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TARZAN AT THE EARTH’S CORE
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
Well, here we are at the grand finale, the last chapter in our adventure. Will ERB wrap it up really quick now since all of the parties seem to be gathering into one area, or will he spring new surprises on us now that we believe we have figured it all out? I think you know the answer.
XVII: REUNIONAs favorable winds carried the longboat and its company up the sunlit sea, the 0-220, following the same route, made occasional wide circles inland upon what Zuppner now considered an almost hopeless quest for the missing members of the expedition, and not only was he hopeless upon this score, but he also shared the unvoiced hopelessness of the balance of the company with regard to their likelihood of their ever being able to find the polar opening and return again to the outer world. With them, he knew that even their tremendous reserve of fuel and oil would not last indefinitely and if they were unable to find the polar opening, while they still had sufficient in reserve to carry them back to civilization, they must resign themselves to remaining in Pellucidar for the rest of their lives.There were two climbing shafts on the ship, if you remember. The forward one terminated in a small gun and observation cabin, but we were not told about the other shaft, but we can safely assume since the forward shaft was forward, then the other, which must have been the one used by Robert Jones, must have been the aft, or rear, shaft, which would not have a cabin in which it terminated because its hatch opened directly on the walkingway. It is interesting as to why ERB chose this moment for comic relief. Did he sense the need in the reader? It’s a mystery to me.
Lieutenant Hines finally broached this subject and the two officers, after summoning Lieutenant Dorf to their conference, decided that before their fuel was entirely exhausted they would try and locate some district where they might be reasonably free from attacks by savage tribesmen, or the even more dangerous menace of the mighty carnivores of Pellucidar.
While the remaining officers of the 0-220 pondered the serious problems that confronted them, the great ship moved serenely through the warm Pellucidarian sunlight and the members of the crew went quietly and efficiently about their various duties.
Robert Jones of Alabama, however, was distressed. He seemed never to be able to accustom himself to the changed conditions of Pellicidar. He often mumbled to himself, shaking his head vehemently, and frequently he wound a battered alarm clock or took it down from the hook upon which it hung and held it to his ear.
Below the ship there unrolled a panorama of lovely sea coast, indented by many beautiful bays and inlets. There were rolling hills and plains and forests and winding rivers blue as turquois. It was a scene to inspire the loftiest sentiments in the lowliest heart nor was it without its effect upon the members of the ship’s company, which included many adventurous spirits, who would experience no regret should it develop that they must remain forever in this, to them, enchanted land. But there were others who had left loved ones at home and these were already beginning to discuss the possibilities of the future. With few exceptions, they were keen and intelligent men and fully as cognizant of the possible plight of the 0-220 as was its commander, but they had been chosen carefully and there was not one who waivered even momentarily in loyalty to Zuppner, for they well knew that whatever fate was to be theirs, he would share it with them and, too, they had confidence that if any man could extricate them from their predicament, it was he. And so the great ship rode its majestic way between the sun and earth and each part, whether mechanical or human, functioned perfectly.
The Captain and his Lieutenants discussed the future as Robert Jones laboriously ascended the climbing shaft to the walkingway upon the ship’s back, a hundred and fifty feet above his galley. He did not come entirely out of the climbing shaft onto the walkingway, but merely looked about the blue heaven and when his gaze had completed the circle, he hesitated a moment and then looked straight up, where, directly overhead, hung the eternal noonday sun of Pellucidar.
Robert Jones blinked his eyes and retreated into the shaft, closing the hatch after him. Muttering to himself, he descended carefully to the galley, crossed it, took the clock off its hook and, walking to an open port, threw it overboard.To the occupants of the longboat dancing over the blue waves, without means of determining either time or distance, the constant expectation of nearing their journey’s end lessened the monotony as did the oft recurring attacks of the frightful denizens of this Mesozoic sea. To the highly civilized American the utter timelessness of Pellucidarian existence brought a more marked nervous reaction than to the others. To a lesser degree Tarzan felt it, while the Waziri were only slightly conscious of the anomalous conditions. Upon the Pellucidarians, accustomed to no other state, it had no effect whatever. It was apparent when Tarzan and Jason discussed the matter with them that they had practically no conception of the meaning of time.You saw something like this coming, didn’t you? Kennedy said in the early 1960s that we would go to the moon and back in this decade, not because it is easy, but because it is hard. Well, nothing is ever easy for the characters in an ERB story.
But time did elapse, leagues of ocean passed beneath them and conditions changed.
As they moved along the coast their course changed; though without instruments or heavenly bodies to guide them they were not aware of it. For a while they had moved northeast and then, for a long distance, to the east, where the coast curved gradually until they were running due north.
Instinct told the Korsars that they had come about three quarters of the distance from the island where they had outfitted to their destination. A land breeze was blowly stiffly and they were tacking briskly up the coast at a good clip. Lajo was standing erect in the bow apparently sniffing the air, as might a hunting dog searching out a scent spoor. Presently he turned to Tarzan.
