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For perhaps the millionth time, she prayed, “Ben-Otho,” she cried, “Please save me from these jar-otho! If you do, I swear that I’ll be good! I’ll be a good daughter! I’ll marry who my father wishes. I’ll be a good wife and mother. I’ll never leave my home. Just please save me!” and like the million times before, her prayers received no reply.
As strange as was Pal-ul-Don today, long after the Dor-ul-Otho had outlawed human sacrifice and made peace between the Ho-Don and the Waz-Don of the Kor-ul-Ja, as crowded as was the Valley of the Great God which forced the Ho-Don to expand into the other Valleys, and even despite the wars with the other Waz-Don and even the Ho-Don cities that resisted change, that life was infinitely preferable to this one.
“Yes Mother, I’m coming,” she called, readying herself for yet another beating. She tried to be a good girl, really. But she just didn't fit in. She wanted to be a Warrior! She wanted to see new places. She did NOT want to be another complacent housewife like her mother and older sisters. And so she would sneak out of the city and pretend that she was exploring strange new worlds... She would fight with the boys who once accepted her as an equal, but now that she had developed, wrestled with her only to feel under her breastplates and doe-skin loincloth. So she fought harder to remain clothed and became stronger, faster and meaner. “Boys are gryf-shit!” She'd tell her brothers when they were sent to rescue her from her fights or explorations.
“Then why fight with them?” they'd ask as they took her home for yet, another beating. “Be a girl and they'll stop trying to strip you naked.”
“Why can't it be like before?” she'd demand.
“Because you are no longer a child but a woman!” was the inevitable reply. “The Dor-ul-Otho said that Change was one of Jad-Ben-Otho’s Laws and change you did! So change inside to match your outside.” That from the Priestess who would be called to witness her beatings and ensure that her father didn't hurt her too much. Yes, her father loved her, she had no doubts, but he was frustrated by her refusal to become a good-girl and sometimes, when frustrated, a man would strike harder than he had planned.
Then one day, he rose, his hand, hesitated, then sighed and lowered his hand without touching the girl and said, “Fine! If you want to explore, Dak-Ben is leading a group of people past Bu-Lur to examine the shrinking morass that separates Pal-ul-Don from the Realm of the Gods. If you will be good and cook for them, I can ask Dak-Ben to take you as far as Bu-Lur!”
In-Bu-Lee rose from her knees and flung herself at her father. “thankyouthankyouthankyou!” she cried between kisses. “I’ll be a good girl and cook for them and mend their harness and do all that they ask!”
And so it was done. In-Bu-lee was one of four women who would do womanly tasks along the journey. And she tried. Jad-Ben-Otho knows she tried! And when they spent the night at Tu-Lur, no one had any complaints against her. Then at Bu-Lur, she had to be reprimanded for burning the meat. It wasn't her fault. Yes, A-Lur had Waz-Don who visited. But in Bu-lur, both Waz-Don and Ho-Don lived together in peace and … was that a Waz-Don male holding hands with a Ho-Don woman! How could that be! And soon she had wandered off to explore the city and see such strange sights. And so she was rebuked.. again.
When the party left to seek the morass, she was left with the other women but unlike the other women, she snuck off to follow the Warriors.
Spying on the council held by Dak-Den, his bulk overflowing the chair, she listened and tried to understand as the Gund of the Bu-Lur explained. “The river leaves Bu-Lur then slows as it widens and shallows. The shallow keeps the morass monsters away and then the river becomes swamp and enters the morass. None have ever braved the morass and returned so we know not what lies beyond. But now, the drought has caused the morass to dry enough and one Warrior managed to cross almost to the other side.”
“Isn't that heresy?” Dak-Ben asked. I understand that the Realms of the Gods lies beyond.”
“If so,” the gund replied, “it is no wonder that the Gods visit Pal-ul-Don for beyond the morass lies a thorn forest that stretches forever.”
There was more but those words struck in her mind. The Realm of the Gods! And when the troop left Bu-Lur to examine the shrinking morass, she followed.
