Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Revival of Andra

Here is a story which got published in either the Mucker or Panthans of this year's Dum-Dum (which I was unfortunately unable to attend) Enjoy!

The great tandor lumbered over a park-like savanna swarming with life from all eras of earth’s prehistory. On his broad back, behind the great domed skull, there sat a man with flaming red-hair and a beautiful young woman, curvaceous and nearly naked, her arms entwined about him. The man was Clive Neville of the surface world, and his sweetheart was Jahlanna, princess of Nu-al. Behind them sat an elderly man, a scientist named Alistair Simmons. Behind him, there sat a young teenaged couple, their arms also locked about one another. Their names were Jarn and Jarla. To the right side of the mammoth, there strode a man who was not quite a man, and bore a coat of sleek, shiny fur of a reddish tint. He was also equipped with a long prehensile tail, and carried a large spear ending in an iron blade. His stride was longer and quicker than that of a human, and he was able to keep pace with the beast on the ground. His name was Jal-mar, a member of a race of marsupial tailed-men. The party was bound for the land of Nu-al, where Clive and his primeval sweetheart were to be wed.
At about half the length of their journey, they heard a volley of terrible roars erupt from the nearby jungle. Looking in that direction they saw what they feared the most. From the leafy shadows of the forest there starred the striped, devil-face of a sabertooth. Then another. And another. The great cats began pouring out of the jungle in droves. These were the gigantic tarags of Pellucidar, each one capable of taking down a full-grown sadok. Often, they gathered into mighty packs in order to bring down prey such as tandors. But never had the onlookers beheld a pack of this size and ferocity.
“Oh....Clive!” Jahlanna cried.
“Keep calm,” he told her, “And wait. Perhaps if we are still they will not attack.” He stroked the mammoth behind his ears in an attempt to calm him. But the great bull had already sensed the threat. He had stopped and was now readying himself for the attack.
The attack came, swiftly and surely. The leader of the great cats gave an incredible roar, ending in a tortured scream. The pack’s subordinate males fell in behind him. All of the gigantic, striped bodies surged forward, flanks of them fanning out to surround the great tusked brute. Clive readied his pistol, the one weapon he still carried from the surface world, now loaded with new bullets made in the advanced land of Sari. They braced themselves for the ensuing assault. The tigers charged. The dominant male reached them first, with a gigantic leap directly toward Clive and Jahlanna. The tarag, as Clive had noted several times since his arrival in the inner-earth, seemed possessed of an almost fiendish intelligence. The cats doubtless knew that riders had mastery over the great beasts they rode, and that taking them out first was the best strategy. Jahlanna screamed as Clive aimed his pistol squarely at the creature’s snarling face. There followed a quick crack of thunder, followed by the sharp scent of shotgun powder in the humid dawn-world air. The bullet cleanly penetrated the giant tiger’s skull between the eyes and into the brain. Killed in mid-leap, the great pack-leader fell back to crash onto the grassy sward. The other tigers continued their assault. The beta tiger now assumed the role of alfa, and the assault continued in spite of the death of their leader. The tandor’s flanks were already raked raw and bloody by the gigantic talons, and the pack could now hardly restrain itself. And still more cats were pouring forth from the forest. They were leaping and raking in snarling fury. Jal-mar of the Baraboo had now leapt astride the great tandor, and was now ingaged in fighting them off with his comrades. He was agile enough, his kind having evolved among the trees to position squarely upon the great back while battling savagely. Jal-mar had managed to spear three of the great tigers, through the thick, snowy fur beneath their throats; he had managed to kill each one, and pull free the spear without it becoming stuck. Clive managed to kill another with a well-placed bullet and wound three others. But the assault continued unabated.
“We’ve got to get off this beast!” said Alastair, over the crescendo of deafening roars. “It’s the tandor they want! We can’t just die along with him!”
