Morgo the Mighty by Sean O’Larkin was originally serialized in The Popular Magazine in 1930. I’ve been serializing it again here. Except for correcting the odd typo, I’ve reproduced the text as printed in the original publication. This is the final chapter.
“All right, I’ll stay, Morgo, to try to save your proud hide.”
He laughed, and we moved toward the fire, when a cold wind blustered through the cave. A Bakkete came down to us to report that he had been in Shamman and that is was practically empty of life. The floor was rippling with the waters of the dammed river. Other scouts informed Morgo that the mound on which we were hiding was well surrounded.
His words were unnecessary.
A guttural order rang out to our right. It was taken up on the left. In a moment we were in a ring of signal calls. Zorimi’s forces had us hemmed in – in a death trap of our own making. Morgo’s pride and refusal to flee from the man he said he was fated to kill had placed the lives of the three white people in the cave in jeopardy.
The tramp of advancing feet sounded on every side. I could make out men and animals, but I could see nothing. A Very light was made read and I set it off. The rocket soared up to the vault of stalactites and burst, dousing the immediate vicinity with a pale yellow glare.
The Shammans, the Silurians, the Zaans, even our friends of Kahli – primitive beast men all – were moving toward the mound between flanks of massed Cicernas, Mannizans of the rat and mouse breeds, salamanders and the black and red ants. Zorimi’s peculiar magic had effected this seemingly impossible organization. In some way he had convinced them that our deaths might propitiate the gods that released the river upon their lands. With us out of the way, the river would recede. Morgo heard that from the lips of men who began to chant.
The incantations of the primitive men resounded in the cave, wave upon wave of chanting voices. It was weird, ungodly, pagan. The effect upon us was tremendous. We stared at each other and there was horror in our eyes.
Zorimi was hurling an army upon us in a holy war. He had in some manner convinced the peoples and animals of the caves that with our destruction, their world would be freed of the waters of the flood. Our death meant food and life for all of them. That was the substance of their incessant chant – paean of hate that was hurled at us from the darkness.
The Very light fell to the ground and died.
I waited until the advancing columns seemed nearer. Morgo then urged me to send up another light. We had but five left out of the seven originally in the box.
Another Very light was sent up and it shed its rays upon hordes wending their way through avenues of chalky monoliths, coming at us like the rising tide of the ocean. The volume of the chant was deafening, nerve-wracking. Behind it was the psychology of the Indian war whoop, the battle screams of the Chinese – to instill fear in the hearts of the enemy – to beg the gods for victory.
I could hold my fire no longer. The primitive men and cave creatures were well within range and ready to surge over the mound. They were thickly massed and desperate, and their bloodshot eyes gleamed up at us.
The machine gun sang its first song. The staccato of biting tongues of steel jackets was answered by the screams of the dying and a louder chanting.
“When the white man dies, the river goes to rest! When the white man is gone, the river will sleep! Death for the white man – for we must live! Death for the white man – for we must live!”
That was the marching song of the cave creatures. Morgo whispered it to me. I sent another burst into the hordes of bloodthirsty singers and sprayed the full sweep of the gun.
We sent up another Very light and I saw the havoc I’d done. The approaches to the mound were heaped with the dead – men, rodent, fowl and lizards. Bodies writhed in their last agonies.
But as the Germans climbed over their own dead and pushed through the cut wires into Frances, a gray molten stream of mechanical men eating machine gun lead, the armies of Zorimi, in one last desperate organization, pressed toward us.
Before the light died, I dragged the gun to the other side of the mound and fed the enemy burst after burst of hot lead. They were close to the plateau’s base there and the lead washed them away in piles. I could locate the Silurians by the faint glow of their phosphorescent scales. The butchery to which Zorimi subjected his defenseless unarmed men was brutal. Yet there was but one way to take us and that was with their hands and teeth and beaks – and by drowning us under their milling feet.
Zorimi’s strategy was simple. We were to be inundated with living creatures whipped up to the point of desiring our deaths despite their own. He would defeat us with solid numbers, not weapons. And he knew that our lead could not last forever – while his men and beasts cost him nothing.
Screams! Death cries! Trampling, advancing feet!
And the chanting! The incessant chanting!
“When the white man is gone, the river will sleep! Death for the white man – for we must live!”
The machine gun replied in all directions! The toll of the shambles mounted. Zorimi had unleashed two brands of death!
We conserved the lights. I fired my bursts into the darkness, having a pretty good idea of the range. Little lead was wasted.
