrossed in excited conversation that I felt but little fear
of detection. However I exercised the greatest care in approaching the
cliff. After watching for a while until I caught an instant when every
head was turned away from me, I darted, rabbitlike, into the cave.

Like many of the man-made caves of Pellucidar, this one consisted of
three chambers, one behind another, and all unlit except for what
sunlight filtered in through the external opening. The result was
gradually increasing darkness as one passed into each succeeding

In the last of the three I could just distinguish objects, and that was
all. As I was groping around the walls for the hole that should lead
into the cave where Dian was imprisoned, I heard a man's voice quite
close to me.

The speaker had evidently but just entered, for he spoke in a loud
tone, demanding the whereabouts of one whom he had come in search of.

"Where are you, woman?" he cried. "Hooja has sent for you."

And then a woman's voice answered him:

"And what does Hooja want of me?"

The voice was Dian's. I groped in the direction of the sounds, feeling
for the hole.

"He wishes you brought to the Island of Trees," replied the man; "for
he is ready to take you as his mate."

"I will not go," said Dian. "I will die first."

"I am sent to bring you, and bring you I shall."

I could hear him crossing the cave toward her.

Frantically I clawed the wall of the cave in which I was in an effort
to find the elusive aperture that would lead me to Dian's side.

I heard the sound of a scuffle in the next cave. Then my fingers sank
into loose rock and earth in the side of the cave. In an instant I
realized why I had been unable to find the opening while I had been
lightly feeling the surface of the walls--Dian had blocked up the hole
she had made lest it arouse suspicion and lead to an early discovery of
Juag's escape.

Plunging my weight against the crumbling mass, I sent it crashing into
the adjoining cavern. With it came I, David, Emperor of Pellucidar. I
doubt if any other potentate in a world's history ever made a more
un-dignified entrance. I landed head first on all fours, but I came
quickly and was on my feet before the man in the dark guessed what had

He saw me, though, when I arose and, sensing that no friend came thus
precipitately, turned to meet me even as I charged him. I had my stone
knife in my hand, and he had his. In the darkness of the cave there
was little opportunity for a display of science, though even at that I
venture to say that we fought a very pretty duel.

Before I came to Pellucidar I do not recall that I ever had seen a
stone knife, and I am sure that I never fought with a knife of any
description; but now I do not have to take my hat off to any of them
when it comes to wielding that primitive yet wicked weapon.

I could just see Dian in the darkness, but I knew that she could not
see my features or recognize me; and I enjoyed in anticipation, even
while I was fighting for her life and mine, her dear joy when she
should discover that it was I who was her deliverer.

My opponent was large, but he also was active and no mean knife-man.
He caught me once fairly in the shoulder--I carry the scar yet, and
shall carry it to the grave. And then he did a foolish thing, for as
I leaped back to gain a second in which to calm the shock of the wound
he rushed after me and tried to clinch. He rather neglected his knife
for the moment in his greater desire to get his hands on me. Seeing
the opening, I swung my left fist fairly to the point of his jaw.

Down he went. Before ever he could scramble up again I was on him and
had buried my knife in his heart. Then I stood up--and there was Dian
facing me and peering at me through the dense gloom.

"You are not Juag!" she exclaimed. "Who are you?"

I took a step toward her, my arms outstretched.

"It is I, Dian," I said. "It is David."

At the sound of my voice she gave a little cry in which tears were
mingled--a pathetic little cry that told me all without words how far
hope had gone from her--and then she ran forward and threw herself in
my arms. I covered her perfect lips and her beautiful face with
kisses, and stroked her thick black hair, and told her again and again
what she already knew--what she had known for years--that I loved her
better than all else which two worlds had to offer. We couldn't devote
much time, though, to the happiness of love-making, for we were in the
midst of enemies who might discover us at any moment.

I drew her into the adjoining cave. Thence we made our way to the
mouth of the cave that had given me entrance to the cliff. Here I
reconnoitered for a mo-ment, and seeing the coast clear, ran swiftly
forth with Dian at my side. We dodged around the cliff-end, then
paused for an instant, listening. No sound reached our ears to
indicate that any had seen us, and we moved cautiously onward along the
way by which I had come.

As we went Dian told me that her captors had informed her how close I
had come in search of her--even to the Land of Awful Shadow--and how
one of Hooja's men who knew me had discovered me asleep and robbed me
of all my possessions. And then how Hooja had sent four others to find
me and take me prisoner. But these men, she said, had not yet
returned, or at least she had not heard of their return.

"Nor will you ever," I responded, "for they have gone to that place
whence none ever returns." I then related my adventure with these four.

We had come almost to the cliff-edge where Juag should be awaiting us
when we saw two men walking rapidly toward the same spot from another
direction. They did not see us, nor did they see Juag, whom I now
discovered hiding behind a low bush close to the verge of the precipice
which drops into the sea at this point. As quickly as possible,
without exposing our-selves too much to the enemy, we hastened forward
that we might reach Juag as quickly as they.

