Guns of Pellucidar – Pt 3

The assault on the Nazi forward base went both smoother in some regards and rougher in others than I’d hoped. Rougher because I was using too many scales (I didn’t want a huge base, but I wanted the players to be able to tactically maneuver, so I used 500ft sub-hexes within an approx. 1.5 mile portion of the 6 mile hex). Smoother because somehow the party managed to pull it off with only three characters dying (the little Wehrmacht force made some really bad rolls).

The party wisely kept off the main game trail and skirted around a machine gun nest that could’ve mowed them down, had they taken it straight to the base. A jungle snake grabbed one of the guys and nearly killed him, but the medic managed to juice him up to keep him standing for the op. The snake didn’t last long against several guys with trench knives and bayonets, and the otherwise ineffective commu guy managed to put in the killing blow. Also, since they went counterclockwise around the outskirts of the base, they didn’t run into any patrols. Had they tried to go around the south side, they would’ve crossed paths with an SMG scout team.

The base was made up of 4 sandbag walls with light machine gun teams at the four corners of the base, each covering a portion of the treeline, two crude towers with observers and snipers, and some tents. The party approached from the northeast corner and not only did the observation tower abysmally fail their awareness roll, the machine gun team critically failed, so were busy smoking and chatting instead of watching the treeline.

The sniper tried to take a shot at one of the machine gunners, but just barely missed. That gave the signal to the mortar team, who began shelling the area where the tents were. The players quickly overran the gunners’ nest, but fooling around with the MG 42 and trying to get it and all of associated junk moved to the other side of the barrier cost a few guys their lives. Except for the sniper, most of the Nazis were lousy shots, and eventually the combined fire of a couple BAR gunners, the guys who got the MG 42 up and firing, the mortar fire creating confusion, and the other assault teams eventually honing in on where the fire was.

By the time the German patrols got back to the clearing to respond, all hell had already broken loose.

Really, this fight was probably a foregone conclusion from the outset for a handful of reasons. There were only about 60-80 Nazis in the hex in total, 50 of whom were in the sub-hexes the party was going through. The Allies put 130 men out of their 180-200 total, because it was a do-or-die op, so there were several teams in the hex reconning in force. They were going to win (probably), it was just a matter of how many PCs died in the process while I tested the upper bounds of how combat in this could scale.

Holes in my rules:

Suppressive fire doesn’t quite work the way I hoped in fire-fights. I need to figure a way for suppressive auto fire to pin guys who are in cover. Probably I will just allow extra attacks against targets that pop-up from behind cover to take a shot.

Sniping needs to be a bit more refined. Most of the sniping rules assume relatively close sniping range. I need something for longshot sniping. Enemy snipers will also make pretty short work of characters, since it’s not even an active save vs. death roll; the enemy sniper just has to roll under his dex, so the one sniper in the tower probably did more damage picking off the guys fooling with MG-42.

Movement rules are based on D&D and assume standard D&D distances. Doing a hex-crawl on a quasi-tactical level put it under some strain. The battle area was large enough that groups could move round-robin through several hexes avoiding combat all together, but the scale was such that folks could fire at one another from adjacent hexes and, in some cases, from multiple hexes away. The pain point was determining where in the 500 ft hex anyone was during a round and how that might have affected combat variables. By the time the minis were broken out, I got away with it by acknowledging that the positioning of the minis were not to scale combined with the fact that the party spent most of the fight pinned down but with much heavier firepower at their disposal than the Germans had.

 

I think that this will work out better for smaller-scale fights, like against a single strongpoint or pillbox, or against some random Aufklarung unit they might happen upon.

Also, so far this has been more of a serial wargame disguised as an RPG rather than an actual RPG, and I’m pretty okay with that for the moment. I’ve already acknowledged that this is basically turning into a tabletop version of Close Combat, which has definitely scratched an itch for me. But I would like to see a bit more roleplaying elements worked in eventually.

So long as the party stays in the immediate area of their base camp, they’re going to be under the orders of the commanding officers and answerable for all of their actions, so no murderhoboing, obviously. I’m hoping that they’ll eventually take up an opportunity to do some advanced scouting and get far enough away that they have to become a self-sustaining fighting unit in the wilds of Pellucidar, meeting some natives besides angry Lizardmen. I’d like to eventually peel away some of the military trappings bit by bit as it becomes more of a “dudes lost in the jungle, fighting to stay alive – also there are Nazis” game.

But I’m also finding that I’m already itching to be back on the player side of the table and break out DCC again…

New Review, Hugo Packets, and Tarzan Stuff

Jon Mollison of Seagull Rising has a new review up of Cirsova #5. You can read it here.

I’ve made a lot of people writing reviews, in part because it’s one of the easiest ways to promote and support us, but that’s not the only reason. Reviews let us know what works and what doesn’t. One advantage of our double issue was it let us throw a lot against the wall to see what would stick and what didn’t. In some cases, it was seen as one of our weaker issues because it was much less focused that our others, but some folks seemed to enjoy it ‘with the exception of a few stinkers’.

While I enjoyed all of the stories (else I wouldn’t have bought them), that sort of feedback lets us know what you, the readers, are enjoying and what you’re not. So, to help us maintain and improve the quality of the magazine, be sure to leave your feedback!

Hugo Voting Packets are finally available. With only two months to go before voting is final, I don’t have a lot of expectation that readers will make it that far into their packets if they’ve waited this long to start, but it will be what it will be.

Also, I have not forgotten about my need to write a review of Frayed Knights! I really loved it, so I really ought to hunker down and get the write up on that done. I’ve just been so ADD and OCD these last two months, I’ve been a complete mess (can autism have flare-ups?)

I finished Tarzan at the Earth’s Core last night, and I’d stand by my previous question:

If Edgar Rice Burroughs can tell a bad story but still make it balls-out awesome, is it still a bad story?!

TatEC spends so much time on its journey towards the otherwise unimportant reason for throwing Tarzan into Pellucidar that when it finally gets there, there’s very little book left and the story kind of peters out. Except the reason that it peters out is perfectly believable and doesn’t detract much from the story: once Tarzan, Jason, and Tarzan’s rifle squadron of African tribesmen are finally reunited with the airship and its crew, there’s not a lot that primitive pirate port is going to do except answer the ultimatum that they’ll bomb the city into oblivion by turning Emperor David I over to his friends. Plus, Jana snaps out of her Tsundere fugue and declares her love for Jason, so we get the important ending we’re all waiting for.

With our G3 game taking a short hiatus, I may take an opportunity to flesh out my WW-2 rules-lite and run a Pellucidar mini campaign.

As I wrap, I’ll leave you with this one great exchange that perfectly illustrates the sort of tough pulp dames Burroughs wrote as well as his sense of humor:

“We will accompany you, then,” said Thoar [Jana’s brother], and then his brow clouded as some thought seemed suddenly to seize upon his mind. He looked for a moment at Jason, and then he turned to Jana. “I had almost forgotten,” he said. “Before we can go with these people as friends, I must know if this man offered you any injury or harm while you were with him. If he did, I must kill him.”

Jana did not look at Jason as she replied. “You need not kill him,” she said. “Had that been necessary The Red Flower of Zoram would have done it herself.”

“Very well,” said Thoar, “I am glad because he is my friend. Now we may all go together.”

Women in the Pulps Weak Damsels? Think Again!

How were women really portrayed in the pulps? If you go by what you’ve heard, women in the pulps were portrayed as weak and helpless, damsels who were always finding themselves needing rescued, incapable of doing anything without the big strong man to come along and help them. Rather than post a lengthy rebuttal, I’d ask that you take a few minutes and read these exciting excerpts from Tarzan at the Earth’s Core to see what a great female character from the pulps really looks like. I’ve selected passages that show what a tough cookie this lady is and to what lengths the male protagonist will go for her. The full book can be here at Gutenberg (http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0601071h.html).

JANA, The Red Flower of Zoram, paused and looked back across the rocky crags behind and below her. She was very hungry and it had been long since she had slept, for behind her, dogging her trail, were the four terrible men from Pheli, which lies at the foot of the Mountains of the Thipdars, beyond the land of Zoram.

For just an instant she stood erect and then she threw herself prone upon the rough rock, behind a jutting fragment that partially concealed her, and here she looked back along the way she had come, across a pathless waste of tumbled granite. Mountain-bred, she had lived her life among the lofty peaks of the Mountains of the Thipdars, considering contemptuously the people of the lowland to which those who pursued her belonged. Perchance, if they followed her here she might be forced to concede them some measure of courage and possibly to look upon them with a slightly lessened contempt, yet even so she would never abate her effort to escape them.

Bred in the bone of The Red Flower was loathing of the men of Pheli, who ventured occasionally into the fastnesses of the Mountains of the Thipdars to steal women, for the pride and the fame of the mountain people lay in the beauty of their girls, and so far had this fame spread that men came from far countries, out of the vast river basin below their lofty range, and risked a hundred deaths in efforts to steal such a mate as Jana, The Red Flower of Zoram.

The girl’s sister, Lana, had been thus stolen, and within her memory two other girls of Zoram, by the men from the lowland, and so the fear, as well as the danger, was ever present. Such a fate seemed to The Red Flower worse than death, since not only would it take her forever from her beloved mountains, but make her a low-country woman and her children low-country children than which, in the eyes of the mountain people, there could be no deeper disgrace, for the mountain men mated only with mountain women, the men of Zoram, and Clovi, and Daroz taking mates from their own tribes or stealing them from their neighbors.

Jana was beloved by many of the young warriors of Zoram, and though, as yet, there had been none who had fired her own heart to love she knew that some day she would mate with one of them, unless in the meantime she was stolen by a warrior from another tribe.

Were she to fall into the hands of one from either Clovi or Daroz she would not be disgraced and she might even be happy, but she was determined to die rather than to be taken by the men from Pheli.