In-Bu-Lee hid behind a tree, long dead from lack of water and watched the men explore. One found a saurian, its desiccated body half buried in the dried mud. “The rest have fled for deeper water,” Dak-Ben called out and motioned his Warriors to explore further.
Made bold by that statement, she moved to the north, away from the group, and explored herself. Quietly moving from dead tree to dying brush, she moved further and further into the morass, occasionally sinking to her ankles in the mud, mud that once was the bottom of the swamps that protected Pal-ul-Don from the Gods. Though why the don of Pal-ul-Don would need to be protected from the Gods they worshipped was a question the priestess never answered. Then snapping a branch with a false step, she heard a hiss and froze, then turning slowly, saw the giant ophidian approach. It looked hungry and right now, the Ho-Don-za was the only thing it could find so she backed away. No tree would support her weight for all were dying of thirst and so brittle. She moved back then turned and ran, leaping over ponds of stagnant water, running along fallen logs, her tail whipping back and forth to aid her in balance.
She ran for hours and collapsing, found herself alone. The reptile having abandoning her as too much trouble or perhaps too weak from hunger to follow as fast, for terror lends wings to the feet of the terrified.
But she was lost.
She had run for so long, her skin torn by thorns, her feet bloodied by thorns, that she had no idea of which way was the Pal-ul-Don. Of course she cried for a long while, then accepting that she would be beaten so much, she called out for her father, hoping that he'd hear her in A-Lur. When her voice became hoarse, she chose a direction and walked, the ground too hard to leave footprints, her direction chosen only by the areas where the thorns were thinnest. Shaded from the sun by the thorn-brush, she slept under one, listening to the crickets and skittering of the beetles until the sun rose. Then she walked again.
It took a couple days, days of mind-blasting heat, days of no water, though she managed to catch a lizard and, biting its head off, drank the blood, knowing that the salty taste would increase her thirst, but desperate. And then the thorns ended.
There were trees in the distance, and to these she staggered, not seeing the danger until too late.
They rose from butchering the warthog to lay rough hands upon the strange girl that stumbled into their midst. She didn't understand their words, barely was conscious. Then one gave her water and gulping it down, began to awaken, only to cringe back at what she saw. She was a prisoner of what must be demons. Although she didn't analyze the facts, the evidence was there. They were black like a Waz-Don but hairless as a Ho-Don, the hair on their heads grew in tight curls that was cut close to the head. Their hands and feet were deformed and they were as tail-less as a criminal, bobbed as punishment. Their furs were unlike anything she had seen, as if the skin had every hair plucked and the skin shaved thin to the point of... she had no word for such flexibility. Their weapons were not the usual club, though they carried knives. No they carried long clubs with steel handles but held the clubs by their strangely carved wood heads, pointing the steel handles about.
And they argued amongst themselves, finally stripping her of her golden breastplates and belt and other jewelry. Or rather they tried but soon found that she was stronger than she looked. After that, they chained her hands behind her back, she kicking and screaming and biting until one grabbed her flailing tail and pulled a knife to bob her.
Their gund called to that one and they argued, finally trying to stuff her tail into a bag with little success until one struck her, nearly senseless and with knife at her throat, she submitted. Then with her tail bagged and useless, they finished stripping her naked, fighting not over the softly tanned leather but over the worthless gold of her buckles, breastplates and jewelry. Finally, after a few blows, her possessions were divided and they returned their attention to In-Bu-Lee.
At a word, four of the black men held her down, her arms and legs spread as the gund removed his loincloth to expose his own tail. Now she knew that they were Demons for the bad children of Jad-Ben-Otho occasionally visited the daughters of man and begat demons, neither Don not Otho, but with their tails in front. In his anger, The-Great-God had cut their tails off and cast them into the jungle to become venomous serpents which crawled about seeking to reunite with their demon. These creatures had the stump of their tail in front and had been burned black by the lightening blasts of Jad-Ben-Otho. The gund of the demons had removed his loincloth and she saw the stump of his tail waving about, standing up as if to bite her. Although a virgin and ignorant of male anatomy until her wedding night, she knew what rape was. It was when a rogue male hurt a woman by laying upon her and not in the pleasant way a man-and-wife did. So In-Bu-Lee screamed and screamed and the demons laughed all the more, the gund’s hands touching her naked breasts and thighs to that-place-where-women-pee. He felt again, then stopped and put his face ‘down there’. Had she the courage, she would have peed at him but her terror was too great. Another probing then the gund stood, replaced his loincloth and argued with the others. One sought to force his share of her gold at the gund, attacking his own buckles as he did so, only to be rejected. Perhaps the demons would kill each other, she prayed.