“There!” yelled Clive, “An opening through the pack!” On the grassy, blood-splattered sward, three of the mighty tigers, mortally wounded by Clive’s bullets, thrashed and spat. Their fellow pack members avoided them, concentrating on their gigantic target. Clive and his band saw their chance, and took it; leaping to the grassy sward and racing for the nearest trees. Once they had abandoned their mighty mount, the tarags ignored them, concentrating on the far greater amount of meat. When they had nearly reached the edge of the forest, Clive looked back. The great bull was seizing his striped assailants with his gigantic trunk and flinging them mightily. But the might of the ravening pack of striped killers prevailed, and the tandor went down, submerged beneath the snarls and roars, and the sea of striped bodies.
“Now what?” Clive asked, once they had reached a safe distance.
“We go this way, “ Jahlanna told him, “Nu-al lies in this direction.”
They began walking in that direction, the princess leading the way. The boles of gigantic trees grew all about them. Huge dragonflies, and diminutive flying reptiles flitted past them in the gloom.
At length they came upon a sight which stunned them. Coming out into a clearing, they saw, incredibly, the remains of what appeared to be a mighty city. The walls, towers, and battlements encrusted with age, overgrown with mosses and lichens, rose gigantically out of the jungle. Jal-mar starred at the decaying ruins uncomprehendingly, as did Jarn and Jarla.
“What—what is it, Clive?” Jahlanna breathed, clinging on his shoulder.
“It looks like a city!” Clive said, realizing his beloved had never seen one before. “But that’s impossible here...”
“Maybe not, my boy,” Allastair said, “That architecture looks Greek. It’s conceivable that a colony of ancient Spartans or Trojans or some similar culture made it down here in ages past, and then died out, or were killed by the beasts or natives.
Cautiously, they entered the ancient city, gazing about in wonder at the towering roofs and Greek-styled colonnades. It seemed that the former inhabitants, whomever they had been were now long gone, and the place belong now only to the wild beasts. Birds and small pterosaurs nested among the deserted eves, and once a family of lemur-like tremarctus chattered aggressively at them from the shadow of a long-collapsed roof.
Then, suddenly, a vast bellowing sounded behind them. All of the party turned in the direction. Lumbering toward them across the plaza was a gigantic reptile the size of a school-bus. It had a vast, humped back, huge back-legs and stunted front ones. Twin rows of huge, cartilaginous plates ran over the great arcing back. The tail was arrayed with a series of gigantic spikes. The small head and beaked maw opened to emit a low hissing sound.
“A dyrodor!” Jahlanna exclaimed. “We must run!”
“But isn’t it supposed to be herbivorous?” Clive asked, noting the thing resembled a stegosaurus.
“Some are,” the girl replied, “They live in herds on the plains. But this dyrodor lives in the jungle and eats meat as well as plants.”
“Then let’s go!”
The entire party ran, several tons of ravenous stegosaur lumbering after them. They ran swiftly, but the creature’s titanic bulk was not easy to out distance.
“This way!” called Jal-mar. “There is an opening, here. The beast will be unable to fit through” There was great, rectangular entrance in the side of what looked like an ancient temple. The made for it, rushing into the opening at the last second. The great dyrodor hissed savagely in frustration at losing his kill through the entrance.
“Well, “ said Clive, “I guess we’re safe here—for now.”
At that moment human shapes materialized out of the gloom. The group drew a collective gasp at the sight of them. The appeared to be soldiers clad in what appeared to be ancient Greek or Roman garb. Each bore a guttering torch in his hand. The bore the helmets, robes and swords of a far-removed time and place.
The man who appeared to be the leader of the soldiers stepped forward to examine the party. He appeared perplexed by Clive’s red-hair, at the sight of an oldster like Simmons, and the member of non-human race like Jal-mar amongst them, as well as two youngsters. But when his eyes fell upon Jahlanna, they shone with disbelief, followed by something akin to worship. The others fell in to also observe her more closely. Jahlanna stood back with a gasp. Clive stepped in front her to shield his beloved from any possible threat, but two of the soldiers seized him. Other soldiers seized his other companions. They had not yet seized the girl, as all their eyes were engaged in looking upon her, starring in rapt wonderment. The princess must have had a more alluring face then any of them had ever before seen. But as they studied her nearly-nude body, even more gasps of astonishment rose to the lips of the astonished onlookers. The girl’s hips, they saw, were sensually disproportionate to the rest of her, their curves and roundures emphasized to the utmost extent.