Long ago, it seemed to her now, who had no means for measuring time, she had been searching for thipdar eggs among the lofty crags above the caverns that were the home of her people when a great hairy man leaped from behind a rock and endeavored to seize her. Active as a chamois, she eluded him with ease, but he stood between her and the village and when she sought to circle back she discovered that he had three companions who effectually barred her way, and then had commenced the flight and the pursuit that had taken her far from Zoram among lofty peaks where she had never been before.

Not far below her, four squat, hairy men had stopped to rest. “Let us turn back,” growled one. “You can never catch her, Skruk, in country like this, which is fit only for thipdars and no place for men.”

Skruk shook his bullet head. “I have seen her,” he said, “and I shall have her if I have to chase her to the shores of Molop Az.”

“Our hands are torn by the sharp rock,” said another.

“Our sandals are almost gone and our feet bleed. We cannot go on. We shall die.”

“You may die,” said Skruk, “but until then you shall go on. I am Skruk, the chief, and I have spoken.”

The others growled resentfully, but when Skruk took up the pursuit again they followed him. Being from a low country they found strenuous exertion at these high altitudes exhausting, it is true, but the actual basis for their disinclination to continue the pursuit was the terror which the dizzy heights inspired in them and the perilous route along which The Red Flower of Zoram was leading them.

From above Jana saw them ascending, and knowing that they were again upon the right trail she stood erect in plain view of them. Her single, soft garment made from the pelt of tarag cubs, whipped about her naked legs, half revealing, half concealing the rounded charms of her girlish figure. The noonday sun shone down upon her light, bronzed skin, glistening from the naked contours of a perfect shoulder and imparting golden glints to her hair that was sometimes a lustrous brown and again a copper bronze. It was piled loosely upon her head and held in place by slender, hollow bones of the dimorphodon, a little long-tailed cousin of the thipdar. The upper ends of these bone pins were ornamented with carving and some of them were colored. A fillet of soft skin ornamented in colors encircled her brow and she wore bracelets and anklets made of the vertebrae of small animals, strung upon leather thongs. These, too, were carved and colored. Upon her feet were stout, little sandals, soled with the hide of the mastodon and from the center of her headband rose a single feather. At her hip was a stone knife and in her right hand a light spear.

She stooped and picking up a small fragment of rock hurled it down at Skruk and his companions. “Go back to your swamps, jaloks of the low country,” she cried. “The Red Flower of Zoram is not for you,” and then she turned and sped away across the pathless granite.

To her left lay Zoram, but there was a mighty chasm between her and the city. Along its rim she made her way, sometimes upon its very verge, but unshaken by the frightful abyss below her. Constantly she sought for a means of descent, since she knew that if she could cross it she might circle back toward Zoram, but the walls rose sheer for two thousand feet offering scarce a handhold in a hundred feet.

As she rounded the shoulder of the peak she saw a vast country stretching away below her—a country that she had never seen before—and she knew that she had crossed the mighty range and was looking on the land that lay beyond. The fissure that she had been following she could see widening below her into a great canyon that led out through foothills to a mighty plain. The slopes of the lower hills were wooded and beyond the plain were forests.

This was a new world to Jana of Zoram, but it held no lure for her; it did not beckon to her for she knew that savage beasts and savage men of the low countries roamed its plains and forests.

To her right rose the mountains she had rounded; to her left was the deep chasm, and behind her were Skruk and his three companions.

For a moment she feared that she was trapped, but after advancing a few yards she saw that the sheer wall of the abyss had given way to a tumbled mass of broken ledges. But whether there were any means of descent, even here, she did not know—she could only hope.

From pausing often to search for a way down into the gorge, Jana had lost precious time and now she became suddenly aware that her pursuers were close behind her. Again she sprang forward, leaping from rock to rock, while they redoubled their speed and stumbled after her in pursuit, positive now that they were about to capture her.

Jana glanced below, and a hundred feet beneath her she saw a tumbled mass of granite that had fallen from above and formed a wide ledge. Just ahead the mountain jutted out forming an overhanging cliff.

She glanced back. Skruk was already in sight. He was stumbling awkwardly along in a clumsy run and breathing heavily, but he was very near and she must choose quickly.

There was but one way—over the edge of the cliff lay temporary escape or certain death. A leather thong, attached a foot below the point of her spear, she fastened around her neck Letting the spear hang down her back, she threw herself upon the ground and slid over the edge of the cliff. Perhaps there were handholds; perhaps not. She glanced down. The face of the cliff was rough and not perpendicular, leaning in a little toward the mountain. She felt about with her toes and finally she located a protuberance that would hold her weight. Then she relinquished her hold upon the top of the cliff with one hand and searched about for a crevice in which to insert her fingers, or a projection to which she could cling.

She must work quickly for already the footsteps of the Phelians were sounding above her. She found a hold to which she might cling with scarcely more than the tips of her fingers, but it was something and the horror of the lowland was just above her and only death below.

She relinquished her hold upon the cliff edge with her other hand and lowered herself very slowly down the face of the cliff, searching with her free foot for another support.

One foot, two, three she descended, and then attracted by a noise above her she glanced up and saw the hairy face of Skruk just above her.

“Hold my legs,” he shouted to his companions, at the same time throwing himself prone at the edge of the cliff, and as they obeyed his command he reached down a long, hairy arm to seize Jana, and the girl was ready to let go all holds and drop to the jagged rocks beneath when Skruk’s hand should touch her. Still looking upward she saw the fist of the Phelian but a few inches from her face.

The outstretched fingers of the man brushed the hair of the girl. One of her groping feet found a tiny ledge and she lowered herself from immediate danger of capture. Skruk was furious, but that one glance into the upturned face of the girl so close beneath him only served to add to his determination to possess her. No lengths were too far now to go to achieve his heart’s desire, but as he glanced down that frightful escarpment his savage heart was filled with fear for the safety of his prize. It seemed incredible that she had descended as far as she had without falling and she had only commenced the descent. He knew that he and his companions could not follow the trail that she was blazing and he realized, too, that if they menaced her from above she might be urged to a greater haste that would spell her doom.

With these thoughts in his mind Skruk arose to his feet and turned to his companions. “We shall seek an easier way down,” he said in a low voice, and then leaning over the cliff edge, he called down to Jana. “You have beaten me, mountain girl,” he said. “I go back now to Pheli in the lowland. But I shall return and then I shall take you with me as my mate.”

“May the thipdars catch you and tear out your heart before ever you reach Pheli again,” cried Jana. Skruk made no reply and she saw that they were going back the way that they had come, but she did not know that they were merely looking for an easier way into the bottom of the gorge toward which she was descending, or that Skruk’s words had been but a ruse to throw her off her guard.

The Red Flower of Zoram, relieved of immediate necessity for haste, picked her way cautiously down the face of the cliff to the first ledge of tumbled granite. Here, by good fortune, she found the egg of a thipdar, which furnished her with both food and drink.

It was a long, slow descent to the bottom of the gorge, but finally the girl accomplished it, and in the meantime Skruk and his companions had found an easier way and had descended into the gorge several miles above her.

For a moment after she reached the bottom Jana was undecided as to what course to pursue. Instinct urged her to turn upward along the gorge in the general direction of Zoram, but her judgment prompted her to descend and skirt the base of the mountain to the left in search of an easier route back across them. And so she came leisurely down toward the valley, while behind her followed the four men from Pheli.

The canyon wall at her left, while constantly lessening in height as she descended, still presented a formidable obstacle, which it seemed wiser to circumvent than to attempt to surmount, and so she continued on downward toward the mouth of the canyon, where it debouched upon a lovely valley.

Never before in all her life had Jana approached the lowland so closely. Never before had she dreamed how lovely the lowland country might be, for she had always been taught that it was a horrid place and no fit abode for the stalwart tribes of the mountains.

The lure of the beauties and the new scenes unfolding before her, coupled with a spirit of exploration which was being born within her, led her downward into the valley much farther than necessity demanded.

Suddenly her attention was attracted by a strange sound coming suddenly from on high—a strange, new note in the diapason of her savage world, and glancing upward she finally descried the creature that must be the author of it.

A great thipdar, it appeared to be, moaning dismally far above her head—but what a thipdar! Never in her life had she seen one as large as this.

As she watched she saw another thipdar, much smaller, soaring above it. Suddenly the lesser one swooped upon its intended prey. Faintly she heard sounds of shattering and tearing and then the two combatants plunged earthward. As they did so she saw something separate itself from the mass and as the two creatures, partially supported by the wings of the larger, fell in a great, gliding spiral a most remarkable thing happened to the piece that had broken loose. Something shot out of it and unfolded above it in the air—something that resembled a huge toadstool, and as it did so the swift flight of the falling body was arrested and it floated slowly earthward, swinging back and forth as she had seen a heavy stone do when tied at the end of a buckskin thong.

As the strange thing descended nearer, Jana’s eyes went wide in surprise and terror as she recognized the dangling body as that of a man.

Her people had few superstitions, not having advanced sufficiently in the direction of civilization to have developed a priesthood, but here was something that could be explained according to no natural logic. She had seen two great, flying reptiles meet in battle, high in air and out of one of them had come a man. It was incredible, but more than all it was terrifying. And so The Red Flower of Zoram, reacting in the most natural way, turned and fled.

Back toward the canyon she raced, but she had gone only a short distance when, directly in front of her, she saw Skruk and his three companions.

They, too, had seen the battle in mid-air and they had seen the thing floating downward toward the ground, and while they had not recognized it for what it was they had been terrified and were themselves upon the point of fleeing when Skruk descried Jana running toward them. Instantly every other consideration was submerged in his desire to have her, and growling commands to his terrified henchmen he led them toward the girl.

When Jana discovered them she turned to the right and tried to circle about them, but Skruk sent one to intercept her and when she turned in the opposite direction, the four spread out across her line of retreat so as to effectually bar her escape in that direction.

