Table of content

Part II Chapter 4 Savage Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Relieved of the weight of the rope, the balloon soared aloft much higher than it had been when the rope first started to drag in the waters of the nameless strait. Soon it was over the land and the city. Dian looked down and marvelled at this wondrous thing built by men.

It was a mean little city of clay houses and narrow winding streets, but to a cave girl of the Stone Age who had never before seen a city, it was a marvelous thing. It impressed her much as New York City impresses the outlanders from Pittsburgh or Kansas City, who see it for the first time.

The balloon was floating so low now that she could see the people in the streets and on the roofs of the buildings. They were looking up at her in wonder. If Dian had never seen a city, she had at least heard of them; but these people had not only never before seen a balloon, but they had never heard of such a thing.

When the balloon passed over the city and out across the country beyond, hundreds of people ran out and followed it. They followed it for a long way as it slowly came closer and closer to the ground.

Presently Dian saw another city in the distance, and when she came close to this second city, she was quite close to the ground—perhaps twenty feet above it; then she saw men running from the city. They carried shields and bows and arrows, and for the first time she noticed that those who had followed her all the way from the first city were all men and that they, too, carried shields and bows and arrows.

Before the basket touched the ground the men from the two cities were fighting all around it. At first they fought with bows and arrows, but when they came to close quarters they drew two bladed short-swords from scabbards that hung at their sides and fought hand-to-hand. They shouted and screamed at one another, and altogether made a terrible din.

Dian wished that she could make the balloon go up again, for she did not wish to fall into the hands of such ferocious people, but down came the balloon right in the midst of the fighting. Of course the gas bag dragged it, bumping and jumping along the ground, closer and closer to the second city. Warriors of both sides seized the edge of the basket and pulled and hauled, the men from the first city trying to drag it back and those of the second city trying to haul it on toward their own gates.

“She is ours!” cried one of the latter. “See! She tries to come to Lolo-lolo! Kill the infidels who would steal our Noada!”

“She is ours!” screamed the men of the first city; “we saw her first. Kill the infidels who would cheat us of our Noada!”

Now the basket was near the gates of the city, and suddenly a dozen men rushed forward, seized hold of Dian, lifted her from the basket, and carried her through the gates, which were immediately slammed on friend and foe alike.

Relieved of the weight of Dian, the balloon leaped into the air, and drifted across the city. Even the fighters stopped to watch the miracle.

“Look!” exclaimed the warrior of the second city, “it has brought us our Noada, and now it returns to Karana.”

Lolo-lolo was another city of clay houses and winding, crooked streets through which Dian the Beautiful was escorted with what, she realized, was deepest reverence.

A warrior went ahead, shouting, “Our Noada has come!” and as she passed, the people, making way for her little cortege, knelt, covering their eyes with their hands.

None of this could Dian understand, for she knew nothing of religion, her people being peculiarly free from all superstition. She only knew that these strange people seemed friendly, and that she was being received more as an honored guest than as a prisoner. Everything here was strange to her; the little houses built solidly along both sides of the narrow streets; the yellow skins of the people; the strange garments that they wore—leather aprons, painted with gay designs, that fell from their waists before and behind; the leather helmets of the men; the feather headdress of the women. Neither men nor women wore any garment above the waist, while the children and young people were quite naked.

The armlets and anklets and other metal ornaments of both men and women, as well as the swords, the spear heads, and the arrow tips of the warriors were of a metal strange to Dian. They were bronze, for these people had passed from the Stone Age and the Age of Copper into the Bronze Age. That they were advancing in civilization was attested by the fact that their weapons were more lethal than those of the Stone Age people—the more civilized people become, the more deadly are the inventions with which they kill one another.

Dian was escorted to an open square in the center of the village. Here the buildings were a little larger, though none was over one story in height. In the center of one side of the quadrangle was a domed building, the most imposing in the city of Lolo-lolo; although to describe it as imposing is a trifle grandiloquent. It was, however, remarkable, in that these people could design and construct a dome as large as this one.

The shouting warrior who had preceded the escort had run ahead to the entrance of this building, where he shouted, “Our Noada comes!” repeating it until a number of weirdly costumed men emerged. They wore long leather coats covered with painted ornamentation, and the head of each was covered by a hideous mask.

As Dian approached the entrance to the building, these strange figures surrounded her; and, kneeling, covered the eye holes of their masks with their hands.

