The aborigine, apparently uninjured, climbed quickly into
the skiff, and seizing the spear with me helped to hold
off the infuriated creature. Blood from the wounded
reptile was now crimsoning the waters about us and soon
from the weakening struggles it became evident that I
had inflicted a death wound upon it. Presently its
efforts to reach us ceased entirely, and with a few
convulsive movements it turned upon its back quite dead.
And then there came to me a sudden realization of the
predicament in which I had placed myself. I was entirely
within the power of the savage man whose skiff I had stolen.
Still clinging to the spear I looked into his face to find
him scrutinizing me intently, and there we stood for some
several minutes, each clinging tenaciously to the weapon
the while we gazed in stupid wonderment at each other.
What was in his mind I do not know, but in my own was
merely the question as to how soon the fellow would
Presently he spoke to me, but in a tongue which I was
unable to translate. I shook my head in an effort to
indicate my ignorance of his language, at the same time
addressing him in the bastard tongue that the Sagoths
use to converse with the human slaves of the Mahars.
To my delight he understood and answered me in the same jargon.
"What do you want of my spear?" he asked.
"Only to keep you from running it through me," I replied.
"I would not do that," he said, "for you have just saved
my life," and with that he released his hold upon it
and squatted down in the bottom of the skiff.
"Who are you," he continued, "and from what country
do you come?"
I too sat down, laying the spear between us, and tried
to explain how I came to Pellucidar, and wherefrom, but it
was as impossible for him to grasp or believe the strange
tale I told him as I fear it is for you upon the outer
crust to believe in the existence of the inner world.
To him it seemed quite ridiculous to imagine that there
was another world far beneath his feet peopled by
beings similar to himself, and he laughed uproariously
the more he thought upon it. But it was ever thus.
That which has never come within the scope of our really
pitifully meager world-experience cannot be--our finite
minds cannot grasp that which may not exist in accordance
with the conditions which obtain about us upon the outside
of the insignificant grain of dust which wends its tiny
way among the bowlders of the universe--the speck of moist
dirt we so proudly call the World.
So I gave it up and asked him about himself. He said he
was a Mezop, and that his name was Ja.
"Who are the Mezops?" I asked. "Where do they live?"
He looked at me in surprise.
"I might indeed believe that you were from another world,"
he said, "for who of Pellucidar could be so ignorant! The
Mezops live upon the islands of the seas. In so far as I
ever have heard no Mezop lives elsewhere, and no others
than Mezops dwell upon islands, but of course it may be
different in other far-distant lands. I do not know.
At any rate in this sea and those near by it is true that
only people of my race inhabit the islands.
"We are fishermen, though we be great hunters as well,
often going to the mainland in search of the game
that is scarce upon all but the larger islands. And we
are warriors also," he added proudly. "Even the Sagoths
of the Mahars fear us. Once, when Pellucidar was young,
the Sagoths were wont to capture us for slaves as they
do the other men of Pellucidar, it is handed down from
father to son among us that this is so; but we fought
so desperately and slew so many Sagoths, and those of us
that were captured killed so many Mahars in their own
cities that at last they learned that it were better
to leave us alone, and later came the time that the
Mahars became too indolent even to catch their own fish,
except for amusement, and then they needed us to supply
their wants, and so a truce was made between the races.
Now they give us certain things which we are unable
to produce in return for the fish that we catch,
and the Mezops and the Mahars live in peace.
"The great ones even come to our islands. It is there,
far from the prying eyes of their own Sagoths, that they
practice their religious rites in the temples they have
builded there with our assistance. If you live among
us you will doubtless see the manner of their worship,
which is strange indeed, and most unpleasant for the poor
slaves they bring to take part in it."
As Ja talked I had an excellent opportunity to inspect him
more closely. He was a huge fellow, standing I should say
six feet six or seven inches, well developed and of a coppery
red not unlike that of our own North American Indian,
nor were his features dissimilar to theirs. He had
the aquiline nose found among many of the higher tribes,
the prominent cheek bones, and black hair and eyes,
but his mouth and lips were better molded. All in all,
Ja was an impressive and handsome creature, and he talked
well too, even in the miserable makeshift language we
were compelled to use.
