Part IV Chapter 9 Savage Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

After O-aa had slept, she came to the doorway of her house and looked around. The village seemed very quiet. There were only a few people in sight and they were at the far end of the village. She descended the ladder. Rahna, who had been lying at the foot of it, stood up and wagged his tail. O-aa scratched him between his ears.

“I am hungry,” she said; “so you must be, too. We will hunt.”

She had brought her weapons. Those of the Stone Age who would survive have their weapons always at hand.

“Come, Rahna!” she said, and started up the valley away from the village.

A man, standing in the doorway of a hut farther down the village street, saw them leave. It was Zurk, the son of Jalu the chief. When a turn in the little valley hid them from his sight, he started after them with his jalok. He was a heavy barreled man, short on his bowed legs; and he lurched from side to side a little as though one leg were shorter than the other. His face was coarse and brutal, with beetling brows overhanging close-set eyes.

O-aa and Rahna moved silently up the valley, searching for game. There was a high wind blowing from the direction of the sea, and presently the sun was obscured by black clouds. There was a flash of lightning followed by the deep roar of thunder. The wind rose to violence and rain commenced to fall. But none of these things appeased O-aa’s hunger; so she continued to hunt.

The valley turned suddenly to the right, paralleling the coast; and it became narrower. Its walls were neither high nor steep at this point; so O-aa ascended the right hand wall and came out upon a tree dotted mesa. Here there were tall grasses in which the smaller game might hide.

And Zurk followed with his jalok. O-aa’s spoor in the light mud of the new fallen rain was easy to follow. When Zurk came out upon the mesa, O-aa, who had been advancing slowly, was not far ahead. So intent was she on her search for game that Zurk closed rapidly on her without attracting her attention or that of Rahna. The wind and the rain and the rumbling thunder were all on the side of Zurk.

Zurk’s plan was made. He would shoot the girl’s jalok; then she would be at his mercy. He closed up the distance between them to make sure that he would not miss. He fitted an arrow to his bow. He made no sound, but something made O-aa look behind her at that very moment.

Her own bow was ready for the kill, for any game that she or Rahna might flush. Recognizing Zurk, seeing his bow drawn, she wheeled and loosed an arrow. Zurk’s bow string twanged simultaneously with hers, but the arrow was aimed at O-aa and not at Rahna.

Zurk missed, but O-aa’s arrow drove through the man’s shoulder. Then O-aa turned and fled. Zurk knew that on his short bowed legs he could not overtake her. He spoke sharply to his jalok and pointed at the fleeing girl. “Rah!” he snapped. Rah means kill.

The powerful, savage brute bounded in pursuit.

The seas fled before the wind, mounting as the wind mounted. The John Tyler carried but a rag of sail. She handled well, she was seaworthy. Ah-gilak was proud of her. Even when the storm reached almost tornado proportions he did not fear for her.

Gamba the king, cowering below, was terrified, reduced almost to gibbering idiocy by fear. Dian watched him with disgust. And this thing had dared to speak to her of love! Hodon was nervous below deck. Like all mountain men, he wanted to be out in the open. He wanted to face the storm and the danger where he could see them. Below, he was like a caged beast. The ship was pitching wildly, but Hodon managed to fight his way to a ladder and then to the deck above.

Both the wind and the current had combined with malevolent fury in an attempt to hurl the John Tyler on the all too near shore. Dead ahead loomed the green island upon which O-aa had been cast when she leaped overboard in the fog. Ah-gilak realized that he could make no offing there, that he would have to pass between the island and the shore, only a bare mile away. And through unchartered waters, below the tumbling surface of which might lie reefs and rocks. Ah-gilak was not happy.

Hodon saw the mountainous waves and wondered that any ship could live in such a sea. Being a landsman, he saw the high seas as the only menace. Ah-gilak feared for the things he could not see—the reefs and the rocks—and the current that he and the ship fought. It was a titanic battle.

Hodon, clinging to a stanchion to keep from falling, was quite unconscious of a real danger that confronted him on the deck of the John Tyler. The ship rose to meet the great seas and then drove deep into the troughs, but so far she had shipped but little green water.

Ah-gilak saw the man, and his toothless mouth grimaced. The wind and the blinding rain beat about him. The tornado whipped his long white beard. There won’t be no call to throw the dod-burned idjit overboard, he thought. Raj saw Hodon and called a warning to him, but the wind drove his voice down his throat.

Just before the ship reached the shelter of the island’s lee, a monstrous sea loomed above her. It broke, tons of it, over her, submerging her. The John Tyler staggered to the terrific impact, then slowly she rose, shaking the water from her.

Ah-gilak looked and grinned. Hodon was no longer by the stanchion. In the shelter of the island, Ah-gilak hove to and dropped anchor. The John Tyler had weathered the storm and was safe.

Raj’s eyes searched the tumbling waters, but they were rewarded by no sight of Hodon. The Mezop shook his head sadly. He had liked the Sarian. Later, when Dian came on deck, he told her; and she, too, was sad. But death comes quickly and often in the Stone Age.

“Perhaps it is just as well,” said Dian. “They are both gone now, and neither is left to grieve.” She was thinking of how often she had wished for death when she had thought David was dead.

Ah-gilak shed crocodile tears, but he did not fool the Mezops. Had they not known that it would have been impossible, they would have thought that he had been instrumental in throwing Hodon overboard; and Ah-gilak would have gone over, too.

A great comber threw Hodon far up the beach, and left him exhausted and half dead. The enormous sea had buffeted him. His head had been beneath the surface more often that it had been above. But the tide and the wind and the current had been with him. As had a kindly Providence, for no terrible creature of the deep had seized him. Perhaps the very turbulence of the water had saved him, keeping the great reptiles down in the relative quiet far below the surface.

Hodon lay for a long time where the sea had spewed him. Occasionally a wave would roll up and surge around him, but none had the depth or volume to drag him back into the sea.

At last he got slowly to his feet. He looked back and saw the John Tyler riding at anchor behind the island. Because of the torrential rain he could but barely discern her; so he knew that those on board could not see him at all. He thought of building a fire in the hope that its smoke might carry a message to them, but there was nothing with which to make fire.

Before the storm struck them, Ah-gilak had said that he thought the ship was approaching the spot at which the Mezops had abandoned her. If that were the case, then the island was close to the place at which O-aa was supposed to have leaped overboard. If she had survived, which he doubted, she would be making her way right now toward Kali, hundreds of miles away. Perhaps, somewhere in this unknown land of terrors, she was even now pursuing her hopeless journey.

That he might ever find her in all this vast expanse of plain and hill and mountain he knew to be wholly unlikely, even were she there. But there was the chance. And there was his great love for her. Without a backward glance, Hodon the Fleet One turned his face and his steps northeast toward Kali.