Nurri Kala screamed.
A python sidled over the edge of the mound. In the black we had not seen or heard its approach.
Morgo was caught in its coils. Its red and white scales threw off a dull glint in the light of our dying fire embers. Three times it lashed itself around my friend. I saw its muscles constrict as it exerted its lethal pressure to crush Morgo.
“Look to your gun, Derro!” he cried to me. “I can take care of this!”
Nurri Kala beat upon the sides of the reptile whose shining eyes were fixed on Morgo’s. The white man’s face was tense with pain until his knife slashed at the coils that bound his legs and waist. Snake and man toppled over. The python lashed Morgo against the stones to crush him better – for the python does not devour until the prey is dead.
Morgo grew still and I called to Nurri Kala to take the gun. She sent a burst into the darkness and I heard the gun jam. Morgo was deathly still in the reptile’s embrace. The creature, though badly hacked, still lived and breathed with convulsive effort. I sank my knife into its thick skin and it remained wedged there as I was flipped off my feet by the lashing of the long tail.
As I lay to one side, stunned, with Nurri Kala’s strange diamond flower tumbled from my blouse at my feet, I saw Morgo with one mighty effort rip off the monster’s head. The python’s muscles in reaction of death, continued to contract in their steely grasp. Another slash and Morgo cut through one coil and he breathed more easily.
He was safe and I ran back to the gun. The jam was caused by a defect in the cartridge belt which I quickly adjusted. I was about to pump away again when I noticed that the advance had ceased as suddenly as it had started.
We sent up a Very light and I saw that the enemy had taken to hiding behind the monoliths of chalk. Some salamanders and Mannizans and ants were feeding among the dead. And as the light descended in a graceful arc over the ring of slaughter, my eyes caught sight of bat wings in the air. They did not belong to the Bakketes hidden higher in the stalactites.
“Shamman bats!” Baku cried. “Now they come!”
The Very light went out and it was followed by a hailstorm – a hailstorm of stones as big as a Shamman bat could carry between its feet. Zorimi was cunning! But the bats missed their range and the stones fell upon the hordes beyond the mound. Again there was a woeful cry and the sound of retreating creatures.
I pleaded with Morgo for the last time. “They’ll come at us again. Don’t be foolish. Let’s get out while there’s a living chance!”
Morgo shook his head and leaned against the parapet. He was exhausted from his fight with the python.
“But you can’t ask Nurri Kala to do that too!” I blazed hotly. “You can’t – if you love her!”
She had picked up the diamond flower I dropped and was holding it in her hand. Morgo, his eyes blood red, looked at her, pleading mutely. I stood as though ready for a blow.
“I love you both,” she whispered. Her eyes were filled with tears. “And I must choose one of you – life or death!”
She kissed the little flower that I had first seen in her golden hair that night of the human sacrifices and handed it to me. Morgo gasped and a sob broke from his lips. I took Nurri Kala’s hand. She had decided.
“I love you, Derro,” she aid, “but Morgo is right. I belong to the caves – not to your world. I should be strange to it and its ways. And I love Morgo, too. I will stay with him!”
From the depths of despair, Morgo was raised to the heights of ecstasy by a single word. “Him!” How he must have loved her! He knelt before her and she rumpled his tangled hair like a playful child.
“You have my flower, Derro,” she smiled sadly. “Remember me by it – and kindly.”
The tide of battle surged back upon us. Morgo shouted orders to Baku and setting off a Very light, I sprang to the gun. The ants alone were being unleashed upon us.
Blacks and reds – Husshas and Rortas – they ambled toward the mound. Zorimi was hurling his invincible shock troops upon us.
A gleam of pure white light shot from the top of a distant crag. Zorimi stood upon it displaying the Shining Stone – She of the Three Heads – to his army. It was a gesture of ultimate victory and one of benediction for the ants. They seemed to understand and those who had paused at the dead to dig their mandibles into the warm flesh turned toward us once more.
I seized the rifle and as the Very light floated over Zorimi, I took aim. There was a bark and finger of flame.
The Shining Stone was shattered and the magician staggered backward.
A cry of surprise went up from the primitive men who had seen the destruction of the magic symbol. The ants hesitated in their march.
The light was full upon Zorimi who was trying to clamber down the protected side of the monolith. I fired again and then emptied the clip at him. The bark of the gun banged back from the echoing walls.
Zorimi tottered and fell upon his back.