During our conversation Ja had taken the paddle and was
propelling the skiff with vigorous strokes toward a large
island that lay some half-mile from the mainland.
The skill with which he handled his crude and awkward
craft elicited my deepest admiration, since it had been
so short a time before that I had made such pitiful work
As we touched the pretty, level beach Ja leaped out
and I followed him. Together we dragged the skiff
far up into the bushes that grew beyond the sand.
"We must hide our canoes," explained Ja, "for the Mezops
of Luana are always at war with us and would steal them
if they found them," he nodded toward an island farther
out at sea, and at so great a distance that it seemed
but a blur hanging in the distant sky. The upward curve
of the surface of Pellucidar was constantly revealing the
impossible to the surprised eyes of the outer-earthly. To
see land and water curving upward in the distance until it
seemed to stand on edge where it melted into the distant sky,
and to feel that seas and mountains hung suspended directly
above one's head required such a complete reversal
of the perceptive and reasoning faculties as almost to
No sooner had we hidden the canoe than Ja plunged
into the jungle, presently emerging into a narrow but
well-defined trail which wound hither and thither much
after the manner of the highways of all primitive folk,
but there was one peculiarity about this Mezop trail
which I was later to find distinguished them from all
other trails that I ever have seen within or without the earth.
It would run on, plain and clear and well defined to end
suddenly in the midst of a tangle of matted jungle, then Ja
would turn directly back in his tracks for a little distance,
spring into a tree, climb through it to the other side,
drop onto a fallen log, leap over a low bush and alight
once more upon a distinct trail which he would follow back
for a short distance only to turn directly about and retrace
his steps until after a mile or less this new pathway
ended as suddenly and mysteriously as the former section.
Then he would pass again across some media which would
reveal no spoor, to take up the broken thread of the
As the purpose of this remarkable avenue dawned upon me I
could not but admire the native shrewdness of the ancient
progenitor of the Mezops who hit upon this novel plan to
throw his enemies from his track and delay or thwart them
in their attempts to follow him to his deep-buried cities.
To you of the outer earth it might seem a slow
and tortuous method of traveling through the jungle,
but were you of Pellucidar you would realize that time
is no factor where time does not exist. So labyrinthine
are the windings of these trails, so varied the connecting
links and the distances which one must retrace one's
steps from the paths' ends to find them that a Mezop
often reaches man's estate before he is familiar
even with those which lead from his own city to the sea.
In fact three-fourths of the education of the young
male Mezop consists in familiarizing himself with these
jungle avenues, and the status of an adult is largely
determined by the number of trails which he can follow
upon his own island. The females never learn them,
since from birth to death they never leave the clearing
in which the village of their nativity is situated except
they be taken to mate by a male from another village,
or captured in war by the enemies of their tribe.
After proceeding through the jungle for what must have been
upward of five miles we emerged suddenly into a large
clearing in the exact center of which stood as strange
an appearing village as one might well imagine.
Large trees had been chopped down fifteen or twenty feet
above the ground, and upon the tops of them spherical
habitations of woven twigs, mud covered, had been built.
Each ball-like house was surmounted by some manner
of carven image, which Ja told me indicated the identity
of the owner.
Horizontal slits, six inches high and two or three
feet wide, served to admit light and ventilation.
The entrances to the house were through small apertures
in the bases of the trees and thence upward by rude
ladders through the hollow trunks to the rooms above.
The houses varied in size from two to several rooms.
The largest that I entered was divided into two floors and
All about the village, between it and the jungle,
lay beautifully cultivated fields in which the Mezops raised
such cereals, fruits, and vegetables as they required.
Women and children were working in these gardens as we crossed
toward the village. At sight of Ja they saluted deferentially,
but to me they paid not the slightest attention.
Among them and about the outer verge of the cultivated area
were many warriors. These too saluted Ja, by touching
the points of their spears to the ground directly before them.
Ja conducted me to a large house in the center of the
village--the house with eight rooms--and taking me up
into it gave me food and drink. There I met his mate,
a comely girl with a nursing baby in her arms. Ja told
her of how I had saved his life, and she was thereafter
most kind and hospitable toward me, even permitting me
to hold and amuse the tiny bundle of humanity whom Ja
told me would one day rule the tribe, for Ja, it seemed,
was the chief of the community.