Finally, they bound her again, her hands behind her back, her ankles together, her tail in that bag and they moved to the trees where they shoved her into a hastily-made hut of branches and leaves. And there she remained.
Over the next day, the demons would enter, open their loincloths and wave their bobbed demon-tails in her face but a quick bite, she had very sharp teeth, caused enough pain that after being struck, they kept their distance. At least demons could feel pain.
She barely slept that night.
The chief of the strange dark people came to her, she shrinking back from the demon. The man, cruel as he was, placed a platter before her filled with cast-off foods -- then he watched and laughed as she knelt, her hands chained behind, and ate like a beast. She spat and screamed as she felt a hand on her backside, then another laugh. They wouldn't rape her for she was a virgin and once learning that, they stopped, she remembering that a virgin slave-girl was more valuable than a married one. She always assumed that a husband would chase down the rapist but a father would just demand bride-price. (She still had only the vaguest idea of exactly what rape was other than it was hurting the girl and somehow involved their demon-tails.) But they would touch and pretend but never go quite that far. Aside from those chains and bag, she was naked and exposed to their tortures. The chief of the demons dragged her into the sunshine and after adding a few inches to her ankle-chains, they began to hike to the north, the demons tormenting her all the while and soon enough her buttocks and breasts were pinched black-and-blue, her dark hair nearly pulled from her head.
Then God arrived.
Robert crossed the space between trees, looking for a sighting. Wasn't central Africa supposed to be veldt? What he was traversing was endless jungle. Thank the Gods for garlic, enough garlic kept away the bugs and vampires, though as dark as it was under these trees, the vamps could wander about in the day without incinerating. The GPS system was still more than half-a-century away so he had to use other means to find Opar and taking a sighting on the sun with a sextant was the best, assuming that he could find a break in the canopy large enough to actually see the sun for a shoot. Michelle had given him the clue, but not the exact location for she considered Opar to be the property of the Obrien Clan, though she warned him that Greystoke felt that Opar belonged to him and the degenerate inhabitants of Opar felt it was theirs. The lawyers would have a field day over this as this part of Africa was seen as Belgium property today -- but in his time, independent, and thus, so would be the Oparian gold Vaults. No wonder the Obriens and Greystokes kept the location such a secret, even from each other.
He took a shot, compensated for the time and decided that he was at about 7 degrees north. Opar should be below the equator. Dammit! He'd have to find his Tardis and move to another location. A dozen thousand years ago, this area was under water. In another century, it would begin to refill. He was in that window where jungle grew upon the ancient lake-bed that only Sorgall and a few adventurers recognized. But then, science today saw both Mars and Venus as inhabited, but another half-century would prove both planets dead -- science would be wrong once again. But the Glory Road had proven that for more than a hundred million years… both ways.
Robert hiked back to the veldt near the thorn forest where he had appeared. Then he moved south where he hoped his Tardis sat. The problem here was that there were no straight game-paths in the jungle so he hoped that he exited north of the arrival-point. At least, that is the standard navigation technique. If you are not certain, deliberately overshoot and walk back. He heard the arguments shortly after.
Moving back into the trees, he saw a small group of Africans carrying a combination of Enfields and flintlocks and wearing ragged uniforms. It should be the 1930s, his Tardis really needed repairs (hence the desire to raid the Opar gold vaults), so this was the time between WWI and WWII. Weren't there wars of independence going on now? Most of what Robert knew about Africa came from old Tarzan films and the occasional Nature Documentary on PBS so, like most Americans, he remained ignorant of the true nature of the "Dark Continent."