But they noticed him first and immediately charged him, for one of them
had been his guard, and they had both been sent to search for him, his
escape having been discovered between the time he left the cave and the
time when I reached it. Evidently they had wasted precious moments
looking for him in other portions of the mesa.

When I saw that the two of them were rushing him, I called out to
attract their attention to the fact that they had more than a single
man to cope with. They paused at the sound of my voice and looked

When they discovered Dian and me they exchanged a few words, and one of
them continued toward Juag while the other turned upon us. As he came
nearer I saw that he carried in his hand one of my six-shooters, but he
was holding it by the barrel, evidently mistaking it for some sort of
warclub or tomahawk.

I could scarce refrain a grin when I thought of the wasted
possibilities of that deadly revolver in the hands of an untutored
warrior of the stone age. Had he but reversed it and pulled the
trigger he might still be alive; maybe he is for all I know, since I
did not kill him then. When he was about twenty feet from me I flung
my javelin with a quick movement that I had learned from Ghak. He
ducked to avoid it, and instead of receiving it in his heart, for which
it was intended, he got it on the side of the head.

Down he went all in a heap. Then I glanced toward Juag. He was having
a most exciting time. The fellow pitted against Juag was a veritable
giant; he was hacking and hewing away at the poor slave with a
villainous-looking knife that might have been designed for butchering
mastodons. Step by step, he was forcing Juag back toward the edge of
the cliff with a fiendish cunning that permitted his adversary no
chance to side-step the terrible consequences of retreat in this
direction. I saw quickly that in another moment Juag must deliberately
hurl himself to death over the precipice or be pushed over by his

And as I saw Juag's predicament I saw, too, in the same instant, a way
to relieve him. Leaping quickly to the side of the fellow I had just
felled, I snatched up my fallen revolver. It was a desperate chance to
take, and I realized it in the instant that I threw the gun up from my
hip and pulled the trigger. There was no time to aim. Juag was upon
the very brink of the chasm. His relentless foe was pushing him hard,
beat-ing at him furiously with the heavy knife.

And then the revolver spoke--loud and sharp. The giant threw his hands
above his head, whirled about like a huge top, and lunged forward over
the precipice.

And Juag?

He cast a single affrighted glance in my direction--never before, of
course, had he heard the report of a firearm--and with a howl of dismay
he, too, turned and plunged headforemost from sight. Horror-struck, I
hastened to the brink of the abyss just in time to see two splashes
upon the surface of the little cove below.

For an instant I stood there watching with Dian at my side. Then, to
my utter amazement, I saw Juag rise to the surface and swim strongly
toward the boat.

The fellow had dived that incredible distance and come up unharmed!

I called to him to await us below, assuring him that he need have no
fear of my weapon, since it would harm only my enemies. He shook his
head and mut-tered something which I could not hear at so great a
distance; but when I pushed him he promised to wait for us. At the
same instant Dian caught my arm and pointed toward the village. My
shot had brought a crowd of natives on the run toward us.

The fellow whom I had stunned with my javelin had regained
consciousness and scrambled to his feet. He was now racing as fast as
he could go back toward his people. It looked mighty dark for Dian and
me with that ghastly descent between us and even the beginnings of
liberty, and a horde of savage enemies advancing at a rapid run.

There was but one hope. That was to get Dian started for the bottom
without delay. I took her in my arms just for an instant--I felt,
somehow, that it might be for the last time. For the life of me I
couldn't see how both of us could escape.

I asked her if she could make the descent alone--if she were not
afraid. She smiled up at me bravely and shrugged her shoulders. She
afraid! So beautiful is she that I am always having difficulty in
remembering that she is a primitive, half-savage cave girl of the stone
age, and often find myself mentally limiting her capacities to those of
the effete and overcivilized beauties of the outer crust.

"And you?" she asked as she swung over the edge of the cliff.

"I shall follow you after I take a shot or two at our friends," I
replied. "I just want to give them a taste of this new medicine which
is going to cure Pellucidar of all its ills. That will stop them long
enough for me to join you. Now hurry, and tell Juag to be ready to
shove off the moment I reach the boat, or the instant that it becomes
apparent that I cannot reach it.

"You, Dian, must return to Sari if anything happens to me, that you may
devote your life to carrying out with Perry the hopes and plans for
Pellucidar that are so dear to my heart. Promise me, dear."

She hated to promise to desert me, nor would she; only shaking her head
and making no move to descend. The tribesmen were nearing us. Juag
was shouting up to us from below. It was evident that he realized from
my actions that I was attempting to persuade Dian to descend, and that
grave danger threatened us from above.

"Dive!" he cried. "Dive!"

I looked at Dian and then down at the abyss below us. The cove appeared
no larger than a saucer. How Juag ever had hit it I could not guess.

"Dive!" cried Juag. "It is the only way--there is no time to climb

Next: Escape

Previous: Hooja's Cutthroats Appear

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