We had eaten and rested, and I had slept, much to Ja's
amusement, for it seemed that he seldom if ever did so,
and then the red man proposed that I accompany him to the
temple of the Mahars which lay not far from his village.
"We are not supposed to visit it," he said; "but the great
ones cannot hear and if we keep well out of sight they need
never know that we have been there. For my part I hate them
and always have, but the other chieftains of the island
think it best that we continue to maintain the amicable
relations which exist between the two races; otherwise I
should like nothing better than to lead my warriors amongst
the hideous creatures and exterminate them--Pellucidar
would be a better place to live were there none of them."
I wholly concurred in Ja's belief, but it seemed that it
might be a difficult matter to exterminate the dominant race
of Pellucidar. Thus conversing we followed the intricate trail
toward the temple, which we came upon in a small clearing
surrounded by enormous trees similar to those which must
have flourished upon the outer crust during the carboniferous age.
Here was a mighty temple of hewn rock built in the shape
of a rough oval with rounded roof in which were several
large openings. No doors or windows were visible in
the sides of the structure, nor was there need of any,
except one entrance for the slaves, since, as Ja explained,
the Mahars flew to and from their place of ceremonial,
entering and leaving the building by means of the apertures
in the roof.
"But," added Ja, "there is an entrance near the base
of which even the Mahars know nothing. Come," and he
led me across the clearing and about the end to a pile
of loose rock which lay against the foot of the wall.
Here he removed a couple of large bowlders, revealing a
small opening which led straight within the building,
or so it seemed, though as I entered after Ja I discovered
myself in a narrow place of extreme darkness.
"We are within the outer wall," said Ja. "It is hollow.
Follow me closely."
The red man groped ahead a few paces and then began
to ascend a primitive ladder similar to that which leads
from the ground to the upper stories of his house.
We ascended for some forty feet when the interior of
the space between the walls commenced to grow lighter
and presently we came opposite an opening in the inner
wall which gave us an unobstructed view of the entire
interior of the temple.
The lower floor was an enormous tank of clear water in
which numerous hideous Mahars swam lazily up and down.
Artificial islands of granite rock dotted this artificial sea,
and upon several of them I saw men and women like myself.
"What are the human beings doing here?" I asked.
"Wait and you shall see," replied Ja. "They are to take
a leading part in the ceremonies which will follow
the advent of the queen. You may be thankful that you
are not upon the same side of the wall as they."
Scarcely had he spoken than we heard a great fluttering
of wings above and a moment later a long procession
of the frightful reptiles of Pellucidar winged slowly
and majestically through the large central opening
in the roof and circled in stately manner about the temple.
There were several Mahars first, and then at least
twenty awe-inspiring pterodactyls--thipdars, they are
called within Pellucidar. Behind these came the queen,
flanked by other thipdars as she had been when she
entered the amphitheater at Phutra.
Three times they wheeled about the interior of the oval
chamber, to settle finally upon the damp, cold bowlders
that fringe the outer edge of the pool. In the center
of one side the largest rock was reserved for the queen,
and here she took her place surrounded by her terrible guard.
All lay quiet for several minutes after settling
to their places. One might have imagined them in
silent prayer. The poor slaves upon the diminutive
islands watched the horrid creatures with wide eyes.
The men, for the most part, stood erect and stately
with folded arms, awaiting their doom; but the women and
children clung to one another, hiding behind the males.
They are a noble-looking race, these cave men of Pellucidar,
and if our progenitors were as they, the human race
of the outer crust has deteriorated rather than improved
with the march of the ages. All they lack is opportunity.
We have opportunity, and little else.
Now the queen moved. She raised her ugly head,
looking about; then very slowly she crawled to the edge
of her throne and slid noiselessly into the water.
Up and down the long tank she swam, turning at the ends
as you have seen captive seals turn in their tiny tanks,
turning upon their backs and diving below the surface.
Nearer and nearer to the island she came until at last she
remained at rest before the largest, which was directly
opposite her throne. Raising her hideous head from the
water she fixed her great, round eyes upon the slaves.
They were fat and sleek, for they had been brought from
a distant Mahar city where human beings are kept in droves,
and bred and fattened, as we breed and fatten beef cattle.
