Tanar of Pellucidar

Chapter XIII


Edgar Rice Burroughs

THE VOYAGE to Korsar was uneventful and during its entire extent Tanar saw nothing of either Stellara or Gura for, although he was not confined in the dark hold, he was not permitted above the first deck, and although he often looked up at the higher deck at the stern of the ship he never caught a glimpse of either of the girls, from which he concluded that Gura was confined in one of the cabins and that Stellara deliberately avoided him or any sight of him.

As they approached the coast of Korsar Tanar saw a level country curving upward into the mist of the distance. He thought that far away he discerned the outlines of hills, but of that he could not be certain. He saw cultivated fields and patches of forest land and a river running down to the sea—a broad, winding river upon the shore of which a city lay, inland a little from the ocean. There was no harbor at this point upon the coast, but the ship made directly for the mouth of the river, up which it sailed toward the city, which, as he approached it, he saw far surpassed in size and the pretentiousness of its buildings any habitation of man that he had ever seen upon the surface of Pellucidar, not even excepting the new capital of the confederated kingdoms of Pellucidar that the Emperor David was building.

Most of the buildings were white with red-tiled roofs, and there were some with lofty minarets and domes of various colors—blue and red and gold, the last shining in the sunlight like the jewels in the diadem of Dian the Empress.

Where the river widened the town had been built and here there rode at anchor a great fleet of ships of war and many lesser craft—fishing boats and river boats and barges. The street along the riverfront was lined with shops and alive with people.

As their ship approached cannon boomed from the deck of the anchored warships, and the salute was returned by their own craft, which finally came to anchor in midstream, opposite the city.

Small boats put out from the shore and were paddled rapidly toward the warship, which also ordered under charge of an officer and a couple of sailors. As he was taken to shore and marched along the street he excited considerable attention among the crowds through which they passed, for he was immediately recognized as a barbarian captive from some uncivilized quarter of Pellucidar.

During the debarkation Tanar had seen nothing of either Stellara or Gura and now he wondered if he was ever to see them again. His mind was filled with the same sad thoughts that had been his companions during the entire course of the long journey from Hime to Korsar and which had finally convinced him that he had never known the true Stellara until she had avowed herself upon the deck of the ship in the harbor of Carn. Yes, he was all right upon Amiocap, but in Korsar he was only a naked savage, and this fact was borne in upon him now by the convincing evidence of the haughty contempt with which the natives of Korsar stared at him or exchanged rude jokes at his expense.

It hurt the Sarian’s pride to think that he had been so deceived by the woman to whom he had given all his love. He would have staked his life upon his belief that here was the sweetest and purest and most loyal of characters, and to learn at last that she was shallow and insincere cut him to the quick and his suffering was lightened by but a single thought—his unquestioned belief in the sweet and enduring friendship of Gura.

It was with such thoughts that his mind was occupied as he was led into a building along the waterfront, which seemed to be in the nature of a guardhouse.

Here he was turned over to an officer in charge, and, after a few brief questions, two soldiers conducted him into another room, raised a heavy trap door in the floor and bade him descend a rude ladder that led downward into darkness below.

No sooner had his head descended below the floor joists than the door was slammed down above him. He heard the grating of a heavy bolt as the soldiers shut it and then the thud of their footsteps as they left the room above.

Descending slowly for about ten feet Tanar came at last to the surface of a stone floor. His eyes becoming accustomed to the change, he realized that the apartment into which he had descended was not in total darkness, but that daylight filtered into it from a small, barred window near the ceiling. Looking about him he saw that he was the only occupant of the room.

In the wall, opposite the window, he discerned a doorway and crossing to it he saw that it opened into a narrow corridor, running parallel with the length of the room. Looking up and down the corridor he discerned faint patches of light, as though the other open doorways lined one side of the hallway.