Choosing any fate rather than that which must follow her capture by Skruk, Jana turned again and fled down the valley and in pursuit leaped the four squat, hairy men of Pheli. At the instant that Jason Gridley had pulled the rip cord of his parachute a fragment of the broken propeller of his plane had struck him a glancing blow upon the head, and when he regained consciousness he found himself lying upon a bed of soft grasses at the head of a valley, where a canyon, winding out of lofty mountains, opened onto leveler land.

Disgusted by the disastrous end of his futile search for his companions, Gridley arose and removed the parachute harness. He was relieved to discover that he had suffered no more serious injury than a slight abrasion of the skin upon one temple.

His first concern was for his ship and though he knew that it must be a total wreck he hoped against hope that he might at least salvage his rifle and ammunition from it. But even as the thought entered his mind it was forced into the background by a chorus of savage yelps and growls that caused him to turn his eyes quickly to the right. At the summit of a little rise of ground a short distance away he saw four of the ferocious wolf dogs of Pellucidar. As hyaenodons they were known to the paleontologists of the outer crust, and as jaloks to the men of the inner world. As large as full grown mastiffs they stood there upon their short, powerful legs, their broad, strong jaws parted in angry growls, their snarling lips drawn back to reveal their powerful fangs.

As he discovered them Jason became aware that their attention was not directed upon him—that they seemed not as yet to have discovered him—and as he looked in the direction that they were looking he was astounded to see a girl running swiftly toward them, and at a short distance behind the girl four men, who were apparently pursuing her.

As the vicious growls of the jaloks broke angrily upon the comparative silence of the scene, the girl paused and it was evident that she had not before been aware of the presence of this new menace. She glanced at them and then back at her pursuers.

The hyaenodons advanced toward her at an easy trot. In piteous bewilderment she glanced about her. There was but one way open for escape and then as she turned to flee in that direction her eyes fell upon Jason Gridley, straight ahead in her path of flight and again she hesitated.

To the man came an intuitive understanding of her quandary. Menaced from the rear and upon two sides by known enemies, she was suddenly faced by what might indeed be another, cutting off all hope of retreat.

Acting impulsively and in accordance with the code that dominates his kind, Gridley ran toward the girl, shouting words of encouragement and motioning her to come to him.

Skruk and his companions were closing in upon her from behind and from her right, while upon her left came the jaloks. For just an instant longer, she hesitated and then seemingly determined to place her fate in the hands of an unknown, rather than surrender it to the inevitable doom which awaited her either at the hands of the Phelians or the fangs of the jaloks, she turned and sped toward Gridley, and behind her came the four beasts and the four men.

As Gridley ran forward to meet the girl he drew one of his revolvers, a heavy .45 caliber Colt.

The hyaenodons were charging now and the leader was close behind her, and at that instant Jana tripped and fell, and simultaneously Jason reached her side, but so close was the savage beast that when Jason fired the hyaenodon’s body fell across the body of the girl.

The shot, a startling sound to which none of them was accustomed, brought the other hyaenodons to a sudden stop, as well as the four men, who were racing rapidly forward under Skruk’s command in an effort to save the girl from the beasts.

Quickly rolling the body of the jalok from its intended victim, Jason lifted the girl to her feet and as he did so she snatched her stone knife from its scabbard. Jason Gridley did not know how near he was to death at that instant. To Jana, every man except the men of Zoram was a natural enemy. The first law of nature prompted her to kill lest she be killed, but in the instant before she struck the blade home she saw something in the eyes of this man, something in the expression upon his face that she had never seen in the eyes or face of any man before. As plainly as though it had been spoken in words she understood that this stranger was prompted by solicitousness for her safety; that he was prompted by a desire to befriend rather than to harm her, and though in common with the jaloks and the Phelians she had been terrified by the loud noise and the smoke that had burst from the strange stick in his hand she knew that this had been the means that he had taken to protect her from the jaloks.

Her knife hand dropped to her side, and, as a slow smile lighted the face of the stranger, The Red Flower of Zoram smiled back in response.

They stood as they had when he had lifted her from the ground, his left arm about her shoulders supporting her and he maintained this unconscious gesture of protection as he turned to face the girl’s enemies, who, after their first fright, seemed on the point of returning to the attack.

Two of the hyaenodons, however, had transferred their attention to Skruk and his companions, while the third was slinking bare fanged, toward Jason and Jana.

The men of Pheli stood ready to receive the charge of the hyaenodons, having taken positions in line, facing their attackers, and at sufficient intervals to permit them properly to wield their clubs. As the beasts charged two of the men hurled their weapons, each singling out one of the fierce carnivores. Skruk hurled his weapon with the greater accuracy, breaking one of the forelegs of the beast attacking him, and as it went down the Phelian standing next to Skruk leaped forward and rained heavy blows upon its skull.

The cudgel aimed at the other beast struck it a glancing blow upon the shoulder, but did not stop it and an instant later it was upon the Phelian whose only defense now was his crude stone knife. But his companion, who had reserved his club for such an emergency, leaped in and swung lustily at the savage brute, while Skruk and the other, having disposed of their adversary, came to the assistance of their fellows.

The savage battle between men and beasts went unnoticed by Jason, whose whole attention was occupied by the fourth wolf dog as it moved forward to attack him and his companion.

Jana, fully aware that the attention of each of the men was fully centered upon the attacking beasts, realized that now was the opportune moment to make a break for freedom. She felt the arm of the stranger about her shoulders, but it rested there lightly—so lightly that she might easily disengage herself by a single, quick motion. But there was something in the feel of that arm about her that imparted to her a sense of greater safety than she had felt since she had left the caverns of her people—perhaps the protective instinct which dominated the man subconsciously exerted its natural reaction upon the girl to the end that instead of fleeing she was content to remain, sensing greater safety where she was than elsewhere.

And then the fourth hyaenodon charged, growling, to be met by the roaring bark of the Colt. The creature stumbled and went down, stopped by the force of the heavy charge—but only for an instant—again it was up, maddened by pain, desperate in the face of death. Bloody foam crimsoned its jowls as it leaped for Jason’s throat.

Again the Colt spoke, and then the man went down beneath the heavy body of the wolf dog, and at the same instant the Phelians dispatched the second of the beasts which had attacked them.

Jason Gridley was conscious of a great weight upon him as he was borne to the ground and he sought to fend those horrid jaws from his throat by interposing his left forearm, but the jaws never closed and when Gridley struggled from beneath the body of the beast and scrambled to his feet he saw the girl tugging upon the shaft of her crude, stone-tipped spear in an effort to drag it from the body of the jalok.

Whether his last bullet or the spear had dispatched the beast the man did not know, and he was only conscious of gratitude and admiration for the brave act of the slender girl, who had stood her ground at his side, facing the terrible beast without loss of poise or resourcefulness.

The four jaloks lay dead, but Jason Gridley’s troubles were by no means over, for scarcely had he arisen after the killing of the second beast when the girl seized him by the arm and pointed toward something behind him.

“They are coming,” she said. “They will kill you and take me. Oh, do not let them take me!”

Jason did not understand a word that she had said, but it was evident from her tone of voice and from the expression upon her beautiful face that she was more afraid of the four men approaching them than she had been of the hyaenodons, and as he turned to face them he could not wonder, for the men of Pheli looked quite as brutal as the hyaenodons and there was nothing impressive or magnificent in their appearance as there had been in the mien of the savage carnivores—a fact which is almost universally noticeable when a comparison is made between the human race and the so-called lower orders.

Gridley raised his revolver and leveled it at the leading Phelian, who happened to be another than Skruk. “Beat it!” he said. “Your faces frighten the young lady.”

“I am Gluf,” said the Phelian. “I kill.”

“If I could understand you I might agree with you,” replied Jason, “but your exuberant whiskers and your diminutive forehead suggest that you are all wet.” He did not want to kill the man, but he realized that he could not let him approach too closely. But if he had any compunction in the matter of manslaughter, it was evident that the girl did not for she was talking volubly, evidently urging him to some action, and when she realized that he could not understand her she touched his pistol with a brown forefinger and then pointed meaningly at Gluf.

The fellow was now within fifteen paces of them and Jason could see that his companions were starting to circle them. He knew that something must be done immediately and prompted by humanitarian motives he fired his Colt, aiming above the head of the approaching Phelian. The sharp report stopped all four of them, but when they realized that none of them was injured they broke into a torrent of taunts and threats, and Gluf, inspired only by a desire to capture the girl so that they might return to Pheli, resumed his advance, at the same time commencing to swing his club menacingly. Then it was that Jason Gridley regretfully shot, and shot to kill. Gluf stopped in his tracks, stiffened, whirled about and sprawled forward upon his face.

Wheeling upon the others, Gridley fired again, for he realized that those menacing clubs were almost as effective at short range as was his Colt. Another Phelian dropped in his tracks, and then Skruk and his remaining companion turned and fled.

“Well,” said Gridley, looking about him at the bodies of the four hyaenodons and the corpses of the two men, “this is a great little country, but I’ll be gosh-darned if I see how anyone grows up to enjoy it.”

The Red Flower of Zoram stood looking at him admiringly. Everything about this stranger aroused her interest, piqued her curiosity and stimulated her imagination. In no particular was he like any other man she had ever seen. Not one item of his strange apparel corresponded to anything that any other human being of her acquaintance wore. The remarkable weapon, which spat smoke and fire to the accompaniment of a loud roar, left her dazed with awe and admiration; but perhaps the outstanding cause for astonishment, when she gave it thought, was the fact that she was not afraid of this man. Not only was the fear of strangers inherent in her, but from earliest childhood she had been taught to expect only the worst from men who were not of her own tribe and to flee from them upon any and all occasions. Perhaps it was his smile that had disarmed her, or possibly there was something in his friendly, honest eyes that had won her immediate trust and confidence. Whatever the cause, however, the fact remained that The Red Flower of Zoram made no effort to escape from Jason Gridley, who now found himself completely lost in a strange world, which in itself was quite sad enough without having added to it responsibilities for the protection of a strange, young woman, who could understand nothing that he said to her and whom, in turn, he could not understand.