The queen fixed her gaze upon a plump young maiden.
Her victim tried to turn away, hiding her face in her
hands and kneeling behind a woman; but the reptile,
with unblinking eyes, stared on with such fixity that I
could have sworn her vision penetrated the woman,
and the girl's arms to reach at last the very center of
Slowly the reptile's head commenced to move to and fro,
but the eyes never ceased to bore toward the frightened girl,
and then the victim responded. She turned wide,
fear-haunted eyes toward the Mahar queen, slowly she rose
to her feet, and then as though dragged by some unseen power
she moved as one in a trance straight toward the reptile,
her glassy eyes fixed upon those of her captor.
To the water's edge she came, nor did she even pause,
but stepped into the shallows beside the little island.
On she moved toward the Mahar, who now slowly retreated as though
leading her victim on. The water rose to the girl's knees,
and still she advanced, chained by that clammy eye.
Now the water was at her waist; now her armpits.
Her fellows upon the island looked on in horror,
helpless to avert her doom in which they saw a forecast
of their own.
The Mahar sank now till only the long upper bill and eyes
were exposed above the surface of the water, and the
girl had advanced until the end of that repulsive beak
was but an inch or two from her face, her horror-filled
eyes riveted upon those of the reptile.
Now the water passed above the girl's mouth and nose--her
eyes and forehead all that showed--yet still she walked
on after the retreating Mahar. The queen's head slowly
disappeared beneath the surface and after it went the
eyes of her victim--only a slow ripple widened toward
the shores to mark where the two vanished.
For a time all was silence within the temple. The slaves
were motionless in terror. The Mahars watched the surface
of the water for the reappearance of their queen,
and presently at one end of the tank her head rose
slowly into view. She was backing toward the surface,
her eyes fixed before her as they had been when she
dragged the helpless girl to her doom.
And then to my utter amazement I saw the forehead
and eyes of the maiden come slowly out of the depths,
following the gaze of the reptile just as when she had
disappeared beneath the surface. On and on came the girl
until she stood in water that reached barely to her knees,
and though she had been beneath the surface sufficient time
to have drowned her thrice over there was no indication,
other than her dripping hair and glistening body,
that she had been submerged at all.
Again and again the queen led the girl into the depths
and out again, until the uncanny weirdness of the thing
got on my nerves so that I could have leaped into the tank
to the child's rescue had I not taken a firm hold of myself.
Once they were below much longer than usual, and when they came
to the surface I was horrified to see that one of the girl's
arms was gone--gnawed completely off at the shoulder--but
the poor thing gave no indication of realizing pain,
only the horror in her set eyes seemed intensified.
The next time they appeared the other arm was gone,
and then the breasts, and then a part of the face--it
was awful. The poor creatures on the islands awaiting
their fate tried to cover their eyes with their hands
to hide the fearful sight, but now I saw that they too
were under the hypnotic spell of the reptiles, so that
they could only crouch in terror with their eyes fixed
upon the terrible thing that was transpiring before them.
Finally the queen was under much longer than ever before,
and when she rose she came alone and swam sleepily
toward her bowlder. The moment she mounted it seemed
to be the signal for the other Mahars to enter the tank,
and then commenced, upon a larger scale, a repetition
of the uncanny performance through which the queen had led
Only the women and children fell prey to the Mahars--they
being the weakest and most tender--and when they had satisfied
their appetite for human flesh, some of them devouring
two and three of the slaves, there were only a score
of full-grown men left, and I thought that for some reason
these were to be spared, but such was far from the case,
for as the last Mahar crawled to her rock the queen's thipdars
darted into the air, circled the temple once and then,
hissing like steam engines, swooped down upon the remaining slaves.
There was no hypnotism here--just the plain, brutal ferocity
of the beast of prey, tearing, rending, and gulping its meat,
but at that it was less horrible than the uncanny method of
the Mahars. By the time the thipdars had disposed of the last
of the slaves the Mahars were all asleep upon their rocks,
and a moment later the great pterodactyls swung back
to their posts beside the queen, and themselves dropped
"I thought the Mahars seldom, if ever, slept," I said
"They do many things in this temple which they do not do elsewhere,"
he replied. "The Mahars of Phutra are not supposed to eat
human flesh, yet slaves are brought here by thousands and
almost always you will find Mahars on hand to consume them.