He was about to enter upon a tour of investigation when the noise of something scurrying along the floor of the corridor attracted his attention, and looking back to his left he saw a dark form creeping toward him. It stood about a foot in height and was, perhaps, three feet long, but in the shadows of the corridor it loomed too indistinctly for him to recognize its details. But presently he saw that it had two shining eyes that seemed to be directed upon him.

As it came boldly forward Tanar stepped back into the room he was about to quit, preferring to meet the thing in the lesser darkness of the apartment rather than in the gloomy corridor, if it was the creature’s intent to attack him.

On the thing came and turning into the doorway it stopped and surveyed the Sarian. In his native country Tanar had been familiar with a species of wood rat, which the Sarian considered large, but never in all his life had he dreamed that a rat could grow to the enormous proportions of the hideous thing that confronted him with its bold, gleaming, beady eyes.

Tanar had been disarmed when he had been taken aboard the Korsar ship, but even so he had no fear of a rodent, even if the thing should elect to attack him, which he doubted. But the ferocious appearance of the rat gave him pause as he thought what the result might be if a number of them should attack a man simultaneously.

Presently the rat, still standing facing him, squealed. For a time there was silence and then the thing squealed again and, as from a great distance, Tanar heard an answering squeal, and then another and another, and presently they grew louder and greater in volume, and he knew the rat of the Korsar dungeon was calling its fellows to the attack and the feast.

He looked about him for some weapon of defense, but there was nothing but the bare stone of the floor and the walls. He heard the rat pack coming, and still the scout that had discovered him stood in the doorway, waiting.

But why should he, the man, wait? If he must die, he would die fighting and if he could take the rats as they came, one by one, he might make them pay for their meal and pay dearly. And so, with the agility of a tiger, the man leaped for the rodent, and so sudden and unexpected was his spring that one hand fell upon the loathsome creature before it could escape. With loud squeals it sought to fasten its fangs in his flesh, but the Sarian was too quick and too powerful. His finger closed once upon the creature’s neck. He swung its body around a few times until the neck broke and then he hurled the corpse toward the advancing pack that he could already see in the distance through the dim light in the corridor, in the center of which Tanar now stood awaiting his inevitable doom, but he was prepared to fight until he was dragged down by the creatures.

As he waited he heard a noise behind him and he thought that another pack was taking him in the rear, but as he glanced over his shoulder he saw the figure of a man, standing in front of a doorway further down the corridor.

“Come!” shouted the stranger. “You will find safety here.” Nor did Tanar lose any time in racing down the corridor to where the man stood, the rats close at his heels.

“Quick, in here,” cried his savior, and seizing Tanar by the arm he dragged him through the doorway into a large room in which there were a dozen or more men.

At the doorway the rat pack stopped, glaring in, but not one of them crossed the threshold.

The room in which he found himself was lighted by two larger windows than that in the room which he had just quitted and in the better light he had an opportunity to examine the man who had rescued him. The fellow was a copper-colored giant with fine features.

As the man turned his face a little more toward the light of the windows, Tanar gave an exclamation of surprise and delight. “Ja!” he cried, and before Ja could reply to the salutation, another man sprang forward from the far end of the room.

“Tanar!” exclaimed the second man. “Tanar, the son of Ghak!” As the Sarian wheeled he found himself standing face to face with David Innes, Emperor of Pellucidar.

“Ja of Anoroc and the Emperor!” cried Tanar. “What has happened? What brought you here?”

“It is well that we were here,” said Ja, “and that I heard the rat pack squealing just when I did. These other fellows,” and he nodded toward the remaining prisoners, “haven’t brains enough to try to save the newcomers that are incarcerated here. David and I have been trying to pound it into their stupid heads that the more of us there are the safer we shall be from the attack of the rats, but all they think is that they are safe now, so they do not care what becomes of the other poor devils that are shoved down here; nor have they brains enough to look into the future and realize that when some of us are taken out or die there may not be enough left to repel the attacks of the hungry beasts. But tell us, Tanar, where you have been and how you came here at last.”

“It is a long story,” replied the Sarian, “and first I would hear the story of my Emperor.”