 

 

WHEN Skruk and his companion had left the field to the victorious Jason, the latter had returned his six-gun to its holster and faced the girl. “Well,” he inquired, “what now?”

She shook her head. “I cannot understand you,” she said. “You do not speak the language of gilaks.”

Jason scratched his head. “That being the case,” he said, “and as it is evident that we are never going to get anywhere on conversation which neither one of us understands, I am going to have a look around for my ship, in the meantime, praying to all the gods that my thirty-thirty and ammunition are safe. It’s a cinch that she did not burn for she must have fallen close by and I could have seen the smoke.”

Jana listened attentively and shook her head.

“Come on,” said Jason, and started off in the direction that he thought the ship might lie.

“No, not that way,” exclaimed Jana, and running forward she seized his arm and tried to stop him, pointing back to the tall peaks of the Mountains of the Thipdars, where Zoram lay.

Jason essayed the difficult feat of explaining in a weird sign language of his own invention that he was looking for an aeroplane that had crashed somewhere in the vicinity, but the conviction soon claimed him that that would be a very difficult thing to accomplish even if the person to whom he was trying to convey the idea knew what an aeroplane was, and so he ended up by grinning good naturedly, and, seizing the girl by the hand, gently leading her in the direction he wished to go.

Again that charming smile disarmed The Red Flower of Zoram and though she knew that this stranger was leading her away from the caverns of her people, yet she followed docilely, though her brow was puckered in perplexity as she tried to understand why she was not afraid, or why she was willing to go with this stranger, who evidently was not even a gilak, since he could not speak the language of men.

A half hour’s search was rewarded by the discovery of the wreck of the plane, which had suffered far less damage than Jason had expected.

It was evident that in its plunge to earth it must have straightened out and glided to a landing. Of course, it was wrecked beyond repair, even if there had been any facilities for repairs, but it had not burned and Jason recovered his thirty-thirty and all his ammunition.

Jana was intensely interested in the plane and examined every portion of it minutely. Never in her life had she wished so much to ask questions, for never in her life had she seen anything that had so aroused her wonder. And here was the one person in all the world who could answer her questions, but she could not make him understand one of them. For a moment she almost hated him, and then he smiled at her and pressed her hand, and she forgave him and smiled back.

“And now,” said Jason, “where do we go from here? As far as I am concerned one place is as good as another.”

Being perfectly well aware that he was hopelessly lost, Jason Gridley felt that the only chance he had of being reunited with his companions lay in the possibility that the O-220 might chance to cruise over the very locality where he happened to be, and no matter whither he might wander, whether north or south or east or west, that chance was as slender in one direction as another, and, conversely, equally good. In an hour the O-220 would cover a distance fully as great as he could travel in several days of outer earthly time. And so even if he chanced to be moving in a direction that led away from the ship’s first anchorage, he could never go so far that it might not easily and quickly overtake him, if its search should chance to lead it in his direction. Therefore he turned questioningly to the girl, pointing first in one direction, and then in another, while he looked inquiringly at her, attempting thus to convey to her the idea that he was ready and willing to go in any direction she chose, and Jana, sensing his meaning, pointed toward the lofty Mountains of the Thipdars.

“There,” she said, “lies Zoram, the land of my people.”

“Your logic is unassailable,” said Jason, “and I only wish I could understand what you are saying, for I am sure that anyone with such beautiful teeth could never be uninteresting.”

Jana did not wait to discuss the matter, but started forthwith for Zoram and beside her walked Jason Gridley of California.

Jana’s active mind had been working rapidly and she had come to the conclusion that she could not for long endure the constantly increasing pressure of unsatisfied curiosity. She must find some means of communicating with this interesting stranger and to the accomplishment of this end she could conceive of no better plan than teaching the man her language. But how to commence! Never in her experience or that of her people had the necessity arisen for teaching a language. Previously she had not dreamed of the existence of such a means. If you can feature such a state, which is doubtful, you must concede to this primitive girl of the stone age a high degree of intelligence. This was no accidental blowing off of the lid of the teapot upon which might be built a theory. It required, as a matter of fact, a greater reasoning ability. Give a steam engine to a man who had never heard of steam and ask him to make it go—Jana’s problem was almost as difficult. But the magnitude of the reward spurred her on, for what will one not do to have one’s curiosity satisfied, especially if one happens to be a young and beautiful girl and the object of one’s curiosity an exceptionally handsome young man. Skirts may change, but human nature never.

And so The Red Flower of Zoram pointed at herself with a slim, brown forefinger and said, “Jana.” She repeated this several times and then she pointed at Jason, raising her eyebrows in interrogation.

“Jason,” he said, for there was no misunderstanding her meaning. And so the slow, laborious task began as the two trudged upward toward the foothills of the Mountains of the Thipdars.

There lay before them a long, hard climb to the higher altitudes, but there was water in abundance in the tumbling brooks, dropping down the hillside, and Jana knew the edible plants, and nuts, and fruits which grew in riotous profusion in many a dark, deep ravine, and there was game in plenty to be brought down, when they needed meat, by Jason’s thirty-thirty.

As they proceeded in their quest for Zoram, Jason found greater opportunity to study his companion and he came to the conclusion that nature had attained the pinnacle of physical perfection with the production of this little savage. Every line and curve of that lithe, brown body sang of symmetry, for The Red Flower of Zoram was a living poem of beauty. If he had thought that her teeth were beautiful he was forced to admit that they held no advantage in that respect over her eyes, her nose or any other of her features. And when she fell to with her crude stone knife and helped him skin a kill and prepare the meat for cooking, when he saw the deftness and celerity with which she made fire with the simplest and most primitive of utensils, when he witnessed the almost uncanny certitude with which she located nests of eggs and edible fruit and vegetables, he was conscious that her perfections were not alone physical and he became more than ever anxious to acquire a sufficient understanding of her tongue to be able to communicate with her, though he realized that he might doubtless suffer a rude awakening and disillusionment when, through an understanding of her language, he might be able to judge the limitations of her mind.

When Jana was tired she went beneath a tree, and, making a bed of grasses, curled up and fell asleep immediately, and, while she slept, Gridley watched, for the dangers of this primitive land were numerous and constant. Fully as often as he shot for food he shot to protect them from some terrible beast, until the encounters became as prosaic and commonplace as does the constant eluding of death by pedestrians at congested traffic corners in cities of the outer crust.

When Jason felt the need of sleep, Jana watched and sometimes they merely rested without sleeping, usually beneath a tree for there they found the greatest protection from their greatest danger, the fierce and voracious thipdars from which the mountains took their name. These hideous, flying reptiles were a constant menace, but so thoroughly had nature developed a defense against them that the girl could hear their wings at a greater distance than either of them could see the creatures.

Jason had no means for determining how far they had traveled, or how long they had been upon their way, but he was sure that considerable outer earthly time must have elapsed since he had met the girl, when they came to a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, for already he had made considerable progress toward mastering her tongue and they were exchanging short sentences, much to Jana’s delight, her merry laughter, often marking one of Jason’s more flagrant errors in pronunciation or construction.

And now they had come to a deep chasm with overhanging walls that not even Jana could negotiate. To Jason it resembled a stupendous fault that might have been caused by the subsidence of the mountain range for it paralleled the main axis of the range. And if this were true he knew that it might extend for hundreds of miles, effectually barring the way across the mountains by the route they were following.

For a long time Jana sought a means of descent into the crevice. She did not want to turn to the left as that route might lead her eventually back to the canyon that she had descended when pursued by Skruk and his fellows and she well knew how almost unscalable were the perpendicular sides of this terrific gorge. Another thing, perhaps, which decided her against the left hand route was the possibility that in that direction they might again come in contact with the Phelians, and so she led Jason toward the right and always she searched for a way to the bottom of the rift.

Jason realized that they were consuming a great deal of time in trying to cross, but he became also aware of the fact that time meant nothing in timeless Pellucidar. It was never a factor with which to reckon for the excellent reason that it did not exist, and when he gave the matter thought he was conscious of a mild surprise that he, who had been always a slave of time, so easily and naturally embraced the irresponsible existence of Pellucidar. It was not only the fact that time itself seemed not to matter but that the absence of this greatest of all task masters singularly affected one’s outlook upon every other consideration of existence. Without time there appeared to be no accountability for one’s acts since it is to the future that the slaves of time have learned to look for their reward or punishment. Where there is no time, there is no future. Jason Gridley found himself affected much as Tarzan had been in that the sense of his responsibility for the welfare of his fellows seemed deadened. What had happened to them had happened and no act of his could alter it. They were not there with him and so he could not be of assistance to them, and as it was difficult to visualize the future beneath an eternal noonday sun how might one plan ahead for others or for himself?

Jason Gridley gave up the riddle with a shake of his head and found solace in contemplation of the profile of The Red Flower of Zoram.

“Why do you look at me so much?” demanded the girl, for by now they could make themselves understood to one another.

Jason Gridley flushed slightly and looked quickly away. Her question had been very abrupt and surprising and for the first time he realized that he had been looking at her a great deal. He started to answer, hesitated and stopped. Why had he been looking at her so much? It seemed silly to say that it was because she was beautiful.

“Why do you not say it, Jason?” she inquired.

“Say what?” he demanded.

“Say the thing that is in your eyes when you look at me,” she replied.

Gridley looked at her in astonishment. No one but an imbecile could have misunderstood her meaning, and Jason Gridley was no imbecile.