“Juno...!” one of them breathed.
The soldiers bound each of their prisoners’ hands behind their back, and began to usher them into a tunnel beyond the entrance. All save for Jahlanna. Her they merely escorted on each side. The girl was unwilling to abandon her companions, but regarded the soldiers with a haughty contempt for them for forcing her to accompany them.
The tunnel begun sloping downward. In the guttering light of their captors’ torches, they could see that the walls were covered with ancient writing and pictographs.
“Can you make out any of it, Allastair?” Clive asked him.
“Not sure, my boy, but they look like a variety of ancient Greek. But I can’t make out some of it...”
They emerged into an open plaza. But this one was not outside, but beneath the surface. A high, vaulted ceiling arched overhead. Everything here was brilliantly lit with huge glass globes of phosphorescent gas-light. Before them stood an ornate throne of white marble and tiled with lapis-lazuli. Upon this throne sat a figure whose white robe was bordered in royal-purple. He was a stern-faced figure of royal bearing, obviously a king or a lord of some type. To his side stood other robed figures, obviously nobles or courtiers. He stared down imperiously upon the captives. Upon seeing Jahlanna, as the princess was ushered before him, the man’s face broke out in awe, though not in desire or lust, as had the faces of the other men. There was, however, a definite appreciation for the beauty of the girl’s face and form. One of the Roman-style soldiers, the captain, it seemed, stepped forward and gave what had to be an account of the prisoners’ capture. He made special emphasis on the capture of Jahlanna, and gestured several times in the princesses’ direction. In the exchange between monarch and captain, the name “Juno,” was mentioned several times.
“What is he saying?” Clive whispered to Allastair, “What’s he want with Jahlanna?”
“I can’t discern everything,” Allastair told him. “But I know that Juno is a Greek goddess who was rather renowned for her...um...hips. They seem to think that Jahlanna is Juno incarnated. Or the guard captain does, anyway. The king there isn’t so sure. I think he was suggesting that she should be tested, or something like that.”
“Tested?” Clive said fiercely, “What do you mean?”
“I’m not sure. “I’ll see if I can talk to them.”
The aged professor muttered some words in Greek, which Clive was totally unable to understand. At a gesture from the robed monarch, the soldiers released their hold on Alastair, and allowed the old man to approach the throne. There followed a lengthy, if halting, exchange between the monarch and Alastair. When they had finished the monarch concluded with some obviously harsh words and a sharp gesture at the prisoners. The soldiers seized Alastair and the others, and ushered them away. All save Jahlanna, that is. She was escorted by two soldiers in the opposite direction.
“Jahlanna!” Clive cried out to her. He struggled against the soldiers holding him. Jahlanna cried out to him as well, but the two soldiers seized her, restraining her.
Clive and the others were taken to a large cell in the palace dungeon. Naked, white, rodent-like reptiles called slurrels skittered here and there screeching over bits of refuse. Once the party was captive behind the iron grill of the cell, Clive said to Allastair. “Maybe you could tell us what was said between you and the king? And what about Jahlanna! Does that madman want her for himself?”
“Okay. It was a bit difficult, but I think I understand what he wants. I told him I was a learned man of science, and knew some of his dialect. I was curious as to what his people are doing miles from the surface in a lost world at the center of the earth. He said that he is King Ravius, and that his people are descendents of the original Atlanteans.”