“Welcome, our Noada! Welcome to your temple in Lolo-lolo! We, your priests, welcome you to The House of the Gods!” they chanted in unison.

The words welcome, priests, and gods were new words to Dian; she did not know what they meant; but she was bright enough to know that she was supposed to, and to realize that they thought her somebody she was not and that this belief of theirs was her best safeguard; so she merely inclined her head graciously and waited for what might come next.

The square behind her had filled with people, who now began to chant a weird pagan song to the beating of drums, as Dian the Beautiful was escorted into The House of the Gods by the priests of Noada.

Under the expert direction of Ah-gilak, the men of the Amoz set up a jury rig; and once more the ship moved on its journey. A man from Amoz was the compass, sextant, chronometer, and navigator; for the naval base of Pellucidar was the little bay beside which were the cliffs of Amoz. Guided by his inherent homing instinct, he stood beside the wheelsman and pointed toward Amoz. His relief was another Amozite, and the period of his watch was terminated when he felt like sleeping. The arrangement was most satisfactory, and the results obtained were far more accurate than those which might have been had by use of compass, sextant, and chronometer.

The wind had not abated and the seas were still high; but the EPS Amoz wallowed and plowed along toward port, which all aboard were now confident it would reach eventually.

“Dod-burn the old hooker,” said Ah-gilak; “she’ll get there some day, as the feller said.”

When O-aa said to Raj, “I am the daughter of a king,” the Mezop cocked an ear, for the word had been grafted onto the language of Pellucidar by Abner Perry, and those who had a right to the title were the heads of “kingdoms” that belonged to the federation known as the Empire of Pellucidar. If the girl was just any girl, that was one thing; but if her people belonged to the Federation, that was something very different indeed.

“Who is your father?” demanded Raj.

“Oose, King of Kali,” she replied; “and my mate is Hodon the Fleet One, of Sari. My nine brothers are very terrible men.”

“Never mind your nine brothers,” said Raj; “that you are a Kalian, or that your mate is Hodon of Sari is enough. You will be well treated on this ship.”

“And that will be a good thing for you,” said O-aa, “for if you hadn’t treated me well, I should have killed you. I have killed many men. My nine brothers and I used to raid the village of Suvi all alone, and I always killed more men than any of my brothers. My mother’s brother was also a great killer of men, as are my three sisters. Yes, it will be very well for you if you treat me nicely. I always—”

“Shut up,” said Raj, “you talk too much and you lie too much. I shall not harm you, but we Mezops beat women who talk too much; we do not like them.”

O-aa stuck her chin in the air, but she said nothing; she knew a man of his word when she met one.

“If you are not from Canda,” said the sailor who had once seen a man from Canda, “where did you get that feather loin cloth?”

“I took it from La-ak, the Candian, after I had killed him,” replied O-aa, “—and that is no lie.”

The Sari was blown along before the gale, and at the same time it was in the grip of an ocean current running in the same direction; so it was really making excellent headway, though to O-aa it seemed to be going up and down only.

When they came opposite the Anoroc Islands, the Mezops became restless. They could not see the islands; but they knew exactly the direction in which they lay, and they didn’t like the idea of being carried past their home. The four boats of the Sari had been so securely lashed to the deck against the rail that the storm had not been able to tear them away; so Raj suggested to the Sarians that he and his fellow Mezops take two of the boats and paddle to Anoroc, and that the Sarians take the other two and make for shore, since the ship was also opposite Sari.

The high seas made it extremely difficult and dangerous to launch the boats; but the Mezops are excellent sailors, and they finally succeeded in getting both their boats off; and with a final farewell they paddled away over the high seas.

O-aa looked on at all of this with increasing perturbation. She saw the frail boats lifted high on mighty waves only to disappear into the succeeding trough. Sometimes she thought that they would never come up again. She had watched the lowering of the boats and the embarkation of the Mezops with even greater concern; so, when the Sarians were ready to launch their boats, she was in more or less of a blue funk.

They told her to get into the first boat, but she said that she would go in the second—she wanted to delay the dread moment as long as possible. What added to her natural fear of the sea, was the fact that she was quite aware that the Sarians were not good sailors. Always they have lived inland, and had never ventured upon the sea until David and Perry had decreed that they become a naval power, and even then they had always gone as cargo and not as sailors.