“There is little of interest in the adventures that befell us,” said David, “but there may be points of great value to us in what I have managed to learn from the Korsars concerning a number of problems that have been puzzling me.

“When we saw the Korsars’ fleet sail away with you and others of our people, prisoners aboard them, we were filled with dismay and as we stood upon the shore of the great sea above The Land of Awful Shadow, we were depressed by the hopelessness of ever effecting your rescue. It was then that I determined to risk the venture which is responsible for our being here in the dungeon of the capital of Korsar.

“From all those who volunteered to accompany me I selected Ja, and we took with us to be our pilot a Korsar prisoner named Fitt. Our boat was one of those abandoned by the Korsars in their flight and in it we pursued our course toward Korsar without incident until we were overwhelmed by the most terrific storm that I have ever witnessed.”

“Doubtless the same storm that wrecked the Korsars’ fleet that was bearing us away,” said Tanar.

“Unquestionably,” said David, “as you will know in a moment. The storm carried away all our rigging, snapping the mast short off at the deck, and left us helpless except for two pairs of oars.

“As you may know, these great sweeps are so heavy that, as a rule, two or three men handle a single oar, and as there were only three of us we could do little more than paddle slowly along with one man paddling on either side while the third relieved first one and then the other at intervals, and even this could be accomplished only after we had cut the great sweeps down to a size that one man might handle without undue fatigue.

“Fitt had laid a course which my compass showed me to be almost due north and this we followed with little or no deviation after the storm had subsided.

“We slept and ate many times before Fitt announced that we were not far from the island of Amiocap, which he says is half way between the point at which we had embarked and the land of Korsar. We still had ample water and provisions to last us the balance of our journey if we had been equipped with a sail, but the slow progress of paddling threatened to find us facing starvation, or death by thirst, long before we could hope to reach Korsar. With this fate staring us in the face we decided to land on Amiocap and refit our craft, but before we could do so we were overtaken by a Korsar ship and being unable either to escape or defend ourselves, we were taken prisoners:

“The vessel was one of those that had formed the armada of The Cid, and was, as far as they knew, the only one that had survived the storm. Shortly before they had found us they had picked up a boat-load of the survivors of The Cid’s ship, including The Cid himself, and from The Cid we learned that you and the other prisoners had doubtless been lost with his vessel, which he said was in a sinking condition at the time that he abandoned it. To my surprise I learned that The Cid had also abandoned his own daughter to her fate and I believe that this cowardly act weighed heavily upon his mind, for he was always taciturn and moody, avoiding the companionship of even his own officers.

“She did not die,” said Tanar. “We escaped together, the sole survivors, as far as we knew, of The Cid’s ship, though later we were captured by the members of another boat crew that had also made the island of Amiocap and with them we were brought to Korsar.”

“In my conversation with The Cid and also with the officers and men of the Korsar ship I sought to sound them on their knowledge of the extent of this sea, which is known as the Korsar Az. Among other things I learned that they possess compasses and are conversant with their use and they told me that to the west they had never sailed to the extreme limits of the Korsar Az, which they state reaches on, a vast body of water, for countless leagues beyond the knowledge of man. But to the east they have followed the shore-line from Korsar southward almost to the shore upon which they landed to attack the empire of Pellucidar.

“Now this suggests, in fact almost proves, that Korsar lies upon the same great continent as the empire of Pellucidar and if we can escape from prison, we may be able to make our way by-land back to our own country.”

“But there is that ‘if,’” said Ja. “We have eaten and slept many times since they threw us into this dark hole, yet we are no nearer escape now than we were at the moment that they put us here; nor do we even know what fate lies in store for us.”

“These other prisoners tell us,” resumed David, “that the fact that we were not immediately killed, which is the customary fate of prisoners of war among the Korsars, indicates that they are saving us for some purpose; but what that purpose is I cannot conceive.”

“I can,” said Tanar. “In fact I am quite sure that I know.”

“And what is it?” demanded Ja.