“Atlanteans! But that’s—“
“Merely legendary? It appears not, my boy. I’ve heard rumors of a lost colony of Atlantis still exists somewhere in equatorial Africa. Some fellow named Greystoke claims to have discovered it. At any rate, we’ve stumbled upon living proof. According to the man’s story, the last survivors of the original Atlantis found their way underground to an undersea catacomb formed millions of years ago by a pressure bubble in the earth’s crust. Their civilization continued long afterward, even into the modern era. Some groups of Atlantean colonies found their way to Pellucidar, but war with Pellucidar’s dominant species, the Mahar, who were far more advanced than they were, eventually caused them to retreat, and the tunnels to the inner earth were sealed off and forgotten. Yet they were also unable to return to the surface, because modern humans had poisoned the air and polluted the seas. But it seems King Ravius had a daughter, a rebellious young lass named Andra, who was always trying to stir up trouble with the other young people about tales of the surface world. Andra, you see, hated the ways of her elders, and longed to escape Atlantis and return to the surface world. She might have grown out of it though, if it hadn’t been for a very unfortunate incident. It seemed that some surface dweller, a youth of Andra’s age, found his way into New Atlantis, and Andra fell in love with him at first sight. The elders would have slain the outsider for the danger he represented, but he escaped—and Andra along with him. And—“ the old man’s voice trailed off.
“What--?” Clive pressed.
“Well, King Ravius sent his whole army after his daughter and the youth, but they escaped through one of the vents. In their protective helmets and aqua-gear the king’s soldiers scoured the entire surrounding ocean. Of the young man, there was not a trace. But... they did find Andra. Or what remained of her. Floating in the ocean, not far from the vent. “
“Did the youth, then—“
“No, she was poisoned by the air. The pollution of the modern world. The delicate lungs of the Atlanteans, isolated for so ,long, couldn’t take it. Her corpse was shiveled and gray, her smooth skin had taken on the texture of stone. Ravis, naturally filled with rage, searched far and wide of the youth, even though the girls’ death, likely wasn’t his intention at all, but they never found him. Anyway, they took Andra’s corpse back to Atlantis, where she was given the royal funeral services, and placed in the royal tombs. But Ravius, you see, could not recover from his daughter’s death. He became obsessed with finding a way to bring her back from the land of the dead. He poured over the ancient scrolls in the science section of the royal library, works dating from a time when Atlantean civilization was far more advanced. But the answer came to him in the scrolls that told of Pellucidar, and the strange race of scientific winged saurians that inhabited it. It seemed they had found a way to defy death, at least in cases like Andra’s who was positioned almost instantly. Her body had been well-preserved, so they uncovered the ancient seal to the earth’s core and brought her here to this ancient city. Her corpse is here, right in this city! But it seems the Mahars took an interest in the manner of Andra’s death, but for the wrong reasons. They took her from him, with only an indefinite promise of reviving her, and warned him not to interfere. The Mahars are the ones who control this city, but there are only two of them here now. They are in the north quarter, where they are examining Andra’s corpse...”
“That’s all very interesting, Alastair, “ Clive interrupted the old man’s story, “But what about Jahlanna? What does that madman want with her?”
“I really wouldn’t call Ravius mad, “ said Allastair, “Unless he’s half-mad from grief. But I’m afraid what he wants with the Princess is not good.”
Clive’s face grew dark with rage.
“The king was unconvinced that Jahlanna was truly a goddess, and demands that she undergo the trial of Dratha. She is to appease the hunger of the great god Dratha following the sleep period.”
“Then we’ve got to—“
“I know, but she’ll be okay for a while!”
“Hell with that! I’ll find a way to break out of here—now!” They probed the cell for any signs of weakness, but were unable to locate any. Then one of the guards tossed in what looked like two small capsules. They started to dissolve, and as they did so released a noxious type of fume that made Clive dizzy and his eyes sting fiercely. All at once his resolve collapsed, and he slumped to the floor. The others collapsed also. But the equivalent of an hour later, the boy, Jarn awakened. He had been less affected by whatever drug had knocked all them out because he’d had the quick sense to have held his breath from the start. Quickly, he shook Jarla awake. Groggily the girl opened her eyes.
“Jarn...? Where are we? What happened?”
“Remember? Those men with metal skins captured us! We’re still in the place Al-li-star calls At-lan-tus. “
“Oh, no! We’re still here! I dreamt I was safely back in O-lar. With you.”
“Did you hear what Al-li-star said? The king’s daughter is here in the city! But the Mahars won’t bring her back! But I think I can rescue her!”