Could it be possible that he had been looking at her that way? Had he gone stark mad that he was even subconsciously entertaining such thoughts of this little barbarian who seized her meat in both hands and tore pieces from it with her flashing, white teeth, who went almost as naked as the beasts of the field and with all their unconsciousness of modesty? Could it be that his eyes had told this untutored savage that he was harboring thoughts of love for her? The artificialities of a thousand years of civilization rose up in horror against such a thought.

Upon the screen of his memory there was flashed a picture of the haughty Cynthia Furnois of Hollywood, daughter of the famous director, Abelard Furnois, née Abe Fink. He recalled Cynthia’s meticulous observance of the minutest details of social usages and the studied perfection of her deportment that had sometimes awed him. He saw, too, the aristocratic features of Barbara Green, daughter of old John Green, the Los Angeles realtor, from Texas. It is true that old John was no purist and that his total disregard of the social precedence of forks often shocked the finer sensibilities that Mrs. Green and Barbara had laboriously achieved in the universities of Montmartre and Coconut Grove, but Barbara had had two years at Marlborough and knew her suffixes and her hardware.

Of course Cynthia was a rotten little snob, not only on the surface but to the bottom of her shallow, selfish soul, while Barbara’s snobbishness, he felt, was purely artificial, the result of mistaking for the genuine the silly artificialities and affectations of the almost celebrities and sudden rich that infest the public places of Hollywood.

But nevertheless these two did, after a fashion, reflect the social environment to which he was accustomed and as he tried to answer Jana’s question he could not but picture her seated at dinner with a company made up of such as these. Of course, Jana was a bully companion upon an adventure such as that in which they were engaged, but modern man cannot go adventuring forever in the Stone Age. If his eyes had carried any other message to Jana than that of friendly comradeship he felt sorry, for he realized that in fairness to her, as well as to himself, there could never be anything more than this between them.

As Jason hesitated for a reply, the eyes of The Red Flower of Zoram searched his soul and slowly the half expectant smile faded from her lips. Perhaps she was a savage little barbarian of the Stone Age, but she was no fool and she was a woman.

Slowly she drew her slender figure erect as she turned away from him and started back along the rim of the rift toward the great gorge through which she had descended from the higher peaks when Skruk and his fellows had been pursuing her.

“Jana,” he exclaimed, “don’t be angry. Where are you going?”

She stopped and with her haughty little chin in air turned a withering look back upon him across a perfect shoulder. “Go your way, jalok,” she said, “and Jana will go hers.”

 

IT required no Sherlockian instinct to deduce that Jana was angry, and Jason was not so dense as to be unaware of the cause of her displeasure, which he attributed to natural feminine vexation induced by the knowledge that she had been mistaken in assuming that her charms had effected the conquest of his heart. He judged Jana by his own imagined knowledge of feminine psychology. He knew that she was beautiful and he knew that she knew it, too. She had told him of the many men of Zoram who had wanted to take her as their mate, and he had saved her from one suitor, who had pursued her across the terrible Mountains of the Thipdars, putting his life constantly in jeopardy to win her. He felt that it was only natural, therefore, that Jana should place a high valuation upon her charms and believe that any man might fall a victim to their spell, but he saw no reason why she should be angry because she had not succeeded in enthralling him. They had been very happy together. He could not recall when ever before he had been for so long a time in the company of any girl, or so enjoyed the companionship of one of her sex. He was sorry that anything had occurred to mar the even tenor of their friendship and he quickly decided that the manly thing to do was to ignore her tantrum and go on with her as he had before, until she came to her senses. Nor was there anything else that he might do for he certainly could not permit Jana to continue her journey to Zoram without protection. Of course it was not very nice of her to have called him a jalok, which he knew to be a Pellucidarian epithet of high insult, but he would overlook that for the present and eventually she would relent and ask his forgiveness.

And so he followed her, but he had taken scarcely a dozen steps when she wheeled upon him like a young tiger, whipping her stone knife from its sheath. “I told you to go your way,” she cried. “I do not want to see you again. If you follow me I shall kill you.”

“I cannot let you go on alone, Jana,” he said quietly.

“The Red Flower of Zoram wants no protection from such as you,” she replied haughtily.

“We have been such good friends, Jana,” he pleaded. “Let us go on together as we have in the past. I cannot help it if—” He hesitated and stopped.

“I do not care that you do not love me,” she said. “I hate you. I hate you because your eyes lie. Sometimes lips lie and we are not hurt because we have learned to expect that from lips, but when eyes lie then the heart lies and the whole man is false. I cannot trust you. I do not want your friendship. I want nothing more of you. Go away.”

“You do not understand, Jana,” he insisted.

“I understand that if you try to follow me I will kill you,” she said.

“Then you will have to kill me,” he replied, “for I shall follow you. I cannot let you go on alone, no matter whether you hate me or not,” and as he ceased speaking he advanced toward her.

Jana stood facing him, her little feet firmly planted, her crude stone dagger grasped in her right hand, her eyes flashing angrily.

His hands at his sides, Jason Gridley walked slowly up to her as though offering his breast as a target for her weapon. The stone blade flashed upward. It poised a moment above her shoulder and then The Red Flower of Zoram turned and fled along the rim of the rift.

She ran very swiftly and was soon far ahead of Jason, who was weighted down by clothes, heavy weapons and ammunition. He called after her once or twice, begging her to stop, but she did not heed him and he continued doggedly along her trail, making the best time that he could. He felt hurt and angry, but after all the emotion which dominated him was one of regret that their sweet friendship had been thus wantonly blasted.

Slowly the realization was borne in upon him that he had been very happy with Jana and that she had occupied his thoughts almost to the exclusion of every other consideration of the past or future. Even the memory of his lost comrades had been relegated to the hazy oblivion of temporary forgetfulness in the presence of the responsibility which he had assumed for the safe conduct of the girl to her home land.

“Why, she has made a regular monkey out of me,” he mused. “Odysseus never met a more potent Circe. Nor one half so lovely,” he added, as he regretfully recalled the charms of the little barbarian.

And what a barbarian she had proven herself—whipping out her stone knife and threatening to kill him. But he could not help but smile when he realized how in the final extremity she had proven herself so wholly feminine. With a sigh he shook his head and plodded on after The Red Flower of Zoram.

Occasionally Jason caught a glimpse of Jana as she crossed a ridge ahead of him and though she did not seem to be traveling as fast as at first, yet he could not gain upon her. His mind was constantly harassed by the fear that she might be attacked by some savage beast and destroyed before he could come to her rescue with his rifle. He knew that sooner or later she would have to stop and rest and then he was hopeful of overtaking her, when he might persuade her to forget her anger and resume their former friendly comradeship.

But it seemed that The Red Flower of Zoram had no intention of resting, though the American had long since reached a stage of fatigue that momentarily threatened to force him to relinquish the pursuit until outraged nature could recuperate. Yet he plodded on doggedly across the rough ground, while the weight of his arms and ammunition seemed to increase until his rifle assumed the ponderous proportions of a field gun. Determined not to give up, he staggered down one hill and struggled up the next, his legs seeming to move mechanically as though they were some detached engine of torture over which he had no control and which were bearing him relentlessly onward, while every fiber of his being cried out for rest.

Added to the physical torture of fatigue, were hunger and thirst, and knowing that only thus might time be measured, he was confident that he had covered a great distance since they had last rested and then he topped the summit of a low rise and saw Jana directly ahead of him.

She was standing on the edge of the rift where it opened into a mighty gorge that descended from the mountains and it was evident that she was undecided what course to pursue. The course which she wished to pursue was blocked by the rift and gorge. To her left the way led back down into the valley in a direction opposite to that in which lay Zoram, while to retrace her steps would entail another encounter with Jason.

She was looking over the edge of the precipice, evidently searching for some avenue of descent when she became aware of Jason’s approach.

She wheeled upon him angrily. “Go back,” she cried, “or I shall jump.”

“Please, Jana,” he pleaded, “let me go with you. I shall not annoy you. I shall not even speak to you unless you wish it, but let me go with you to protect you from the beasts.”

The girl laughed. “You protect me!” she exclaimed, her tone caustic with sarcasm. “You do not even know the dangers which beset the way. Without your strange spear, which spits fire and death, you would be helpless before the attack of even one of the lesser beasts, and in the high Mountains of the Thipdars there are beasts so large and so terrible that they would devour you and your fire spear in a single gulp. Go back to your own people, man of another world; go back to the soft women of which you have told me. Only a man may go where The Red Flower of Zoram goes.”

“You half convince me,” said Jason with a rueful smile, “that I am only a caterpillar, but nevertheless even a caterpillar must have guts of some sort and so I am going to follow you, Red Flower of Zoram, until some goggle-eyed monstrosity of the Jurassic snatches me from this vale of tears.”

“I do not know what you are talking about,” snapped Jana; “but if you follow me you will be killed. Remember what I told you—only a man may go where goes The Red Flower of Zoram,” and as though to prove her assertion she turned and slid quickly over the edge of the precipice, disappearing from his view.

Running quickly forward to the edge of the chasm, Jason Gridley looked down and there, a few yards below him, clinging to the perpendicular face of the cliff Jana was working her way slowly downward. Jason held his breath. It seemed incredible that any creature could find hand or foothold upon that dizzy escarpment. He shuddered and cold sweat broke out upon him as he watched the girl.

Foot by foot she worked her way downward, while the man, lying upon his belly, his head projecting over the edge of the cliff, watched her in silence. He dared not speak to her for fear of distracting her attention and when, after what seemed an eternity, she reached the bottom, he fell to trembling like a leaf and for the first time realized the extent of the nervous strain he had been undergoing.

“God!” he murmured. “What a magnificent display of nerve and courage and skill!”

The Red Flower of Zoram did not look back or upward once as she resumed her way, following the gorge upward, searching for some point where she might clamber out of it above the rift.

