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Part IV Chapter 3 Savage Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Ah-Gilak had seen the green cliff loom close alongside the John Tyler at the same moment as had O-aa, but it connoted something very different to the ancient skipper than to O-aa. To the one it meant disaster, to the other escape. And each reacted in his own way. Ah-gilak screamed orders and O-aa dived overboard.

With the lightly freshening breeze, the ship hauled away from danger, at least from the imminent threat of that particular cliff. But who knew what lay just ahead in the fog?

Again the wind died, the sails hung limp, the fog closed in tighter than before. The tide and a strong current bore the helpless ship on. But where? Abner Perry’s crude compass did 180s and 360s, as the current and the tide turned the John Tyler slowly this way and that.

“She ain’t nuthin’ but a dod-burned derelict,” groaned Ah-gilak, “jest driftin’ around. It all comes from shippin’ a woman, dod-burn ’em. If we’re driftin’ to sea, we’re all right. If we’re driftin’ t’other way, she’ll go ashore. Gad an’ Gabriel! I’d ruther pitch a whole slew o’ women overboard than lose a sweet ship like the John Tyler.”

“Shut up!” said Ja. “You talk too much. Listen!”

With a palm, Ah-gilak cupped an ear. “I don’t hear nuthin’,” he said.

“You’re deaf, old man,” said Ja.

“I can hear as good as the next feller, as the feller said,” remonstrated Ah-gilak.

“Then you can hear the surf that I hear,” said Ja.

“Surf?” screamed Ah-gilak. “Where? How far?”

“There,” said Ja, pointing. “And close.”

The Lo-har was fogbound. She had been cruising northeast after a futile search in the other direction. Hodon was loath to give up and admit that O-aa was hopelessly lost to him. Dian the Beautiful was apathetic. She knew that David might have been borne almost anywhere by the balloon that had carried him in search of her, and that she stood as good a chance of finding him while searching for O-aa is in any other way. But she was resigned to the fact that she would never see him again; so she encouraged Hodon to search for his O-aa.

Raj and the other Mezops were content just to sail. They loved the sea. Gamba, the Xexot, who had been a king, did not love the sea. It frightened him, but then Gamba was afraid of many things. He was not of the stuff of which kings are supposed to be made. And he was always whining and finding fault. Hodon would long since have pitched him overboard had not Dian interceded in his behalf.

“How many more sleeps before we reach your country?” he asked Dian.

“Many,” she replied.

“I have already lost count of the number of times I have slept since I came aboard this thing you call a ship. We should be close to your country by now. The world is not so large that one can travel for so many sleeps without seeing it all.”

“Pellucidar is very large,” said Dian. “You might travel many thousands of sleeps and yet see but little of it. Furthermore, we have not been traveling toward Sari.”

“What?” shrieked Gamba. “Not travelling toward your country?”

“Hodon has been searching for his mate.”

“He did not find her,” said Gamba, “so I suppose that we are not travelling toward Sari.”

“No,” said Dian. “We are getting farther and farther from Sari, at least by water.”

“Make him turn around, and sail toward Sari,” demanded Gamba. “I, Gamba the King do not like the ocean nor the ship.”

Dian smiled. “King of what?” she asked.

“I shall probably be king of Sari when we get there,” said Gamba.

“Well, take my advice and don’t tell Ghak the Hairy One,” said Dian.

“Why not? Who is this Ghak the Hairy One?”

“He is king of Sari,” explained Dian, “and he is a very large person and very fierce when he is crossed.”

“I am not afraid of him,” said Gamba.

Again Dian smiled.

O-aa did not scream as the great jaws of the reptile opened wide to seize her, nor did she faint. Had our foremothers of the stone age wasted time screaming and fainting, when danger threatened, the human race would have died a-borning. And perhaps the world would have been a better, kinder place to live for all the other animals who do not constantly make war upon one another as do men.

Like a human fly, O-aa scrambled up the face of the cliff a few feet; then she looked back and made a face at Tylosaurus, after which she considered carefully her new position. Because of the fog, she could see but a few yards in any direction. How high the cliff she could not know. The greenery which covered it consisted of lichen and stout liana-like vines which depended from above. As there was no earth on this vertical rock in which plant life might take root, it was obvious to O-aa that the lianas were rooted in earth at the top of the cliff. She examined them carefully. Not only were they, in themselves, tough and sturdy; but the aerial tendrils with which the vines clung to the face of the cliff added still greater strength and permanency. Making use of this natural ladder, O-aa ascended.

Some fifty feet above the surface of the sea she came to the mouth of a large cave from which emanated a foul stench—the stink of putrid carrion—and as she drew herself up and peered over the sill of the opening, three hissing, screaming little horrors rushed forward to attack her. O-aa recognized them as the young of the thipdar. Paleontologists would have classified them as pterodactyls of the Lias, but they would have been surprised at the enormous size to which these flying reptiles grow in the Inner World. A wing span of twenty feet is only average. They are one of the most dreaded of Pellucidar’s many voracious carnivores.

The three that attacked O-aa were about the size of turkeys, and they came for her with distended jaws. Clinging to her support with one hand, O-aa whipped out her knife, and beheaded the leader of the attack. But the others came on, their little brains, reacting only to the urge of hunger, had no room for fear.

The girl would gladly have retreated, but the insensate little terrors gave her no respite. Squawking and hissing, they hurled themselves upon her. She struck a terrific blow at one of them, and missed. The momentum of the blow carried her blade against the vine to which she clung, severing it just above her left hand; and O-aa toppled backward.

Fifty feet below her lay the ocean and, perhaps, Tylosaurus and Death. We, whose reactions have been slowed down by generations of civilization and soft, protected living, would doubtless have fallen to the ocean and, perhaps, Tylosaurus and Death. But not O-aa. Simultaneously, she transferred the knife to her mouth, dropped the severed vine and grabbed for new support with both hands. She found it and held. “Whe-e-oo!” breathed O-aa.

It had been a close call. She started up again, but this time she detoured around the cave of the thipdars. She had much to be thankful for, including the fog. No adult thipdar had been in the cave, nor need she fear the return of one as long as the fog held.

A hundred feet above the sea she found the summit of the vertical cliff. From here, the mountain sloped upward at an angle of about forty-five degrees. Easy going for O-aa this. Practically level ground. There were trees. They kept looming up out of the fog as she advanced. Trees are beloved of Pellucidarians. Beneath their branches, sanctuary from the great earth bound carnivores.

Now that she had found trees, O-aa had no further need of fog. She wished that it would lift. She was getting as sick of the fog as she had been of the sea. But she knew that the fog was better than the sea. It would go away some time. The sea, never.

She climbed upward, alert, listening, sniffing the air. And presently she emerged from the fog into the bright sunlight of Pellucidar’s eternal noon. The scene was beautiful. And if you think that primitive peoples do not appreciate beauty you are crazy. In any event, O-aa did. The mountain continued to rise gently toward its peak. Splendid trees dotted its slope. Green grass grew lush, starred with many flowers; and below her, shining bright in the sun, the fog rolled, a silent, silver sea.

By the time she reached the summit, the fog had disappeared as miraculously as it had come. O-aa looked in all directions, and her heart sank. In all directions she saw water. This single mountain rose from the depths of the ocean to form a small island. A mile away, she could see the mainland. But that mile of water seemed to the little cave girl of the mountains as effectual a barrier to escape as would a hundred miles of turbulent sea.

And then O-aa saw something else—something that sent her heart into a real nose dive. Sneaking toward her was a jalok, the fierce wild dog of Pellucidar. And there was no tree nearby.

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