“Don’t be silly, Jarn! Not even the Mahars can bring the dead back! You certainly can’t!”
“But I’m going to try.”
“Jarn, you silly boy!”
“Go back to sleep, Jarla. If the others wake up, tell them where I’ve gone.”
“You fool, Jarn, you’re just going to—“
“Shhhhhhh!” he shushed her. Jarla furiously put her head down, knowing full well her sweetheart was as stubborn as ever. Jarn crawled his way over to grating and threw himself into a feigned epileptic fit. The guard stationed outside took notice, then summoned another guard. “What is it?” the other man said.
“It’s the stripling,” the fist guard told him. “He’s having some kind of fit.”
“Bah! He’s not worth bothering with. Take him to Ru-kah. She’ll know what to do.”
They regarded the youth with a mixture of amusement and disgust. Then, seeing the others were safely knocked out, they opened the grating and carried the still thrashing caveboy out and out of the dungeon and to a room that looked like a medical facility. Jarn immediately went limp. Chortling and shaking their heads, the two guards left him there and walked off.
Jarn came immediately awake. He was in a huge laboratory-type room, of the sort used by Mahar scientists. On a rectangular table made out of something like aluminum in the direct center of the room lay the form of a young woman in Atlantean garb. At least, it might once have been a young woman. As Jarn approached her, he saw that her skin was gray, shriveled, and appeared to be composed of granite. Her hair, arrayed out behind her head, was a dead-white color. There were a number of colored buttons on a consol in front of the aluminum table. Jarn had seen the Mahars do things by pressing such as these. Maybe if he began pressing all of them, one of them could revive the Ravius’s daughter.
Stop, Apeling! The voice was like a wave of static coursing numbingly over his mind. Jarn whirled around as a shadow fell across him. The scientist known as Ru-kah had returned. She loomed over him in her grisly reptilian splendor. Jarn immediately averted his eyes from the Mahar’s frigid, consuming gaze, and ducked spryly under her wing. The Mahar gave a reptilian screech of fury, and whirled after the cave-lad. Jarn’s gaze fell instantly upon the nearby lab table, where lay a number of weird instruments. Jarn seized up a cloth and a bizarre scalpel-like implement. He then raced around the side of the Mahar, realizing that the reptile appeared sluggish due to the relatively low tempature in the room. Ru-kah and her fellow scientists had not reckoned on such an incident occurring, but this gave Jarn the advantage. The boy sprang upon the primeval monster’s arched back with the celerity of a zorag. With a boyishly triumphant yell, Jarn brought the cloth down over Ru-Kah’s deadly gaze and held the blade at the scaled folds of her throat.
“Tell me how to bring girl back, Mahar!” Jarn yelled, “Do it, or I’ll kill you!”
Never, young apeling! I do not take orders from a gilak! We are scientists, researchers! I must study the effects of the poisons of the outside world—something very valuable to us, and beyond your puny understandings! “If you don’t, I’ll find a way myself!” he pressed the blade in further.
Very well. It is the largest button. Allow me to do it.
“Not so fast, bird-lizard!” Jarn had secured the cloth over the creature’s eyes. He now bound it tightly beneath the Mahar’s beak. He noticed some chords lying in the corner of the lab. He leapt to ground and seized them up. But at that moment Ru-kah surged forward.
I can read your thoughts, apeling! Now you die!
The winged reptile surged in Jarn’s direction. But the Mahar, also, had made an oversight. She lunged toward the caveboy, fanged reptilianbeak snapping shut on empty air, as Jarn, with the quickness of youth, threw himself to one side in just the nick of time. Screaming in primordial rage, the sentient saurian bore down upon the boy again. But this time Jarn was ready with the blade. He ducked and drove the it up under the Mahar’s lower jaw, pushing it up until it penetrated the cold reptilian brain. Jarn sprang back out of the way, as Ru-Kah gave a weak cry, and then the Mahar scientist collapsed in a concealing pool of her own oily blood.