Jason Gridley looked down into the terrible abyss. “Only a man may go where goes The Red Flower of Zoram,” he mused.

He watched the girl until she disappeared behind a mass of fallen rock, where the gorge curved to the right, and he knew that unless he could descend into the gorge she had passed out of his life forever.

“Only a man may go where goes The Red Flower of Zoram!”

Jason Gridley arose to his feet. He readjusted the leather sling upon his rifle so that he could carry the weapon hanging down the center of his back. He slipped the holsters of both of his six-guns to the rear so that they, too, were entirely behind him. He removed his boots and dropped them over the edge of the cliff. Then he lay upon his belly and lowered his body slowly downward, and from a short distance up the gorge two eyes watched him from behind a pile of tumbled granite. There was anger in them at first, then skepticism, then surprise, and then terror.

As gropingly the man sought for some tiny foothold and then lowered himself slowly a few inches at a time, the eyes of the girl, wide in horror, never left him for an instant.

“Only a man may go where goes The Red Flower of Zoram!”

Cautiously, Jason Gridley groped for each handhold and foothold— each precarious support from which it seemed that even his breathing might dislodge him. Hunger, thirst and fatigue were forgotten as he marshaled every faculty to do the bidding of his iron nerve.

Hugging close to the face of the cliff he did not dare turn his head sufficiently to look downward and though it seemed he had clung there, lowering himself inch by inch, for an eternity, yet he had no idea how much further he had to descend. And so impossible of accomplishment did the task that he had set himself appear that never for an instant did he dare to hope for a successful conclusion. Never for an instant did any new hold impart to him a feeling of security, but each one seemed, if possible, more precarious than its predecessor, and then he reached a point where, grope as he would, he could find no foothold. He could not move to right or left; nor could he ascend. Apparently he had reached the end of his resources, but still he did not give up. Replacing his torn and bleeding feet upon the last slight hold that they had found, he cautiously sought for new handholds lower down, and when he had found them—mere protuberances of tough granite—he let his feet slip slowly from their support as gradually he lowered his body to its full length, supported only by his fingers, where they clutched at the tiny projections that were his sole support.

As he clung there, desperately searching about with his feet for some slight projection, he reproached himself for not having discarded his heavy weapons and ammunition. And why? Because his life was in jeopardy and he feared to die? No, his only thought was that because of them he would be unable to cling much longer to the cliff and that when his hands slipped from their holds and he was dashed into eternity, his last, slender hope of ever again seeing The Red Flower of Zoram would be gone. It is remarkable, perhaps, that as he clung thus literally upon the brink of eternity, no visions of Cynthia Furnois or Barbara Green impinged themselves upon his consciousness.

 

Yes, Jason screws things up with her. Yes, he tries to rationalize his behavior and attribute the falling out to Jana, who is faultless in the ordeal. He knows in his heart that he’s wrong, and it takes a bit for his head to catch up.

But in Jana, we have another example of a pulp heroine who is highly capable, and that capability is used to highlight the dangers in the story: when things are tough for someone like Jana, you KNOW that shit is for real! And for a man to be worthy of a woman like Jana, they have to step their game up. Jana is no shrinking violet, no helpless damsel, but an almost fearless and determined woman who loves and fights fiercely.

Half-Review of Tarzan at the Earth’s Core

I’m only halfway through Tarzan at the Earth’s Core so this will only be a half-review, but I still wanted to talk about it.

The story itself is a bit of an aimless mess that’s only held together by Burroughs’ ability to make every scene and tableau he’s writing completely awesome.

The setup and megaplot is just an excuse to have Tarzan in an exotic dinosaur filled jungle: One of the characters from the Pellucidar series is in trouble and has radioed a distress call. A wealthy American is determined to investigate the hollow earth, which, if filled with jungles, means that Tarzan is the ideal person to track down and bring along. After lengthy preparations and a healthy dose of German engineering, they go off together to the north pole in a giant airship and find the entrance to Pellucidar and get hopeless lost in the jungles within, because this is, after all, a Tarzan novel.

-Tarzan goes to check out the jungle and gets lost because you can’t navigate the hollow earth using normal means (sunrise/sunset & the stars)

-The guys who go out to look for Tarzan get lost and attacked by savage animals.

-The rich American finds the airship again and goes out in his plane to try to find either Tarzan or the search party; except that since this is a Tarzan novel, his airplane is attacked by a pteranodon and he crashes in the jungle. But he does find a cute jungle girl!

So, a few things I’d like to note:

-Burroughs goes to great lengths to try to make Pellucidar’s alien aspects relevant to the story and how the characters are able to function in the hollow earth. The perpetual sun is disorienting, and even Tarzan has a hard time dealing with both perpetual noon and a lack of horizons (the landscape gently curves upward in all directions).

-The airship’s cook could easily be written off as a racist caricatures, but I think it’s interesting that the African tribesmen that Tarzan brings with him (in Africa, Tarzan has a game range and is on friendly terms with both the men and animals on it) all speak perfect, if simple, English, while the black cook from the American south is the one with the thick vernacular accent. This is likely intentional, in the way that Twain’s attempt to faithfully recreate several Missouri, Arkansas, southern Illinois, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Mississippi accents was intentional.

-In a lot of ways, the roles of Jana and Jason are a mirror of Tarzan and Jane’s, the savage girl met by the civilized man, except Jana’s a bit more likable than Jane and the pair are a bit more on equal footing – while Jana knows and understands Pellucidar and can survive there on her own, Jason is capable and a crack shot with his gun, which certainly evens the odds in many cases. In another way in which this subverts the criticisms of the colonialist nature of pulp, it’s Jana who teaches Jason her language so they can communicate rather than the other way around. It is pretty implicitly an interracial coupling (the people in Pellucidar strike me as Amerind inspired), and it’s Jason who’s made to look like a heel for even letting that cause doubt to creep into his mind.

-One of the most important aspects of Lord of the Rings in context of Appendix N is that it’s one of the few works on the list that features an adventuring “party”, but it’s certainly not the only. For a stretch, here, Tarzan, Tar-gash (a talking ape from a Pellucidarian tribe slightly more advanced than the one which raised Tarzan), and Thoar (a Pellucidarian tribesman who, as coincidence would have it, is Jana’s brother) adventure in the jungles together, hunting, fighting, and searching for the airship.

-Back to Jana. Jana is great example of how to do a female character in a pulpy adventure romance. She’s brave and confident and capable – when we’re introduced to her, she’s holding her own fairly well, considering that she’s been outrunning four plainsmen who are trying to capture her – so much so that they’re begging their leader to give up; she’s just not worth the trouble she’s been giving them! She’s feminine, but not totally demure, accepts the man’s help when it’s needed and given, but able to show that she’s willing to walk if he’s gonna take her for granted.

BlueBook192910

Depicted: Tarzan and his party lose initiative to the wild Chocobo.

Saving Throws, Pulp Heroes and D&D

Every once in awhile, you’ll hear the complaint that lower level D&D characters don’t feel like the heroic characters from pulp adventures on account of how fragile they are. The low HP means that a couple of good hits will kill those lower level characters, whether in fights or to traps or even something as ignominious as falling down a flight of stairs.

One of my counters to this is that most pulp heroes would be at the lower end of mid-level, contra to what is suggested in many of those old articles where Gary and friends would stat up Cugel or Eric John Stark as being well into double digits with massive pools of HP to prevent low-level PCs from being able to meet and kill these characters just because they were there and they could (though I’m sure they did).

Another bug-bear of oldschool games is the saving throw, particularly in save or die situations. Why should a character with all of that HP be insta-killed?! It’s just not fair! A character who can take 8 full-on sword wounds shouldn’t be able to die just because he was bitten by a snake or had a rock fall on his head!  Besides, that’s entirely unpulpy, right?!

Well, take this from Tarzan at the Earth’s Core, at a point in his career where he’s probably level 27 and has a gorillion hit points:

Tarzan remained very quiet. He did not wish to frighten it away for he realized that one of them must be the prey of the carnivore sneaking upon them, but if he expected the thag to be frightened he soon realized his error in judgment for, uttering low grumblings, the great bull pawed the earth with a front foot, and then, lowering his massive horns, gored it angrily, and the ape-man knew that he was working his short temper up to charging pitch; nor did it seem that this was to take long for already he was advancing menacingly to the accompaniment of thunderous bellowing. His tail was up and his head down as he broke into the trot that precluded the charge.

The ape-man realized that if he was ever struck by those massive horns or that heavy head, his skull would be crushed like an eggshell.

The dizzy spinning that had been caused by the first stretching of the rawhide to his weight had lessened to a gentle turning motion; so that sometimes he faced the thag and sometimes in the opposite direction. The utter helplessness of his position galled the ape-man and gave him more concern than any consideration of impending death. From childhood he had walked hand in hand with the Grim Reaper and he had looked upon death in so many forms that it held no terror for him. He knew that it was the final experience of all created things, that it must as inevitably come to him as to others and while he loved life and did not wish to die, its mere approach induced within him no futile hysteria. But to die without a chance to fight for life was not such an end as Tarzan of the Apes would have chosen. And now, as his body slowly revolved and his eyes were turned away from the charging thag, his heart sank at the thought that he was not even to be vouchsafed the meager satisfaction of meeting death face to face.

Tarzan, with all of his HP was forced to make save-vs-death against some kind of charging inner-earth dire oryx. His saving throw numbers are probably really low at this point, and he probably could’ve made it with anything but a nat 1, but it was still going to be a case of instant-death regardless of how many hit points he has.

This ties back into the game theory that HP doesn’t represent actual wounds but exhaustion and the character’s ability to fight on under pressure in extreme circumstance. Of course, you also might say that it would not be very pulpy to fail your saving throw and be instantly killed, but D&D is a game, and without a genuine sense of risk, your game can end up in a boring slump where everyone knows that everyone is going to live no matter what, so why bother faking the suspense? And in those cases where your life is on the line AND YOU MAKE IT, how much more awesome is it? It makes those times when you could’ve lost your character but didn’t all the more special.