I imagine that they do not bring their Sagoths here,
because they are ashamed of the practice, which is supposed
to obtain only among the least advanced of their race;
but I would wager my canoe against a broken paddle that
there is no Mahar but eats human flesh whenever she can get it."
"Why should they object to eating human flesh," I asked,
"if it is true that they look upon us as lower animals?"
"It is not because they consider us their equals that they are
supposed to look with abhorrence upon those who eat our flesh,"
replied Ja; "it is merely that we are warm-blooded animals.
They would not think of eating the meat of a thag, which we
consider such a delicacy, any more than I would think
of eating a snake. As a matter of fact it is difficult
to explain just why this sentiment should exist among them."
"I wonder if they left a single victim," I remarked,
leaning far out of the opening in the rocky wall to
inspect the temple better. Directly below me the water
lapped the very side of the wall, there being a break
in the bowlders at this point as there was at several
other places about the side of the temple.
My hands were resting upon a small piece of granite
which formed a part of the wall, and all my weight upon it
proved too much for it. It slipped and I lunged forward.
There was nothing to save myself and I plunged headforemost
into the water below.
Fortunately the tank was deep at this point, and I suffered
no injury from the fall, but as I was rising to the surface
my mind filled with the horrors of my position as I thought
of the terrible doom which awaited me the moment the eyes
of the reptiles fell upon the creature that had disturbed
As long as I could I remained beneath the surface,
swimming rapidly in the direction of the islands that I
might prolong my life to the utmost. At last I was
forced to rise for air, and as I cast a terrified glance
in the direction of the Mahars and the thipdars I was
almost stunned to see that not a single one remained upon
the rocks where I had last seen them, nor as I searched
the temple with my eyes could I discern any within it.
For a moment I was puzzled to account for the thing,
until I realized that the reptiles, being deaf, could not
have been disturbed by the noise my body made when it hit
the water, and that as there is no such thing as time
within Pellucidar there was no telling how long I had been
beneath the surface. It was a difficult thing to attempt
to figure out by earthly standards--this matter of elapsed
time--but when I set myself to it I began to realize
that I might have been submerged a second or a month
or not at all. You have no conception of the strange
contradictions and impossibilities which arise when all
methods of measuring time, as we know them upon earth,
I was about to congratulate myself upon the miracle which had
saved me for the moment, when the memory of the hypnotic
powers of the Mahars filled me with apprehension lest
they be practicing their uncanny art upon me to the end
that I merely imagined that I was alone in the temple.
At the thought cold sweat broke out upon me from every pore,
and as I crawled from the water onto one of the tiny
islands I was trembling like a leaf--you cannot imagine
the awful horror which even the simple thought of the
repulsive Mahars of Pellucidar induces in the human mind,
and to feel that you are in their power--that they
are crawling, slimy, and abhorrent, to drag you down
beneath the waters and devour you! It is frightful.
But they did not come, and at last I came to the conclusion
that I was indeed alone within the temple. How long I
should be alone was the next question to assail me as I
swam frantically about once more in search of a means
Several times I called to Ja, but he must have left
after I tumbled into the tank, for I received no response
to my cries. Doubtless he had felt as certain of my doom
when he saw me topple from our hiding place as I had,
and lest he too should be discovered, had hastened from
the temple and back to his village.
I knew that there must be some entrance to the building beside
the doorways in the roof, for it did not seem reasonable
to believe that the thousands of slaves which were brought
here to feed the Mahars the human flesh they craved would
all be carried through the air, and so I continued my search
until at last it was rewarded by the discovery of several
loose granite blocks in the masonry at one end of the temple.
A little effort proved sufficient to dislodge enough
of these stones to permit me to crawl through into
the clearing, and a moment later I had scurried across
the intervening space to the dense jungle beyond.
Here I sank panting and trembling upon the matted grasses
beneath the giant trees, for I felt that I had escaped
from the grinning fangs of death out of the depths of my
own grave. Whatever dangers lay hidden in this island jungle,
there could be none so fearsome as those which I had
just escaped. I knew that I could meet death bravely
enough if it but came in the form of some familiar beast
or man--anything other than the hideous and uncanny Mahars.