Part IV Chapter 11 Savage Pellucidar by Edgar Rice Burroughs

The great storm passed on. Again the sun shone. The seas subsided. Saddened, Dian suggested that they turn back toward Sari. “What is the use of going on?” she demanded. “They are all dead.”

“Perhaps not,” said Raj. “Perhaps not all. David, Abner, Ghak, and over two hundred warriors can make their way anywhere in Pellucidar. They may be waiting for us in Sari when we return.”

“Then let’s return as soon as possible,” said Dian.

“And even for O-aa and Hodon there may be hope.”

Dian shook her head. “Had they been together, possibly; but alone, no. And then, even if Hodon reached shore, he was armed with only a knife.”

So they weighed anchor, put about, and laid a course for the nameless strait.

At the same time, David, Perry, and Ghak, were holding a council of war, so to speak. There was no war except with the terrain. With the two hundred fierce Sarians, armed with muskets and well supplied with ammunition, the party had moved through the savage world with not a single casualty.

They lived off a country rich in game, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts. But the terrain had almost beaten them. The backbone of the great peninsula they were attempting to cross is a mountain range as formidable as the Himalayas and practically insurmountable for men clothed only in G-strings. Its upper reaches ice-locked and snowbound presented an insurmountable barrier to these almost naked men of the Stone Age.

When they had reached the mountains, they had moved in a northerly direction searching for a pass. Many sleeps had passed, but still the unbroken facade of the Terrible Mountains barred the way to Sari. Time and again they had followed deep canyons, hoping that here at last was a gap through which they could pass. And time and again they had had to retrace their steps. Now, as far as the eye could reach until vision was lost in the haze, the Terrible Mountains stretched on seemingly into infinity.

“There is no use going on in this direction,” said David Innes.

“Well, where in the world shall we go?” demanded Abner Perry.

“Back,” said David. “There are no mountains on the Lidi Plains nor in the Land of Awful Shadow. We can cross there to the east coast and follow it up to Sari.”

So they turned back toward the southwest, and started anew the long, long trek for home.

Later, many sleeps later, the three man point, which David always kept well ahead of his main body, sighted warriors approaching. One of the warriors of the point ran back to notify David, and presently the Sarians advanced in a long thin skirmish line. Their orders were not to fire until fired upon, and then to fire one volley over the heads of the enemy. David had found that this was usually enough. At the roar and the smoke, the enemy ordinarily fled.

To David’s astonishment, the strange warriors also formed a line of skirmishers. This was a tactical innovation brought to Pellucidar by David. He had thought that only warriors trained under the system of the Army of the Empire used it. The two lines moved slowly toward one another.

“They look like Mezops,” said David to Ghak. “They are copper colored.”

“How could there be Mezops here?” demanded Ghak.

David shrugged. “I do not know.”

Suddenly the advancing line of copper colored warriors halted. All but one. He advanced, making the sign of peace. And presently David recognized him.

“First I saw the muskets,” said Ja, “and then I recognized you.”

Ja told of the loss of O-aa and the abandonment of the John Tyler and how it had sailed out to sea with only Ah-gilak.

“So they are both lost,” said David sadly.

“Ah-gilak is no loss,” said Ja; “but the girl—yes.”

And so Ja and Kay and Ko and the other Mezops joined the Sarians, and the march was resumed toward the Lidi Plains and the Land of the Awful Shadow.

A warrior came to the foot of the ladder leading to the house where Hodon was confined. He spoke to the guards, and one of them called to Hodon. “Sarian, come down. Jalu has sent for you.”

Jalu sat on a stool in front of the house where Zurk lay. He was scowling, and Hodon thought that Zurk had died. “Zurk has spoken,” said Jalu. “He said that you had told the truth. He said more. It was O-aa who loosed the arrow that wounded him. Zurk said that she was right to do it. He had followed her to kill her. Now he is sorry. I will send warriors with you to search for her. If you find her, or if you do not, the warriors will either bring you back here or accompany you to the foot of the Terrible Mountains, which is where O-aa wished to go. I do this because of what you did for Zurk when you might have killed him. Zurk has asked me to do this. When do you wish to start?”

“Now,” said Hodon.

With twenty warriors and their jaloks, he set out in search of O-aa.

O-aa slept for a long time or for but a second. Who may know in the timeless world of Pellucidar? But it must have been for some considerable outer crust time; because things happened while she slept that could not have happened in a second.

She was awakened by Rahna’s growls. She awoke quickly and completely, in full possession of all her faculties. When one is thus awakened in a Stone Age world, one does not lie with closed eyes and stretch luxuriously and then cuddle down for an extra cat nap. One snaps out of sleep and lays hold of one’s weapons.

Thus, did O-aa; and looked quickly around. Rahna was standing with his back toward her, all the hairs along his spine standing on end. Beyond him, creeping toward them, was a tarag, the huge tiger of the Inner World. A jalok is no match for a tarag; but Rahna stood his ground, ready to die in protection of his mistress.

O-aa took in the scene instantly and all its implications. There was but one course to pursue were she to save both Rahna and herself. She pursued it. She swarmed up the tree beneath which she had been sleeping, taking her bow and arrows with her.

“Rahna!” she called, and the jalok looked up and saw her. Then the tarag charged. Freed from the necessity of sacrificing his life to save the girl’s, Rahna bounded out of harm’s way. The tarag pursued him, but Rahna was too quick for him.

Thus thwarted, the savage beast screamed in rage; then he leaped upward and tried to scramble into the tree after O-aa; but the limb he seized was too small to support his great weight, and he fell to the ground upon his back. Rahna rushed in and bit him, and then leaped away. Once more the great cat sprang after the jalok, but Rahna could run much faster. O-aa laughed and described the tarag and its ancestors with such scurrilous vituperation as she could command and in a loud tone of voice.

The tarag is probably not noted for its patience; but this tarag was very hungry, and when one is hungry one will exercise a little patience to obtain food. The tarag came and lay down under the tree. It glared up at O-aa. It should have been watching Rahna. The jalok crept stealthily behind it; then rushed in and bit it savagely in the rear, bounding away again instantly. Again the futile pursuit.

And again it came and lay down beneath the tree, but this time it kept its eyes on Rahna. O-aa fitted an arrow to her bow and drove it into the tarag’s back. With a scream of pain and rage, the cat leaped into the air. But it would take more than one puny arrow to do more than infuriate it.

Another arrow. This time the tarag saw from whence it came, and very slowly and methodically it began to climb the bole of the tree. O-aa retreated into the higher branches. Rahna ran in and tore at the tarag’s rump, but the beast continued its upward climb.

O-aa no longer felt like laughing. She guessed what the end would be. The mighty cat would climb after her until their combined weight snapped the tapering stem and carried them both to the ground.

It was upon this scene that Hodon and Utan and the other warriors broke. Utan recognized Rahna and knew that O-aa must be in the tree. Rahna turned on this new menace, and Utan shouted to O-aa to call him off. He did not want to have to kill the courageous animal.

With relief, O-aa heard the voices of men. Any man would have been welcome at that moment, and she shouted the single word, “Padang” to Rahna. Jalu had armed Hodon, and now twenty-one bow strings twanged and twenty-one arrows pierced the body of the tarag. But even these did not kill him. They did bring him down out of the tree and set him upon these enemies.

The men scattered, but they kept pouring arrows into the beast, and each time he charged one of them, jaloks leaped in and tore at him. But at last he died. An arrow reached his savage heart.

O-aa came down from the tree. She just stood and looked at Hodon in wide eyed silence. Then two tears ran down her cheeks, and in front of all the warriors Hodon the Fleet One took her in his arms.