Land of Terror

Chapter Four

Edgar Rice Burroughs

OF COURSE the principal topic of conversation between Zor and me was for some time concerned with my set-to with Gluck, and prophesies on Zor’s part that I was already as good as dead—just an animated corpse, in fact. But after I had slept twice, and nothing had happened to me, we drifted on to other topics and Zor told me how he happened to be so far from Zoram and what had led to his capture by the warrior-women of Oog.

Zor, it seemed, had been very much in love with a girl of Zoram, who one day wandered too far from the village and was picked up by a party of raiders from another country.

Zor immediately set out upon the trail of the abductors, which carried him through many strange lands for what he estimated to have been a hundred sleeps.

Of course it was impossible to know how far he had traveled; but he must have covered an enormous distance—perhaps two or three thousand miles; but he never overtook the girl’s abductors; and finally he was captured by a tribe living in a palisaded village in the heart of a great forest.

“I was there for many sleeps,” he said, “my life constantly in danger, for they were constantly threatening to kill me to appease someone they called, ‘Ogar.’ Without any apparent reason at all, I quite suddenly became an honored guest instead of a prisoner. No explanation whatever was made to me. I was allowed to go and come as I pleased; and, naturally, at the first opportunity, I escaped. Inasmuch as there are several villages of these Jukans in the forest, I hesitated to go on in that direction for fear of being captured by some of the other villagers; and so I climbed out of the valley with the intention of making a wide detour; but after I came down out of the mountains into this valley, I was captured.”

“Where does the Valley of the Jukans lie?” I asked.

“There,” he said, pointing in the direction of the snowcapped mountains that bordered one side of the valley.

“That, I think, is the direction I shall have to go to reach Sari,” I said.

“You think?” he demanded. “Don’t you know?” I shook my head. “I haven’t that peculiar instinct that the Pellucidarians have, which inevitably guides them toward their homes.” “That is strange,” he said. “I can’t imagine anyone not being able to go directly toward his home, no matter where he may be.” “Well, I am not a Pellucidarian, you see,” I explained; “and so I have not that instinct.” “Not a Pellucidarian?” he demanded. “But there is nobody in the world who is not a Pellucidarian.” “There are other worlds than Pellucidar, Zor, even though you may never have heard of them; and I am from one of those other worlds. It lies directly beneath our feet, perhaps twenty sleeps distant.” He shook his head. “You are not, by any chance, a Jukan, are you?” he asked. “They, too, have many peculiar ideas.” I laughed. “No, I am not a Jukan,” I assured him. And then I tried to explain to him about that other world on the outer, crust; but, of course, it was quite beyond his powers of comprehension.

“I always thought you were from Sari,” he said.

“I am, now. It is my adopted country.”

“There was a girl from Sari among the Jukans,” he said.

“She was not a prisoner in the village where I was, but in another village a short distance away. I heard them talking about her. Some said they were going to kill her to appease Ogar. They were always doing something to appease this person, Ogar, of whom they were terribly afraid; and then I heard that they were going to make her a queen. They were always changing their minds like that. “

“What was the girl’s name?” I asked.

“I never heard it,” he said; “but I did hear that she was very beautiful. She is probably dead now, poor thing; but of course one can never tell about the Jukans. They may have made her a queen; they may have killed her; or they may have let her escape.”

“By the way,” I said, “what is the direction of Sari? You know, I was only guessing at it.”

“You were right. If you were ever to escape, which you never will, you would have to cross those mountains there; and that would take you into the Valley of the Jukans; so you’d still be about as bad off as you are now. If I should ever escape, I’d have to go the same way in order to get on the trail of the people who stole Rana.”

“Then we’ll go together,” I said.

Zor laughed. “When you get your mind set on anything, you never give up, do you?”

“I’ll certainly not give up the idea of escaping,” I told him.

“Well, it’s nice to think about; but that’s as far as we’ll ever get with all these bewhiskered she-jaloks watching us every minute.”

“An opportunity is bound to come,” I said.