Jarn’s chest heaved as he surveyed the body of the slain reptilian. And it dawned on him—if he had failed to complete his passage into manhood up until this moment, then now, surely he had succeeded at last! At his feet one of the Great Lords of Pellucidar lay dead! Ha! Could his elders now regard him as a mere boy, and not a warrior? He could not wait for them to find out—assuming they would not regard this feat as one of his tall tales. Then he remembered: Andra!
Though he had little trust of the Mahar, he also had little choice. Jarn pressed the large red button, then flung himself back, bracing himself for what might occur. There was a momentary flash of light from what looked like an overhead UV lamp. Waves of red and green brilliance washed over the still, pathetic form of Andra of Atlantis.
And then...
Before the startled eyes of Jarn of Nu-al, her granite-like skin smoothed and tightened, took on once again the clean, rosey hue of youth. Her features became once again beautiful, ellicting a gasp of awe form Jarn’s lips, and her hair became once again rich and red with the luster of vibrant health.
Her lovely green eyes fluttered open. “What....where am I? Oh! Korak!”
“Oh! You’re not Korak! You look rather like him. But I can see your features more clearly now...”
“My name is Jarn! I’ve just slain the Mahar and saved your life!”
“Jarn....you’re a handsome warrior, much like him. He slew the devil-monster that guarded my city. I escaped with him to the surface. But the air! It felt like a wind in my blood. I was certain then that I was dying. But now I’m here. Where are we?”
Jarn long regarded all the crazy talk of a surface world as so much thag manure. People like Clive and Allastair were a bit touched in the head, much as he liked them in other ways. Right? They had to be. But now he was beginning to believe it. Something had happened to Andra, after all. But she was fine now.
Andra sat up on the table. She gave a startled scream as she beheld the corpse of Ru-kah. “Oh, Jarn!” the girl exclaimed. “You are as fine and brave a warrior as he!” She threw her arms about the furiously blushing boy and kissed him full on the mouth.
* * *
Once the effects of the sleeping drug had worn off, the prisoners were led up a broad flight of stairs to a large arena in the center of the city. This was located above ground in an ancient arena which, unlike the rest of the surface city, had been renovated. Clive found himself momentarily blinded by the sudden glare of Pellucidar’s eternal noonday day. The roar of the crowd-filled ampitheatre deafened his ears. The bleachers rose all around them in steep marble tiers. Crowds of New Atlanteans had already filled them. The center of the arena was a vast pool. And in the center of this was a raised circle of marble upon which was driven a large wooden stake.
And tied to this stake was Clive’s primeval sweetheart, Jahlanna, princess of Nu-al.
Clive called her name. The guards prodded the captives into their place at the fore of the arena, seemingly so they cpould get the best view.
King Ravius, in his royal box overlooking the spectacle rose suddenly his feet, one hand raised to silence the crowd. “We are here to witness the fate of the girl whom many claim may be the goddess Juno. I have said otherwise. But if I am incorrect, we shall all fall our knees in supplication to her. In order to pass the test, she must first appease the will of the great god Dratha, the mighty one who dwells beneath. If Dratha spares her life, then a goddess she is. If not—well, we shall see!
As for the girl, she remained tied, her lovely face fixed, horrified at the dark waters before her. Then—in the murky waters of the wavering, deep green pool there gradually materialized form the depths a monstrous, night mare vision of lunacy, vast and gigantic. It was the form of a titanic kraken-like beast, its’vast, mighty tenacular arms spanning what must have been a hundred feet. The dimensions appeared so stupifying that Clive could at first scarcely credit his vision. The thing itself was an oily green in color, and as the lashing tentacles parted, Clive could see that their soft, pinkish undersides were covered with row upon row of suckers tipped with curved barbed spines. He could see that the creature bore a vast, rounded shell the size of a small house, gigantically coiled, a trait which identified the beast as a member of the nautilid family of prehistoric cephalopods.
