Land of Terror

Chapter Eleven

Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE CAVE which lay beyond the gate was of limestone formation in a hillside just outside the village. Enough light came through the outer opening to dimly illuminate the interior immediately about us. We could not immediately determine the extent of the cave; but while the walls at one side were discernible, at our left they were lost in darkness out of which trickled a little stream of clear, cold water that made its way across the floor to disappear through the outer opening.

My greatest concern was that the cave might be the lair of some wild animal; but we heard nothing and there was no odor to substantiate my fears; and when we walked to the opening we realized there would be little danger on that score, for there was a sheer drop of about twenty feet to the floor of a wooded ravine. We were even safe from the more dangerous winged reptiles of Pellucidar because of the heavy growth of forest in the ravine, through which only the smaller winged creatures could fly. A tree, which grew close to the cliff at one side of the opening, would furnish us a means of descent whenever we chose to leave the cave, which would have been immediately had it not been for Zor and Kleeto.

I didn’t like the idea of remaining in the cave, however, as I knew it was an avenue sometimes used by members of the royal family and therefore we might be discovered at almost any moment. Neither did I relish the idea of making a camp outside of the cave because of our proximity to the village.

Not wishing to leave Dian alone in the cave, I took her with me and descended the tree to the ground, from which vantage point we discovered that there were many caves in the cliff. I investigated several of them and finally found one, the mouth of which could easily be barricaded. It was small and dry, and after carrying in leaves and grasses, with which we covered the floor, we had as snug and comfortable a home as any Pellucidarian might wish for. From the trees I gathered nuts and fruits while Dian dug tubers from the ground, and thus supplied with provisions we returned to our cave to rest and plan.

This was the first time that we had had a moment of leisure in comparative safety since I had found Dian again, and so I took advantage of it to have Dian tell me of the circumstances that had led up to her imprisonment in the village of Meeza.

She said that when my warriors returned to Sari, they reported that I had been killed in the battle with the warrior-women. Do-gad, nephew of the king of Suvi, had been a visitor in Sari at the time; and when he had found that I was dead he had constantly annoyed her with importunities to become his mate. Depressed by grief and disgusted with the man, she had been very short with him, commanding him to leave Sari; and when he had continued to remain there, scheming to obtain her, she had Ghak, the king of Sari, send him away. It was only because he was the nephew of the king of Suvi that he had escaped with his life.

Notwithstanding the reports that had been brought to her, Dian would not believe that I was dead, and organized an expedition to go in search of me.

The route which the expedition had to take lay through the country of the Suvians and there, much to Dian’s surprise, they were received in a hostile manner by the King of Suvi, whose mind had been poisoned against the Sarians by Do-gad, his nephew.

Her camp was surrounded and attacked by a force of warriors greatly outnumbering her own. Naturally her force was defeated and Dian was taken prisoner. Dian was taken before the king.

“I am sorry,” he said, “that you are a woman. Were you a man, I would know how to treat you, for the affront you have put upon me deserves death.”

“What affront?” asked Dian.

“Without reason, you ordered Do-gad, my nephew, expelled from Sari.”

“Is that what he said?” she asked.

“Yes,” replied the king, “and he also told me that he barely escaped with his life.”

“Did he tell you why he was expelled from Sari?” demanded Dian.

“Because he was a Suvian,” replied the king.

“That is not true,” said Dian. “He heard that my mate was dead, and he importuned me to become his mate. I refused; but he continued to annoy me. It was then that I told him to leave Sari. Had he left at once, all would have been well; but he persisted in remaining and annoying me; then I had to ask Ghak to send him away. Ghak was furious, and so Do-gad was indeed fortunate to have escaped with his life.”

“If you have spoken the truth,” said the king, “it is Do-gad who will be punished not you.”

“I have spoken the truth,” said Dian, “and that you should know because Do-gad’s statement that he was driven from Sari because he was a Suvian is silly. The Suvians and Sarians have been on friendly terms since the establishment of the Empire of Pellucidar. Many Suvians, as you know, have come to Sari and been treated royally. We are not so stupid as to wantonly incur the enmity of an ally who has always been one of the strongest supporters of the empire.”

The king nodded. “You speak with reason, and I am sure now that you have spoken the truth. I am sorry that my warriors attacked your camp and that you have been subjected to the indignity of arrest. You are free to go, or you may remain, as you wish; but tell me, why did you come to Suvi?”

“I have never believed the rumors that David, Emperor of Pellucidar, is dead,” replied Dian. “With my warriors, I was going to search for him.”

“I will furnish warriors to take the places of those who were killed,” said the king, “and you may continue on your way.”

“It is too late,” replied Dian, “for the only two men who could guide us to the place where David was last seen were killed. I shall have to return to Sari to obtain other guides.”

“You shall have an escort then back to Sari,” said the king.

Do-gad, when he heard of what had happened and that he was to be punished, escaped from the village with about a score of his followers. They followed the trail toward Sari for one march, and then lay in wait for Dian and her escort.

Without thought of danger, Dian’s escort walked into the ambush; and when Dian saw what had happened and that Do-gad’s party out-numbered hers and was almost certain to be victorious, she escaped during the fight.

As Do-gad and his men were between her and Sari, she sought to make a detour so as to avoid and elude them.

Pellucidar is a savage world in which a lone woman is most helpless. First one danger and then another drove her farther and farther away from Sari. Every time she sought to turn back, something barred her way; and then finally she became aware that Do-gad was on her trail, and her one thought then was to escape from him. How long and how far she wandered, she had no idea. That she escaped so many dangers was a miracle; but at last she fell into the hands of the Jukans, and had long since given up hope of escape when Fate drew me to her. But now that we were together again all that we had passed through seemed as nothing by comparison with the deep joy that we experienced in the renewal of the companionship that we had thought lost forever.

Dian told me the news of our friends in Sari and, best of all, that the Federated Kingdoms of Pellucidar. were continuing loyal to the Empire. Once before, when I had been long absent, the Federation had started to disintegrate; but now it appeared that danger of this was past. All that concerned us now was to plan for escape with Zor and Kleeto.

Once more I set to work making weapons, this time two bows and a supply of arrows for both Dian and myself, as well as two short spears. These were weapons in the use of which Dian was proficient, and I had no doubt but that the two of us could win through to Sari once we had left the Valley of the Jukans behind. It was tragic that we must jeopardize this chance because of Zor and Kleeto, but there was nothing else that we could in honor do; and so, while I worked upon my weapons, I sought also for a reasonable plan whereby I might hope to bring Zor and Kleeto out of the village.

Land of Terror - Contents    |     Chapter Twelve

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