“They wish us to teach them how to make firearms and powder such as ours,” replied the Sarian. “But where do you suppose they ever got firearms and powder in the first place?”

“Or the great ships they sail,” added Ja; “ships that are even larger than those which we build? These things were unknown in Pellucidar before David and Perry came to us, yet the Korsars appear to have known of them and used them always.”

“I have an idea,” said David; “yet it is such a mad idea that I have almost hesitated to entertain it, much less to express it.”

“What is it?” asked Tanar.

“It was suggested to me in my conversations with the Korsars themselves,” replied the Emperor. “Without exception they have all assured me that their ancestors came from another world—a world above which the sun did not stand perpetually at zenith, but crossed the heavens regularly, leaving the world in darkness half the time. They say that a part of this world is very cold and that their ancestors, who were seafaring men, because caught with their ships in the frozen waters; that their compasses turned in all directions and became useless to them and that when finally they broke through the ice and sailed away into Pellucidar, which they found inhabited only by naked savages and wild beasts. And here they set up their city and built new ships, their numbers being augmented from time to time by other seafaring men from this world from which they say they originally came.

“They intermarried with the natives, which in this part of Pellucidar seemed to have been of a very low order.” David paused.

“Well,” asked Tanar, “what does it all mean?”

“It means,” said David, “that if their legend is true, or based upon fact, that their ancestors came from the same outer world from which Perry and I came, but by what avenue? that is the astounding enigma.” Many times during their incarceration the three men discussed this subject, but never were they able to arrive at any definite solution of the mystery. Food was brought them many times and several times they slept before Korsar soldiers came and took them from the dungeon.

They were led to the palace of The Cid, the architecture of which but tended to increase the mystery of the origin of this strange race in the mind of David Innes, for the building seemed to show indisputable proof of Moorish influence.

Within the palace they were conducted to a large room, comfortably filled with bewhiskered Korsars decked out in their gaudiest raiment, which far surpassed in brilliancy of coloring and ornamentation the comparatively mean clothes they had worn aboard ship. Upon a dais, at one end of the room, a man was seated upon a large, ornately carved chair. It was The Cid, and as David’s eyes fell upon him his mind suddenly grasped, for the first time, a significant suggestion in the title of the ruler of the Korsars.

Previously the name had been only a name to David. He had not considered it as a title; nor had it by association awakened any particular train of thought, but now, coupled with the Moorish palace and the carved throne, it did.

The Cid! Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar—El Campeandor—a national hero of eleventh century Spain. What did it mean? His thoughts reverted to the ships of the Korsars—their motley crews with harquebuses and cutlasses—and he recalled the thrilling stories he had read as a boy of the pirates of the Spanish Main. Could it be merely coincidence? Could a nation of people have grown up within the inner world, who so closely resembled the buccaneers of the seventeenth century, or had their forebears in truth found their way hither from the outer crust? David Innes did not know. He was frankly puzzled. But now he was being led to the foot of The Cid’s throne and there was no further opportunity for the delightful speculation that had absorbed his mind momentarily.

The cruel, cunning eyes of The Cid looked down upon the three prisoners from out his brutal face. “The Emperor of Pellucidar!” he sneered. “The King of Anoroc! The son of the King of Sari!” and then he laughed uproariously. He extended his hand, his fingers parted and curled in a clutching gesture. “Emperor! King! Prince!” he sneered again, “and yet here you all are in the clutches of The Cid. Emperor—bah! I, The Cid, am the Emperor of all Pellucidar! You and your naked savages!” He turned on David. “Who are you to take the title of Emperor? I could crush you all,” and he closed his fingers in a gesture of rough cruelty. “But I shall not. The Cid is generous and he is grateful, too. You shall have your freedom for a small price that you may easily pay.” He paused as though he expected them to question him, but no one of the three spoke. Suddenly he turned upon David. “Where did you get your firearms and your powder? Who made them for you?”

“We made them ourselves,” replied David.

“Who taught you to make them?” insisted The Cid. “But never mind; it is enough that you know and we would know. You may win your liberty by teaching us.”