O-aa watched the lowering of the first boat in fear and trepidation. They first lowered the boat into the sea with two men in it; these men tried to hold it from pounding against the side of the ship, using paddles for the purpose. They were not entirely successful. O-aa expected any minute to see it smashed to pieces. The other Sarians who were to go in the first boat slid down ropes; and when they were all in the boat, the Sari suddenly heeled over and capsized it. Some of the men succeeded in seizing the ropes down which they had slid, and these were hauled to the deck of the Sari; for the others there was no hope. O-aa watched them drown.

The remaining Sarians were dubious about lowering the second boat; no one likes to be drowned in a high sea full of ravenous reptiles. They talked the matter over.

“If half the men had taken paddles and held the boat away from the Sari, instead of trying to paddle before the ship rolled away from them, the thing would not have happened,” said one. Others agreed with him.

“I think we can do it safely,” said another. O-aa didn’t think so.

“If we drift around on the Sari, we shall die of thirst and starvation,” said a third; “we won’t have a chance. Once in the boat, we will have a chance. I am for trying it.” Finally the others agreed.

The boat was lowered successfully, and a number of men slid down into it to hold it away from the ship’s side.

“Down you go,” said a man to O-aa, pushing her toward the rail.

“Not I,” said O-aa. “I am not going.”

“What! You are going to remain on board the Sari alone?” he demanded.

“I am,” said O-aa; “and if you ever get to Sari, which you won’t, and Hodon is there, tell him that O-aa is out on the Lural Az in the Sari. He will come and get me.”

The man shook his head, and slid over the side. The others followed him. O-aa watched them as they fended the boat from the side of the ship until it rolled away from them; then they drove their paddles into the water and stroked mightily until they were out of danger. She watched the boat being tossed about until it was only a speck in the distance. Alone on a drifting derelict on a storm-tossed ocean, O-aa felt much safer than she would have in the little boat which she was sure would never reach land.

O-aa had what she considered an inexhaustible supply of food and water, and some day the Sari would drift ashore; then she would make her way home. The greatest hardship with which she had to put up was the lack of some one with whom to talk; and, for O-aa, that was a real hardship.

The wind blew the ship toward the southwest, and the ocean current hastened it along in the same direction. O-aa slept many times, and it was still noon. The storm had long since abated. Great, smooth swells lifted the Sari gently and gently lowered it. Where before the ocean had belabored the ship, now it caressed her.

When O-aa was awake she was constantly searching for land, and at last she saw it. It was very dim and far away; but she was sure that it was land, and the Sari was approaching it—but, oh, so slowly. She watched until she could no longer hold her eyes open, and then she slept. How long she slept no man may know; but when she awoke the land was very close, but the Sari was moving parallel with it and quite rapidly. O-aa knew that she could never reach the land if the ship kept on its present course, but there was nothing that she could do about it.

A strong current runs through the nameless strait from the Sojar Az, into which the Sari had drifted, to the Korsar Az, a great ocean that bounds the western shore of the land mass on which Sari is located. None of this O-aa knew, nor did she know that the land off the port side of the Sari was that dread terra incognita of her people.

The wind, that had been blowing gently from the east, changed into the north and increased, carrying the Sari closer inshore. Now she was so close that O-aa could plainly discern things on land. She saw something that aroused her curiosity, for she had never seen anything like it before; it was a walled city. She had not the slightest idea what it was. Presently she saw people emerging from it; they were running down to the shore toward which the Sari was drifting. As they came closer, O-aa saw that there were many warriors.

O-aa had never seen a city before, and these people had never seen a ship. The Sari was drifting in bow on, and O-aa was standing on the stump of the bowsprit, a brave figure in her red and yellow feather loin cloth and the three feathers in her hair.

The Sari was quite close to shore now and the people could see O-aa plainly. Suddenly they fell upon their knees and covered their eyes with their hands, crying, “Welcome, our Noada! The true Noada has come to Tanga-tanga!”

Just then the Sari ran aground and O-aa was pitched head-foremost into the water. O-aa had learned to swim in a lake above Kali, where there were no reptiles; but she knew that these waters were full of them; she had seen them often; so when she came to the surface she began swimming for shore as though all the saurians in the world were at heels. Esther Williams would not have been ashamed of the time in which the little cave girl of Kali made the 100 meters to shore.

As she scrambled ashore, the awe-struck warriors of Tanga-tanga knelt again and covered their eyes with their hands. O-aa glanced down to see if she had lost her loin cloth, and was relieved to find that she had not.

Table of content