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.
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.
"What do you want of my spear?" he asked.
"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.
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.
"Who are the Mezops?" I asked. "Where do they live?"
"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.
"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
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 of it.
"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
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
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.
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.
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 eight
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"What are the human beings doing here?" I asked.
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.
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.
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
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 her brain.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
"I thought the Mahars seldom, if ever, slept," I said to
"Why should they object to eating human flesh," I asked, "if
it is true that they look upon us as lower animals?"
"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.
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 their
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, are
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 to escape.
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.
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