The Sagoths were gaining on us rapidly, for once they had
sighted us they had greatly increased their speed. On and on we
stumbled up the narrow canyon that Ghak had chosen to approach
the heights of Sari. On either side rose precipitous cliffs of
gorgeous, parti-colored rock, while beneath our feet a thick
mountain grass formed a soft and noiseless carpet. Since we had
entered the canyon we had had no glimpse of our pursuers, and I
was commencing to hope that they had lost our trail and that we
would reach the now rapidly nearing cliffs in time to scale them
before we should be overtaken.
Hooja still harbored ill will against me because of the blow I
had struck in Dian's protection, and his malevolent spirit was
equal to sacrificing us all that he might be revenged upon
A backward glance gave me a glimpse of the first of the
Sagoths at the far end of a considerable stretch of canyon
through which we had just passed, and then a sudden turning shut
the ugly creature from my view; but the loud howl of triumphant
rage which rose behind us was evidence that the gorilla-man had
Pausing there I waited until the foremost Sagoth hove into
sight. Ghak and Perry had disappeared around a bend in the
left-hand canyon, and as the Sagoth's savage yell announced that
he had seen me I turned and fled up the right-hand branch. My
ruse was successful, and the entire party of man-hunters raced
headlong after me up one canyon while Ghak bore Perry to safety
up the other.
The Sagoths were gaining on me rapidly. There was one in
particular, fleeter than his fellows, who was perilously close.
The canyon had become a rocky slit, rising roughly at a steep
angle toward what seemed a pass between two abutting peaks. What
lay beyond I could not even guess--possibly a sheer drop of
hundreds of feet into the corresponding valley upon the other
side. Could it be that I had plunged into a cul-de-sac?
In the world of my birth I never had drawn a shaft, but since
our escape from Phutra I had kept the party supplied with small
game by means of my arrows, and so, through necessity, had
developed a fair degree of accuracy. During our flight from
Phutra I had restrung my bow with a piece of heavy gut taken from
a huge tiger which Ghak and I had worried and finally dispatched
with arrows, spear, and sword. The hard wood of the bow was
extremely tough and this, with the strength and elasticity of my
new string, gave me unwonted confidence in my weapon.
My shaft was drawn back its full length--my eye had centered
its sharp point upon the left breast of my adversary; and then he
launched his hatchet and I released my arrow. At the instant that
our missiles flew I leaped to one side, but the Sagoth sprang
forward to follow up his attack with a spear thrust. I felt the
swish of the hatchet at it grazed my head, and at the same
instant my shaft pierced the Sagoth's savage heart, and with a
single groan he lunged almost at my feet--stone dead. Close
behind him were two more--fifty yards perhaps--but the distance
gave me time to snatch up the dead guardsman's shield, for the
close call his hatchet had just given me had borne in upon me the
urgent need I had for one. Those which I had purloined at Phutra
we had not been able to bring along because their size precluded
our concealing them within the skins of the Mahars which had
brought us safely from the city.
Once more I took up my flight, nor were the Sagoths apparently
overanxious to press their pursuit so closely as before.
Unmolested I reached the top of the canyon where I found a sheer
drop of two or three hundred feet to the bottom of a rocky chasm;
but on the left a narrow ledge rounded the shoulder of the
overhanging cliff. Along this I advanced, and at a sudden
turning, a few yards beyond the canyon's end, the path widened,
and at my left I saw the opening to a large cave. Before, the
ledge continued until it passed from sight about another
projecting buttress of the mountain.
As I stood there, tense and silent, listening for the first
faint sound that should announce the approach of my enemies, a
slight noise from within the cave's black depths attracted my
attention. It might have been produced by the moving of the great
body of some huge beast rising from the rock floor of its lair.
At almost the same instant I thought that I caught the scraping
of hide sandals upon the ledge beyond the turn. For the next few
seconds my attention was considerably divided.
Whatever it was, it was coming slowly toward the entrance of
the cave, and now, deep and forbidding, it uttered a low and
ominous growl. I waited no longer to dispute possession of the
ledge with the thing which owned that voice. The noise had not
been loud--I doubt if the Sagoths heard it at all--but the
suggestion of latent possibilities behind it was such that I knew
it would only emanate from a gigantic and ferocious beast.
The thing was an enormous cave bear, rearing its colossal bulk
fully eight feet at the shoulder, while from the tip of its nose
to the end of its stubby tail it was fully twelve feet in length.
As it sighted the Sagoths it emitted a most frightful roar, and
with open mouth charged full upon them. With a cry of terror the
foremost gorilla-man turned to escape, but behind him he ran full
upon his on-rushing companions.
Shrieking Sagoths were now leaping madly over the precipice to
escape him, and the last I saw he rounded the turn still pursuing
the demoralized remnant of the man hunters. For a long time I
could hear the horrid roaring of the brute intermingled with the
screams and shrieks of his victims, until finally the awful
sounds dwindled and disappeared in the distance.
Not caring to venture back into the canyon, where I might fall
prey either to the cave bear or the Sagoths I continued on along
the ledge, believing that by following around the mountain I
could reach the land of Sari from another direction. But I
evidently became confused by the twisting and turning of the
canyons and gullies, for I did not come to the land of Sari then,
nor for a long time thereafter.