They lived off a country rich in game, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts. But the terrain had almost beaten them. The backbone of the great peninsula they were attempting to cross is a mountain range as formidable as the Himalayas and practically insurmountable for men clothed only in G-strings. Its upper reaches ice-locked and snowbound presented an insurmountable barrier to these almost naked men of the Stone Age.
When they reached the mountains, they had moved in a northerly direction searching for a pass. Many sleeps had passed, but still the unbroken facade of the Terrible Mountains barred the way to Sari. Time and again they had followed deep canyons, hoping that here at last was a gap through which they could pass. And time and again they had had to retrace their steps. Now, as far as the eye could reach until vision was lost in the haze, the Terrible Mountains stretched on seemingly into infinity.
“There is no use going on in this direction,” said David Innes.
“Well, where in the world shall we go?” demanded Abner Perry.
“Back,” said David. “There are no mountains on the Lidi Plains nor in the Land of Awful Shadow. We can cross there to the east coast and follow it up to Sari.”
So they turned back toward the southwest, and started anew the long, long trek for home.
Later, many sleeps later, the three man point, which David always kept well ahead of his main body, sighted warriors approaching. One of the warriors of the point ran back to notify David, and presently the Sarians advanced in a long thin skirmish line. Their orders were not to fire until fired upon, and then to fire one volley over the heads of the enemy. David had found that this was usually enough. At the roar and the smoke, the enemy ordinarily fled.
To David’s astonishment, the strange warriors also formed a line of skirmishers. This was a tactful innovation, brought to Pellucidar by David. He had thought that; only warriors trained under the system of the Army of the Empire used it. The two lines moved slowly toward another.
“They look like Mezops,” said David to Ghak. “They are copper colored.”
“’How could there be Mezops here?” demanded Ghak
David shrugged. “I do not know.”
Suddenly the advancing line of copper colored warriors halted. All but one. He advanced, making the sign of peace. And presently David recognized him.
“First I saw the muskets,” said Ja, “and then I recognized you.”
Ja told of the loss of O-aa and the abandonment of the John Tyler and how it had sailed out to sea with only Ah-gilak.
“So they are both lost,” said David sadly.
“Ah-gilak is no loss,” said Ja; “but the girl—yes.”
And so Ja and Kay and Ko and the other Mezops joined the Sarians, and the march was resumed toward the Lidi Plains and the Land of the Awful Shadow.
A warrior came TO the foot of the ladder leading to the house where Hodon was confined. He spoke to the guards, and one of them called to Hodon. “Sarian, come down. Jalu has sent for you.”
Jalu sat on a stool in front of the house where Zurk lay. He was scowling, and Hodon thought that Zurk had died. “Zurk has spoken,” said Jalu. “He said that you had told the truth. He said more. It was O-aa who loosed the arrow that wounded him. Zurk said that she was right to do it. He had followed her to kill her. Now he is sorry. I will send warriors with you to search for her. If you find her, or if you do not, the warriors will either bring you back here or accompany you to the foot of the Terrible Mountains, which is where O-aa wished to go. I do this because of what you did for Zurk when you might have killed him. Zurk has asked me to do this. When do you wish to start?”
“Now,” said Hodon.
With twenty warriors and their jaloks, he set out in search of O-aa.