Morgo seized me. “You must go, Derro. You must save yourself. Baku will take you away before it is too late.”
“The fight isn’t over,” the Irish in me laughed. “Not by a damn sight!”
“Please, Derro!” Nurri Kala begged.
“I’ve got to spray the ants!” I cried, and I turned the Vickers’ mouth into the nearest group of blacks and reds. The waving, snapping colors of the long mandibles swam before my eyes like a sea of pikes and pitchforks as my finger crooked tightly on the trigger.
“Remember your promise!” Morgo shouted between bursts of fire. “Save yourself, Derro!”
I wasn’t interested in escape now. The ants fascinated me, challenged me to battling an entire army corps. My senses were reeling with strain and excitement. The leaden hail, spat from the gun, mowed the Husshas and the Rortas down.
Two arms were dexterously slipped under mine. I was shot from the mound into the upper darkness.
“Goodbye, Derro! Godspeed, my friend!” Morgo’s voice floated up to me. Nurri Kala was sobbing.
I cursed Baku and commanded him to return me to the mound. He resisted my kicks by catching my legs in his and I could not struggle. It was Morgo’s greatest gesture – the willingness to sacrifice himself and the woman he would call his mate in order that my desire to return to my own people would be realized. He could not bear to have me share the awful fate which awaited the defenders of the little plateau.
Shouting voices from the primitives! Beating bat wings overhead! Rat-tat-tat-brrr-rup! The leaden tongues spat upward.
The Shamman bats were trying to cut off Baku’s flight. Morgo was ripping them down in large numbers from the air.
A Very light – the last one – burst over me.
The cave was filled with bats and Hoatzins. Morgo was manning the machine gun, Nurri Kala the weapon. The children of the caves were using the weapons of civilization in their last stand.
The aerial enemy could not withstand the slaughter. Their attack was repelled and they fled. But the ants were thrusting their mandibles over the edge of the little fort.
Now Morgo was using his knife against black mandibles. The girl was swinging the rifle butt as a club.
The Bakketes rained from the stalactites where they were hidden.
The falling light was full upon Zorimi’s body directly below me – the cowl thrown off the face.
The condor nose!
Zorimi was Kenvon – Edgar B. Kenvon who I piloted over Kanchenjunga’s icy breasts – who forced me at the point of a gun to penetrate the Door of Surrilana. Beside his body was the shattered Shining Stone – the evil symbol, She of the Three Heads.
How I reached Darjeeling I do not remember. They found me in the street in front of the Nepal Bar, a fever-wracked shell. When my mind cleared I told my story and pleaded for a party that would fly into Kanchenjunga to seek Morgo and Nurri Kala. The doctors spoke of the sun and how it had addled my brain. Not a soul believed a world I uttered. Nor was any stock placed on the Bibles I had in my pockets.
It was Baku who undoubtedly brought me as far as he could and dropped me in the jungle of the Sikkim. My feet did the rest. Whatever his fate was, I don’t know – but I owe the remnants of my life to him.
Back in New York, I found Kenvon’s deposit of ten thousand dollars to my credit in the bank I designated. I turned it over to charity. My hands are poor ones, but they’ll not touch blood money.
Little was known of Kenvon, as I had suspected. He was regarded as a mysterious man of wealth who had frequently appeared in fashionable circles only to vanish again for months and years on end. I was told that he had died in an airplane accident in India.
His plot is obvious to me now. He organized the expedition that took us into Kanchenjunga to satisfy his vanity. He wanted men of science to see his world – to envy him – before he killed them – offering them up in sacrifice to the gods of his distorted mind. The crash spoiled his plans, for I had escaped him. So he killed Harker, put his flying togs on the body which I found, to deceive me should I chance upon it, and he took the geologist’s head to grace his grim collection in the chamber of skulls.
Somehow, Jim Craig learned the secret of the sacred diamond talisman – and Kenvon’s secret of the diamond caves. And he paid with his life for his knowledge – precipitating me into the great adventure of love and death.
As I sit here at my table concluding this take, I cannot believe that Morgo is dead. He was a mighty man and such men are immortal. He was too magnificent to die. But my heart is heavy and fearful.
Nurri Kala’s little diamond flower lies before me. It has been the source of my inspiration. I want the world to know of her beauty and courage. And as I pen these last words, I am pressing those brilliant petals to my lips – petals that have tasted Nurri Kala’s lips and their sweetness.
Nurri Kala, the Beautiful – Morgo, the Mighty – I pray that God is kind to you.