Planet & Prince of Peril

I’m about halfway through Kline’s second Venus book, Prince of Peril, and it has been awesome.

I regrettably did not get a chance to talk much about Planet of Peril, but do want to take a minute to note that it did feature a pretty kick-ass female lead, Vernia, who was, like Maza, a fighting general who had become the most powerful queen on Venus after defeating several rivals in a bloody succession war. The scientist who sends Grandon to Venus recounts the beginning of Vernia’s reign:

The wild, mountainous kingdom of Uxpo, of which these forests are a part, is situated at the extreme southern limit of the empire of Reabon. Uxpo, together with seven other kingdoms, was originally conquered by the famous emperor, Margo, and its fierce, previously unbeaten mountaineer people reduced to slavery.

“Upon Margo’s death, three years ago, the people of Uxpo entertained high hopes of freedom. They had learned that the emperor’s daughter, Vernia, a mere slip of a girl, had succeeded to the throne; they revolted and, almost overnight, slew every soldier, officer and agent of the empire. Their old king had been executed by Margo at the time of the invasion, but his elder son, Lugi, was placed on the throne.

“Two days afterward a courier brought news that the princess Vernia was coming at the head of a hundred thousand soldiers. Lugi assembled his five thousand mountaineers and went forth. The army of Uxpo was annihilated, and Lugi was executed for treason. Once more the fierce Uxponians bowed their necks to the yoke of the conqueror.

Unconquerable on the battlefield, even able to escape assassins, the princess finds herself about to be undone by a technicality by her main rival. While Vernia and Robert Grandon go bouncing from adventure to adventure, trying to get back to her capital, the timer is running out – if she’s gone for a year, she’ll be considered to have abdicated the throne. The big happy ending when Vernia and Grandon are able to return to the capital, have outwitted the big bad and thwarted his scheme to marry Vernia and seize the throne, and themselves are married is one of the most awesome S&P endings ever.

Four soldiers removed the bodies and order was restored with surprising celerity. Again Grandon moved to the foot of the throne where Vernia awaited him, wide-eyed and trembling. He took her hands in his for a moment, then she resolutely bade him proceed.

Upon his return the four kings had prostrated themselves on the steps leading to the throne in accordance with the customs of their ancestors. Grandon turned to Vernia. “I am emperor now, am I not?”

“Assuredly, my lord.”

“And my word is law?”

“So long as it does not conflict with the written constitution of Reabon.”

“Is this matter of mounting to the throne on the backs of one’s vassal kings written into the constitution?”

“No. It is a custom that has been observed for generations and signifies the complete submission of the heads of the various kingdoms.”

“Then it shall be abolished. I expect loyalty from my subjects, but not abject servility.”

Then, to the surprise of the four kings, he bade them rise and stand, each man on the step he occupied, two to the right and two to the left. Thus attended, Grandon mounted to the throne while the spectators looked on in amazement.

When he had taken his seat with quiet dignity and rested the scarbo across the arms of the throne, Vernia mounted and bowed before him with right hand extended palm downward—an example which was followed by the entire assemblage. It was indeed a day of surprise for the good people of Reabon, for no sooner had she knelt before him than he, in violation of an age-old custom which decreed that the empress should sit at the feet of her lord, swung the scarbo to one side and lifted her up beside him on the throne.

“You shouldn’t have done this,” she gasped. “My place is—”

“Custom be hanged!” he responded, and there, in full view of that vast multitude, he kissed his bride full upon the lips.

The crowd responded with a resounding cheer. “A long and happy reign to our emperor and his empress!”

Then the shimmering scarlet curtains crept around the throne, and Grandon forgot all else when two soft arms stole around his neck and Vernia’s fluffy head nestled on his shoulder.

Prince of Peril has not, as of yet, had so satisfying a female lead as Planet of Peril (unlike Vernia or Maza, Princess Loralie is a bit more of a typical damsel in distress and, for the first half of the book, gets very little characterization while she’s being carried off by evil princes, cannibal apes, and horny robots). Still, it’s had some really great set pieces, including a Burroughs homage that combines the scene of Tarzan defeating the Ape King in hand to hand combat and Carter fighting the Tharks on Mars. The Venusian ape king takes a new bride each month, and this one wants to mix things up a bit and marry a food-woman (they call humans food-men and food-women, because they eat them). The monthly wedding ceremony also provides an opportunity for anyone who wishes to challenge the king and take the throne and the wives.

“Who will fight Rorg for his bride and his kingdom?” The final challenge was flung out by the victorious king-ape as he looked triumphantly about him. “Speak now, or…”

“I’ll fight you, Rorg,” I said, drawing club and knife and stepping in front of the giant. As I did so I caught a fleeting glimpse of Taliboz and Loralie. On the face of the traitor was pleased anticipation. The eyes of the princess showed surprise, and something more. Incredible as it appeared from her recent actions, it was undoubtedly concern for my safety.

But these were only fleeting impressions.

Borg stared incredulously down at me for a moment, evidently unable to believe that I had actually challenged the king of the cave-apes. Then he struck at me quickly, but not exerting his full strength, as if I were some insect annoying him.

Instinctively I used my club as if it had been a sword—parrying the blow with ease and countering with a thrust which bit into his furry abdomen, drawing blood and eliciting a grunt of rage and pain.

Although the club was so constructed that I could not hope to inflict a mortal wound by thrusting the sharp flint teeth with which it was armed, it could and did cause considerable pain and annoyance. As the cave-ape system of fighting was merely that of striking and dodging. I hoped to offset my adversary’s enormous advantage of strength and reach by employing the technique of a swordsman.

With an angry bellow, Borg swung a terrific blow for my legs. Again I parried, and countered with a neck cut which would probably have terminated the engagement in my favor had it not been blocked by one of his huge tusks. The tusk snapped off and clattered to the rock; but as a result, the club wounded him only slightly, adding to his fury.

Foaming at the mouth and gnashing his teeth in his rage, the king-ape beset me with a rain of blows that would have been irresistible to any but a trained swordsman. Splinters and bits of broken flint flew from our clubs as time and again I parried his terrific blows.

After each blow I countered with a cut or thrust, and soon my opponent was bleeding from head to foot; yet his strength and quickness seemed rather to increase with each fresh wound. Had he possessed a swordsman’s training, I verily believe that ape would have been invincible on his own planet or any other.

Presently I succeeded in raking him across the forehead with the point of my weapon, so that the blood ran down in his eyes, half blinding him. But he wiped the blood away with the back of one huge paw and countered with a blow, the force of which numbed my wrist and splintered my club into fragments.

I leaped back, then hurled the club handle straight for the great, snarling mouth as he bounded forward to finish me. It struck him in the front teeth, breaking off several and momentarily bewildering him.

In that moment I leaped, and with the fingers of my left hand entwined in the wiry hair of his chest and my legs gripping his waist, I buried my flint knife again and again in his brawny neck. Blood spurted from his pulsing jugular as he endeavored to shake me off, to reach me with his sharp fangs, and to gore me with his single remaining tusk. But his mighty strength was spent —his lifeblood draining.

A quiver shook the giant frame and like some tall tree of the forest felled by the woodman’s axe, he toppled backward, crashing to the ground.

Leaping quickly to my feet, I seized the club of the fallen ape-monarch and, brandishing it aloft, said, “Rorg is dead, and Zinlo is king. Who will fight Zinlo? Who will be next to die?”

From the throats of several of the ape-warriors in the semicircle from which Urg had come, came low growls, but none advanced, and the growls subsided as I singled out in turn with my gaze each of the truculent ones who had voiced them.

Far below me, the mob of apes was clamoring, “Meat! We want our meat!”

I knew that, spent as I was, the enormous body of Rorg was more than I could raise aloft and hurl to the mob below, so I had recourse to an old wrestling trick. Seizing the limp right arm of the fallen king-ape, I dragged the body to the edge of the cliff. Then, bringing the arm over my shoulder in an application of the principle of the lever, I heaved the remains of Borg over my head.

A moment later the milling beasts below were tearing the carcass to pieces, snarling and snapping over their feast. This custom, I afterward learned, had been established in consequence of the belief that the flesh of a strong, brave individual would confer strength and bravery on the one who devoured it.

Again I brandished my club aloft, shouting, “Who will fight Zinlo for his kingdom? Speak now, or keep silence for another endir.”

This time I heard not even a single growl from the warriors on the cone top.

An old warrior who had lost both tusks, an ear, and several of his fingers, stepped from the ranks and advanced to the cliff edge. “Rorg is dead,” he announced. “Farewell to Rorg.”

Following his words, a peculiar, quavering cry went up from the throats of the thousands of apes congregated in the crater, as well as from those on the plateau. So weird and mournful did it sound that I shivered involuntarily.

As the last plaintive notes died away, the old warrior shouted, “Zinlo is king. Hail, Zinlo!”

A deafening din followed as the ape-horde, brandishing knives and clubs aloft and clattering them together, cried, “Hail, Zinlo!”

Another great bit has been the encounter with the 5000 year old Prince and Princess who turned themselves and their followers into robots, and now the Prince is all “You must mate with us!”

There’s some great uncanny valley horror to this that you see much later in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

The page stopped before an ornate doorway, two guards saluted and opened massive doors. Then a pair of scarlet curtains were drawn back, revealing a luxurious boudoir. “His Highness, Zinlo of Olba,” announced the page as I entered the room.

The curtains fell in place behind me. I heard the guards close the heavy doors.