“In the meantime, look what else is coming!” he exclaimed, pointing up the valley.

I looked in the direction he indicated and saw a strange sight. Even as far away as they were, I recognized them as enormous birds upon which human beings were mounted.

“Those are the Juloks,” said Zor; and at the same time he shouted to a sentry and pointed. Immediately the alarm was raised and our warrior-women came pouring out of the village. They carried knives and slingshots and the reeds which they fired to make their smoke-screen. About every tenth warrior carried a torch from which the others might light their reeds.

As Gluck came out of the village she tossed us each a knife and a slingshot, handed us smoke-reeds, and told us to join the women in the defense of the village.

We moved out in what might be described as a skirmish-line to meet the enemy, which was close enough now so that I could see them distinctly. The warriors were women, bushy-bearded and coarse like those of the Village of Oog; and their mounts were Dyals, huge birds closely resembling the Phororhacos, the Patagonian giant of the Miocene, remains of which have been found on the outer crust. They stand seven to eight feet in height, with heads larger than that of a horse and necks about the same thickness as those of horses. Three-toed feet terminate their long and powerful legs, which propel their heavy talons with sufficient force to fell an ox, while their large, powerful beaks render them a match for some of the most terrible of the carnivorous mammals and dinosaurs of the inner world. Having only rudimentary wings, they cannot fly; but their long legs permit them to cover the ground at amazing speed.

There were only about twenty of the Julok warrior-women. They came toward us slowly at first; and then, when about a hundred yards away, charged. Immediately our women lighted their torches and hurled them at the advancing enemy; and following this, they loosed their dart-like missiles upon the foe from their slingshots. Not all of the torches had been thrown at first, so that there were plenty in reserve as the enemy came closer to the blinding smoke. Now they were upon us; and I saw our women fighting like furies, with fearless and reckless abandon. They leaped into close quarters, trying to stab the Dyals or drag their riders from their backs.

The smoke was as bad for us, of course, as it was for the enemy; and I was soon helpless from choking and coughing. Zor was fighting beside me; but we were not much help to our cause, as neither of us was proficient in the use of the slingshot.

Presently, out of smothering smoke, came a riderless Dyal, the leather thong which formed its bridle dragging on the ground. Instantly, an inspiration seized me; and I grasped the bridle rein of the great bird.

“Quick!” I cried to Zor. “Perhaps this is the chance we have been waiting for. Mount the thing!”

He did not hesitate an instant, and, with my assistance, scrambled to the back of the great bird, which was confused and helpless by the smoke that it had inhaled. Then Zor gave me a hand up behind him.

We didn’t know anything about controlling the creature, but we pulled its head around in the direction we wanted to go and then kicked its sides with our sandaled feet. It started slowly at first, groping its way through the smoke; but finally, when we came out where it was clearer and it sensed an opportunity to escape from the acrid fumes, it lit out like a scared rabbit; and it was with difficulty that Zor and I maintained our seats.

We headed straight for the mountains, on the other side of which lay the country of the Jukans, with little fear that our escape would be noticed until after the battle was over and the smoke had cleared away.

That was ride! Nothing but another Dyal or an express train could have overtaken us. The creature was frightened and was really bolting. However, we were still able to guide it in the direction we wished to go. When we reached the foothills it was tired and was compelled to slow down, and after that we moved at a decorous pace up toward the higher mountains. And they were high! Snow-capped peaks loomed above us, an unusual sight in Pellucidar.

“This is an ideal way to cover ground,” I said to Zor. “I have never traveled so rapidly in Pellucidar before. We are certainly fortunate to have captured this Dyal, and I hope that we can find food for him.”

“If there’s any question about that,” replied Zor, “the Dyal will settle it himself.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“He’ll eat us.”

Well, he didn’t eat us; and we didn’t keep him very long; for, as soon as we reached the snow, he positively refused to go any farther; and as he became quite belligerent we had to turn him loose.

Land of Terror - Contents    |     Chapter Five

Back    |    Words Home    |    Edgar Rice Burroughs Home    |    Site Info.    |    Feedback