David could make gunpowder, but whether he could make any better gunpowder than the Korsars he did not know. He had left that to Perry and his apprentices in The Empire; and he knew perfectly well that he could not reconstruct a modern rifle such as was being turned out in the arsenals at Sari, for he had neither the drawings to make the machinery, nor the shops in which to make steel. But nevertheless here was one opportunity for possible freedom that might pave the way to escape and he could not throw it away, either for himself or his companions, by admitting their inability to manufacture modern firearms or improve the powder of the Korsars.

“Well,” demanded The Cid, impatiently, “what is your answer?”

“We cannot make powder and rifles while a man eats,” replied David; “nor can we make them from the air or from conversation. We must have materials; we must have factories; we must have trained men. You will sleep many times before we are able to accomplish all this. Are you willing to wait?”

“How many times shall we sleep before you have taught our people to make these things?” demanded The Cid.

David shrugged. “I do not know,” he said. “In the first place I must find the proper materials.”

“We have all the materials,” said The Cid. “We have iron and we have the ingredients for making powder. All that you have to do is to put them together in a better way than we have been able to.”

“You may have the materials, but it is possible that they are not of sufficiently good quality to make the things that will alone satisfy the subjects of the Emperor of Pellucidar. Perhaps your niter is low grade; there may be impurities in your sulphur; or even the charcoal may not be properly prepared; and there are even more important matters to consider in the selection of material and its manufacture into steel suitable for making the firearms of the Pellucidarians.”

“You shall not be hurried,” said The Cid. He turned to a man standing near him. “See that an officer accompanies these men always,” he said. “Let them go where they please and do what they please in the prosecution of my orders. Furnish them with laborers if they desire them, but do not let them delay and do not let them escape, upon pain of death.” And thus ended their interview with The Cid of Korsar.

As it chanced, the man to be detailed to watch them was Fitt, the fellow whom David had chosen to accompany him and Ja in their pursuit of the Korsar fleet, and Fitt, having become well acquainted with David and Ja and having experienced nothing but considerate treatment from them, was far from unfriendly, though, like the majority of all other Korsars, he was inclined to be savage and cruel.

As they were passing out of the palace they caught a glimpse of a girl in a chamber that opened onto the corridor in which they were. Fitt, big with the importance of his new position and feeling somewhat like a showman revealing and explaining his wonders to the ignorant and uninitiated, had been describing the various objects of interest that they had passed as well as the personages of importance, and now he nodded in the direction of the room in which they had seen the girl, although they had gone along the corridor so far by this time that they could no longer see her. “That,” he said, “is The Cid’s daughter.” Tanar stopped in his tracks and turned to Fitt.

“May I speak to her?” he asked.

“You!” cried Fitt. “You speak to the daughter of The Cid!”

“I know her,” said Tanar. “We two were left alone on the abandoned ship when it was deserted by its officers and crew. Go and ask her if she will speak to me.”

Fitt hesitated. “The Cid might not approve,” he said.

“He gave you no orders other than to accompany us,” said David. “How are we to carry on our work if we are to be prevented from speaking to anyone whom we choose? At least you will be safe in leading us to The Cid’s daughter. If she wishes to speak to Tanar the responsibility will not be yours.”

“Perhaps you are right,” said Fitt. “I will ask her.” He stepped to the doorway of the apartment in which were Stellara and Gura, and now, for the first time, he saw that a man was with them. It was Bulf. The three looked up as he entered.

“There is one here who wishes to speak to The Cid’s daughter,” he said, addressing Stellara.

“Who is he?” demanded Bulf.

“He is Tanar, a prisoner of war from Sari.”

“Tell him,” said Stellara, “that The Cid’s daughter does not recall him and cannot grant him an interview.” As Fitt turned and quit the chamber, Gura’s ordinarily sad eyes flashed a look of angry surprise at Stellara.

Tanar of Pellucidar - Contents    |     Chapter XIV - Two Suns

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