The Blacks were obviously slavers as they had a naked white woman in tow, teasing her along the path. Well, considering how Europe and America had treated Africa, Robert really couldn't blame them. Still, his natural chivalry made him interfere. Now if he could only solve the problem without killing.
“Hello!” he called out, his M-19 (carbine) pointed forward but to the ground. The Blacks stopped, raised their weapons and spoke amongst themselves then one, their leader, called back.
“I Crecy understand you,” Robert replied -- then thought: Wasn't Zaire or the Congo a former Belgium colony? He tried French, having served at Creaky’, but on the French side.
The Blacks stared back, then one replied in French, though so heavily accented that Robert barely understood. “Who are you? Are you alone? What do you want?” all the while staring at his rifle. He should, compared to the Enfields, the M-19 was super-science. Designed during the Zombie Wars of the mid-21st century, it was designed to be cheap to produce, easy to repair, dependable and effective! It had to be effective when you were facing a hoard of zombies that had turned America into the Fourth Reich. In Robert's world, you were either a soldier, a cop or an inmate! Robert had run as soon as the chance appeared.
“I’m lost,” Robert confessed, then stopped. Stupid admission for the Blacks began to laugh and spread out in battle formation. “Wait…” he called, but it was too late and weapons rose, the Blacks demanding his surrender. “I don't want to hurt you but I won't surrender.”
Perhaps peace could have happened, but the girl cried out and was slapped into silence by one of the Africans. Robert rose his weapon from instinct, the Africans responded and someone, Robert never remembered who, fired!
From then it was massacre. The slower Enfields were no match for the M-19 that could send 680 rounds per minute under auto and cycle as fast as his finger could move in semi-mode. Plus the Africans had been trained by the French who were still running bayonet charges in WWI, while Robert had been trained to move while running and still put a 308 hollow-point in the head of a shambling undead. It was no contest and within as many seconds, he and the girl were the only ones alive.
God spoke to the demons. The demons spoke to God, both speaking a different language until God spoke in demon-tongue and the demons understood. God walked around the demons, his thunder-stick in his hand, the demons with their own thunder-sticks and long-knives at the ready. God looked at her, stared at her, and smiled at her as he spoke. But God's words made the demons angry and thunder roared. The longer thunder sticks of the demons spouted flame and black smoke, God's thunder-stick went ‘pow-pow-pow’ and demons fell. God seemed to be dancing, leaping and moving as would a warrior and soon the demons were dead and God approached, searching the demons, occasionally cutting a throat, until he found the key to her manacles.
In-Bu-Lee slammed her head to the dirt, begging her thanks, apologizing for her nudity and praying to be returned to her father. She felt God touching her backside as her shackles fall aside, then her feet and his touch that did-not-blast, was so soft as he lifted her up so he could unlock her collar. She was afraid to look, then he was gone!
Robert searched the bodies, giving a mercy stroke to the one who lived but was suffering. A 308 hardball rifle round does nasty things to a man and without immediate medical treatment, the victim would suffer and die. Hearing something in the bushes, Robert moved in, carefully, seeking more people, zombies never attacked in mass unless they were already moving in that direction. So a battle would start by killing a couple of the undead, then waiting for the others in hearing range to approach (usually in a group) followed by stragglers all day and night. People were easy, they'd attack, lose a few and retreat to regroup.
Finding nothing, Robert returned to find the girl dressed, if that was dress. She immediately fell to her knees but before she did, he saw an attractive white woman with dark brown hair, brown eyes, a decent athletic body wearing a deer-fur loincloth and bra covered with breastplates made from gold and with buckles of the same metal, probably plated as pure gold would be too heavy and soft. Although human in all aspects, she had three obvious differences. Her thumbs were too long, she had an extra joint. Her big toe grew from behind her arch and stuck out at near right angles to her foot, like a hand-foot, and she had a tail that was hairless and moved in a prehensile manner. Not knowing what to do, Robert looked at his own hand. Yes, his fingers had three joints and his thumb only had two. Her thumb had three joints. Didn't all old-world monkeys and lemurs have a normal tail and only new-world monkeys have a prehensile tail? Schools in his time taught only what the government wanted people to know and zoology wasn't seen as important.