This, then, was the great god Dratha of New Atlantis. The mighty, spined tentacles burst through the surface, eliciting a volley of gasps and cries from the onlookers. The monstrous appendages were slick and oily. They snaked toward the helpless princess, the barbed protrusions gleaming hideously in the glaring daylight. Jahlanna, lovely eyes wide with terror, screamed long and loud. Clive thrashed against his bonds, throwing himself against one of the guards in fury to save his mate. Then, with a sudden burst of pure, primeval rage, he tore loose from his bonds. Clive sent his right fist smashing into the other guard’s jaw. Then he tore loose the sword from the fallen man’s scabbard. Before anyone could further restrain him the surface man, he had leapt over the railing and had plunged into the turgid depths of Dratha’s pool.
A collective gasp rose from the massed onlookers. King Ravius himself was awe-struck, as he rose from his seat to have a better look. Clive, sword in belt, was now swimming in furious strokes down toward the mighty-squid-like monster. The great cephalopod turned his baleful gaze from the captive princess above, and his array of vast appendages on her mate. With sword now in hand, Clive hacked clean through one of the thick, rubbery tentacles. Purplish-black gore flooded the jade-colored waters. Filled with bestial fury Dratha seized the small human morsel in one terrible crushing grip. Clive felt himself being drawn inexorably into the center of the tentacles; he could now see the great chomping beak in the center. Clive’s vision was blurring, his lungs now throbbing for lack of oxygen, as the creature’s hideous spines worked their way into his flesh as the great coil constricted him. Gripping the Atlantean sword in his most steely hold he brought it slicing down into the rubbery flesh of the greenish black arm, slicing halfway through the arm. The man brought up the sword and brought it down again, finally severing Dratha’s grip.
A vast cloud of purplish ink erupted, engulfing the dazed Clive Neville, as the grip of the monster loosened, and the great octopoid vanish into the depths of the vast well. Clive thrashed for the surface, but the battle had left him nearly senseless his tortured lungs burning for air. Then he felt two strong pairs of arms grip him, bear him upward toward toward the beckoning light and air.
Clive had all but blacked out when he found himself coughing on the marble edge of Dratha’s pool. Hazy consciousness returned in bursts of light. Blinking dazedly in the sun, Clive saw the faces of Jal-mar and Jarla, who had pulled him out of the water. The guards were standing around, but this time, none of them moved to arrest him. Looking up at the gathered crowd, Clive saw that they were awed by his victory over the tenacled god. He had earned their respect.
“No!” came the voice of King Ravius. “The red-haired outlander—the surface dweller—has slain Dratha. He has great courage, I’ll give him that, but he and his companions must never leave this city alive!”
“Father! No! Stop!”
All eyes turned in the direction of the shrill young female voice. An even louder murmur of awe rose from the crowd. Entering the arena were a beautiful young girl with flaming red hair and a youth. The youth Clive and his companions recognized instantly as Jarn of Nu-al. The girl he did not recognize.
But a look of astonished recognition wrought the face of the king Ravius. And slowly that look turned to one of astonished joy beyond comprehension. “Andra....? No! No...it can’t be!”
“Yes....yes, father, it is I!” she ran forward and flung herself into her aged father’s embrace before the astonishment of the vast throng. They held each other, both weeping tears of joy. At last Ravius said, smiling through his tears, “Andra...it’s really you.”
“Yes, father. Oh! You’ve grown old! But your’e still as handsome as I remember.”
“And look at you! You’re still young! And more beautiful than ever. Andra...how?”
“It was this youth—Jarn—who saved me.”
“Andra...I’m sorry?
“For what, father?”
“For what I was about to do. Jarn, the boy...is a companion of the prisoners whom I had only now commanded to be slain—may the gods forgive me.”
“I forgive you, father—for everything.”
King Ravius commanded the prisoners to be released. Before they said farewell, Ravius told Clive, “For a while I hated all surface dwellers because a youth unknowingly caused my daughter’s death. I had a wife long ago, but she died young, and then Andra was taken from me. Perhaps I wanted you and your mate slain because I wanted no one, especially a surface man to love, I couldn’t I see the error of my ways. But now that I have her back, I see how wrong I was. Forgive me, and go in peace.”
Clive and his companions left the land of New Atlantis, and were once again bound for Nu-al.

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