As I looked at the beauteous dead-alive creature that reclined on a luxuriously cushioned divan in a scarlet and gold decked recess, a feeling of revulsion swept over me; yet, paradoxically enough, this was combined with admiration. I was revolted at thought of the nearness of this living dead thing, but could not but admire the consummate art that had created so glorious an imitation of the human form.

I realized that if I would live to be of assistance to Loralie I had a part to play.

Xunia smiled languidly, seductively, as I stood before the raised divan just outside the niche it occupied. With feline grace she extended a slender, dimpled hand. Shuddering inwardly, I took it, expecting to feel the cold clamminess of death. But it was as warm as my own and as natural—from its white back in which a delicate tracery of blue veins showed, to the pink- tipped, tapering fingers. I raised it to my lips and released it, but she clung to my fingers for a moment, pulling me to a seat on a low ottoman just in front of her.

“Long have I awaited your coming, prince of my heart,” she said. “Be not afraid to come near to me, for it is my desire and my command.”

“To be prince of your heart were indeed an honor,” I replied, “yet you name me this, having only seen me today.”

“The moment I saw you I knew it was so. Fear not, beloved, that there have been others before you. I am, and have ever been, virgin in mind as in body. Once I thought I loved, yes, but it was long ago, and then I was but a child.”

“You make me very jealous, nevertheless,” I said, remembering the part I had to play.

“I did not really love him, I swear it, dearest.” She ran her fingers through my hair in a gentle caress so natural, so womanly, that I found it well- nigh impossible to believe her other than a real princess of flesh and blood. Then, before I realized what she was about, she twined her arms about my neck and kissed me full upon my lips.

The kiss did not taste of acid, as I had imagined it would, but was like that of a normal, healthy girl, though it aroused in me a feeling of revulsion which I was at some pains to conceal.

“I go now, beloved, to prepare for your marriage,” she said. “Await me here.”

As I stood up, she took my hand and arose gracefully. The time for action had arrived. Yet, as I looked down at the slender, beautiful figure, the long- lashed eyes gazing trustfully up into mine, I hesitated to carry out the plan which I had been contemplating as I sat there on the ottoman before her— a plan with which I hoped to accomplish a double purpose—to rid myself of this machine-monster and to get her brother away from Loralie, for she would probably summon him telepathically, if in no other way.

I was trying to think of her as a dead thing in a machine, yet it seemed impossible that she was other than human, so natural was she, and so beautiful. But the thought of Loralie and the danger she was in steeled me to the task.

Seizing Xunia by her long black hair, I whipped out my stone knife and slashed the artificial muscles of the slim white throat. She gave one startled scream, which ended at the second slash of my knife, and went limp as I jerked the head backward, cracking the metallic structure which took the place of cervical vertebrae. Instead of blood, there spurted from the severed neck a tiny stream of clear fuming liquid, a few drops of which fell on my hand, burning it like molten metal.

Dropping the sagging body, I turned and was about to part the curtains which led out into the hall to see if the coast was clear, when I heard a stealthy sound behind me. Swiftly turning, I saw Xunia, apparently unharmed. In her right hand was a long, straight-bladed sword drawn back for a thrust. Behind her lay the body I had just destroyed.

I leaped back just in time to avoid her vicious lunge. Then, jerking my spiked club from my belt, I dealt her a blow which crushed her skull like an egg-shell. But scarcely had this body sunk to the floor ere a panel opened in the wall behind it and a third, armed like the second, stepped out to attack me.

“Fool,” mouthed the advancing figure. “Think you that you can slay one of the immortals?”

Prince of Peril has been much more episodic than Planet of Peril, but what episodes!

Perhaps one of the most amusing parts, though, was in the introduction, which includes an in-universe shout-out to Edgar Rice Burroughs:

Now I had been a devotee of imaginative fiction for many years, and had often thought of turning my hand to writing it. I prided myself on having a better than usual imagination; yet, I did not think of the implications of the theory of telepathy when Dr. Morgan told me that the man who built the thought-projector was on Mars. While I deferred to no one in my fondness for Edgar Rice Burroughs’s stories of John Carter and others on Barsoom, I was well aware of the fact that what we knew of the planet Mars made his wonderful civilization on that planet quite impossible. I said as much, going into facts and figures.

“Of course, we won’t really know for sure about the exact conditions there unless we land on Mars. But still we know enough to make Burroughs’s Mars probability zero,” I concluded.

Dr. Morgan nodded. “Entirely correct,” he said. “There is no such civilization on Mars.”

He then explained his own incredulity when his machine picked up the thoughts of a man who identified himself as a human being— one Lal Vak, a Martian scientist and psychologist. But Lal Vak was no less incredulous whoa Dr. Morgan identified himself as a human being and scientist of Earth. For Lal Vak was certain that there could be no human civilization on Earth, and cited facts and figures to prove it.

The Son of Tarzan

The Son of Tarzan is probably one of the most awesome books I’ve read.  Tarzan of the Apes is great and all, but The Son of Tarzan completely blew it out of the water, and was superior in nearly every way.

Like Tarzan, it’s protagonist, Jack Clayton, aka Korak, the Killer, is unapologetically badass.

The Son of Tarzan has even bigger thrills, more actiony twists and turns, over half a dozen colorful and vivid villains, a better love triangle, and an infinitely better love interest.

Let’s face it, as great as Tarzan of the  Apes was, things kinda take a slump when the Porters, Philander and Clayton show up, and Jane doesn’t really have a lot going for her as a love interest other than “first white woman Tarzan rescues”. While she does have a few moments of delicious snark, the fact that Tarzan loses her in the first book to a rather disagreeable ponce like Cecil Clayton does little to endear us to her.  Meriem is everything Jane Porter is not.

Really, The Son of Tarzan could’ve just as easily been called The Daughter-in-Law of Tarzan.  Though the narratives’ focus on Meriem doesn’t ratchet up into high gear until the middle of the novel, Burroughs has given us something that the first book lacked – a co-protagonist who is genuinely worthy of the affections of the badass male lead and who is awesome in her own right. Meriem, a French girl who was kidnapped by a Sheik to avenge the death of his nephew, is rescued from her abusive “father” by Korak; rather than be a load who’s always in need of rescuing, Jungle-life turns her into a badass. During a fight in which an evil ape-king tries to kidnap her, it’s Meriem who delivers the killing blow as Korak and the ape wrestle. When the evil Swede tries to rape her, she manages to grab his pistol off him and, when she finds out it’s not loaded, pistolwhips him senseless with it so she can make a break for it.

During the time she spends with Big Bwana (who is later revealed to be Tarzan) following circumstances that led both her and Korak to believe one another dead, Meriem transforms into an awesome hybrid of beautiful, sophisticated young woman of culture and jungle-princess who talks with monkeys, hunt and swing through the trees.  Part of the twist ending is that her father, though he refused to use the title as a staunch republican, was a prince, so Meriem is LITERALLY a jungle-princess.

Also, Morison Baynes is far superior to Cecil Clayton as the romantic false lead. Clayton’s kind of a flat boring ‘nice guy’ who’s jealous that the girl he likes keeps getting rescued by a mighty Adonis.  Baynes, on the other hand, is a real heel, though a) he hides it from Meriem early on and b)it means he gets to have a great heel-face-turn. Baynes wants Meriem cuz she’s hot, and he plans on running away with her, but his big secret is he doesn’t plan on marrying her because he thinks she’s just an Arab. When his plan to get her out from under Bwana/Tarzan’s roof goes awry, and he realizes that whatever the Swede has in store for Meriem is not much better than what he was doing, he’s faced with a choice – cry about it or fight his way through countless miles of jungle to become awesome and rescue her.

His face and hands were scratched and smeared with dried blood from the wounds he had come by in thorn and thicket. His clothes were tatters. But through the blood and the dirt and the rags a new Baynes shone forth-a handsomer Baynes than the dandy and the fop of yore.

In the heart and soul of every son of woman lies the germ of manhood and honor. Remorse for a scurvy act, and an honorable desire to right the wrong he had done to the woman he now knew he really loved had excited these germs to rapid growht in Morison Baynes-and the metamorphosis had taken place.

So, by the end, we have Baynes and Korak trying to rescue Meriem, Korak rescuing Baynes, Meriem and Baynes trying to rescue Korak, and Tarzan coming in with his army of loyal natives to rescue everybody. Of course, Meriem still has to make her choice between the man she loved and had thought was dead and the man she considered running away with, who had changed who he was, confessing his crimes against her.

Rather than the ending with the poor vexed Jane Porter letting her doubts and fears lead her to promising her hand to that weenie Clayton, this is what we get: Tarzan sends Meriem off with the injured Baynes – he’s going off into the jungle to look for Korak, who’d taken on an entire village of blacks and Arabs to buy Meriem and Baynes time to escape, been subdued and tied to stake to be burned alive, rescued by Tantor the elephant and taken into the jungle but still unable to break his bonds, slowly dying of thirst. Tarzan shows up to find Meriem, having tried to cut Korak’s bonds, facing off with a confused and angry Tantor!  Tarzan asks her what the hell she was doing there.

“You told me,” she said, in a very small voice, “that my place was beside the man I loved,”

Jack is re-united with his mother and father, everyone goes back to England, Jack and Meriem get married, Jane’s thrilled that she has a real daughter, Meriem is re-united with her father, whom Tarzan meets through their mutual friend D’Arcot (his French buddy in the first book), Meriem turns out to be a princess, the huge reward for the safe return of Meriem is ostensibly their wedding gift, and everyone lives happily ever after until the next Tarzan book comes out a few months later!

I don’t know how many more Tarzan books I plan on reading; of course I’ll finish this omnibus, I’ve already got book 3, and I REALLY need to read the second book where Tarzan and Jane get things sorted out, but a part of me wants to read more adventures of Korak and Meriem than the old man himself. Unfortunately for me, Korak only shows up (as an adult, anyway) in three other Tarzan books (8-10) before being put on a bus with the rest of the extended cast.