Finally Robert sighed and acted. Kneeling and reaching to the girl who was shivering in terror, Robert stroked her hair, “It's ok, I’m not going to hurt you.” And other soothing words until she looked at him. She was terrified, he was soothing and eventually she relaxed a bit. Robert gathered what he could of the African's gear that was worthwhile, stood and held his hand to the girl. Then as she rose, he touched his chest and said, “Robert!”
In-Bu-Lee smiled back and touching her heart, said “In-Bu-Lee!” then fearfully touching him (no one touched a god safely) “Roh-Brt?” Gods had such strange names.
“Hello Enbuley, I am very pleased to meet you.” God butchered her name but if God wanted to do that, who was she to correct him? She smiled, hoping that he would command a gryf to take her home as they told in the legends of the Son-of-God who smote the false Lu-Don and the evil Ko-Tan with his thunder-club!
“I don't know where you come from but I have a translator in my Tardis so if you don't mind coming with me, we can figure this out.”
She had no idea of what he said but it was clear that he wanted her to follow him. She did, hoping that she was still alive. Sometimes, the stories went, you didn't know that you had died so The-Great-God sent a lesser God to rescue your ghost and take it to the proper place-for-ghosts. So she followed meekly, partly of fear of angering God, partly to avoid the demons that inhabited this wasteland, and mostly because she had no other choice and was lost. For not the last time she regretted her desire to explore like a man.
“Enjoying the Crusades is like enjoying a volcano.
You have to be a romantic to go and a psychopath to stay.”
|ERBzine 1645: Johnson:
ERB Fan Profile
ERBzine 1522: Sociology of the Wieroo
ERBzine 1527: Maltheusian Decimation in Pal-Ul-Don
ERBzine 1547: Opar
ERBzine 1710: Conflict!
ERBzine 1974: Anatomy of an Alien
ERBzine 2304: Prelude to Weir-Lu of Caspak
ERBzine 2388: Bright-Eyed Flower of Pal-ul-don
Pellucidar ~ At The Earth's Core
ERBzine 1965: Rescue In Pellucidar
ERBzine 2296: Where is the Opening to Pellucidar
ERBzine 2394: Dinosaur Survival On Earth
ERBzine 2855: Journey to the Centre of the Earth
ERBzine 3036: How To Get To The Earth's Core I
ERBzine 3037: How To Get To The Earth's Core II
ERBzine 3671: Zealandia
ERBzine 3643: Doorways to Pellucidar : Zanthodon
ERBzine 3649: Doorways to Pellucidar: Island of the Skull
|ERBzine 1578: Barsoom
ERBzine 1370: Mapping Barsoom I: Can It Be Done?
ERBzine 1562: Mapping Barsoom II: Compromises
ERBzine 1565: Mapping Barsoom III: The Past
ERBzine 1633: Valley Dor
ERBzine 1634: Swords On Mars
ERBzine 1711: A Panthan of Mars
ERBzine 1712: Spy: Arrival On Mars
ERBzine 2165: Battle at U-Gor
ERBzine 2166: Lost On Barsoom
ERBzine 2167: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. I
ERBzine 2168: Meeting of the Panthans: Pt. II
ERBzine 2169: North to Barsoom
ERBzine 2196: Jahar
ERBzine 2294: Vegetation on Mars
ERBzine 2303: Return to Barsoom I: Letters.
ERBzine 3682: Verdun to U-Gor
ERBzine 4140: Slave Girl of Mars
ERBzine 0645ax: Jurassic World
ERBzine 0645bx: Lions and Tigers and Bears
ERBzine 0645cx: Going Home
ERBzine 3422: Vampire King of U-Gor
Who Are The Sleestaks. . .
And What Are They Doing On Earth
In-Bu-Lee of Pal-Ul-Don
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