“We had better put in to the coast,” he said. “We are in for a stiff blow.” But it was too late, the wind and the sea mounted to such proportions that finally they had to abandon the attempt and turn and flee before the storm.There was no rain nor lightning, for there were no clouds – just a terrific wind that rose to hurricane violence and stupendous sea that threatened momentarily to engulf them.ERB never gets tired of having his characters arriving at false assumptions, because he knew that this was the plague of all mankind, and even though it is a curse, he could find drama and humor in it. After all, there is a storm going on all around them – a harrowing scene right out of Men Against the Sea., where Captain Bligh commands the longboat of the H.M.S Bounty on a journey of over a thousand miles across an open sea after they were left stranded by Fletcher Christian after the famous mutiny.
The Waziri were frankly terrified, for the sea was not their element. The mountain girl and her brother seemed awed, but if they felt fear they gave no outward indication of it. Tarzan and Jason were convinced that the boat could not live and the latter made his way to where Jana sat huddled upon a thwart. The howling of the wind made speech almost impossible, but he bent low placing his lips close to her ear.
“Jana,” he said, “it is impossible for this small boat to ride out such a storm. We are going to die, but before we die, whether you hate me or not, I am going to tell you that I love you,” and then before she could reply, before she could humiliate him further, he turned away and moved forward to where he had been before.
He knew that he had done wrong; he knew that he had no right to tell Thoar’s sweetheart that he loved her; it had been an act of disloyalty and yet a force greater than loyalty, greater than pride, had compelled him to speak those words – he could not die with them unspoken. Perhaps it had been a little easier because he could not help but have noticed the seemingly platonic relationship which existed between Thoar and Jana and being unable to picture Jana as platonic in love, he had assumed that Thoar did not appreciate her. He was always kind to her and always pleasant, but he had never been quite as thoughtful of her as Jason thought that he should have been. He felt that perhaps it was one of the strange inflections of Pellucidarian character, but it was difficult to know either Jana or Thoar and also to believe that, for they were evidently quite as normal human beings as was he, and though they had much of the natural primitive reserve and dignity that civilized man now merely affects; yet it seemed unlikely that either one of them could have been for so long a time in close association without inadvertently, at least, having given some indication of their love. “Why?” mused Jason, “they might be brother and sister from the way they act.”By some miracle of fate the boat lived through the storm, but when the wind diminished and the seas went down there were only tumbling waters to be seen on every hand; nor any sign of land.You have to read the previous Pellucidar novels to understand who all of these people are, but trust me, they all proved to be great heroes from their tribes.
“Now that we have lost the coast, Lajo, how are we going to set our course for Korsar?” asked Tarzan.
“It will not be easy,” replied Lajo. “The only guide that we have is the wind. We are well out on the Korsar Az and I know from which direction the wind usually blows. By keeping always on the same tack we shall eventually reach land and probably not far from Korsar.”
“What is that?” asked Jana, pointing, and all eyes turned in the direction that she indicated.
“It is a sail,” said Lajo presently. “We are saved.”
“But suppose the ship is manned by unfriendly people?” asked Jason.
“It is not,” said Lajo. “It is manned by Korsars, for no other ships sail the Korsar Az.”
“There is another,” exclaimed Jana. “There are many of them.”
“Come about and run for it,” said Tarzan; “perhaps they have not seen us yet.”
“Why should we try to escape?” asked Lajo.
“Because we have not enough men to fight them,” replied Tarzan. “They may not be your enemies, but they will be ours.”
Lajo did as he was bid, nor had he any alternative since the Korsars aboard were only three unarmed men, while there were ten Waziri with rifles.
All eyes watched the sails in the distance and it soon became apparent that they were coming closer, for the longboat, with its small sail, was far from fast. Little by little the distance between them and the ships decreased until was evident that they were being pursued by a considerable fleet.
“Those are no Korsars,” said Lajo. “I have never seen ships like those before.”
The longboat wallowed through the sea making the best headway that it could, but the pursuing ships, stringing out as far as the eye could reach until their numbers presented the appearance of a vast armada, continued to close up rapidly upon it.
The leading ship was now closing up so swiftly upon them that the occupants of the longboat had an excellent view of it. It was short and broad of beam with rather a high bow. It had two sails and in addition was propelled by oars, which protruded through ports along each side, there being some fifty oars all told. Above the line of oars, over the sides of the ship, were hung the shields of the warriors.
“Lord!” exclaimed Jason to Tarzan; “Pellucidar not only boasts Spanish pirates, but vikings as well, for if those are not viking ships they certainly are an adaptation of them.”
“Slightly modernized, however,” remarked the Lord of the Jungle. “There is a gun mounted on a small deck built in the bow.”
“So there is,” exclaimed Jason, “and I think we had better come about. There is a fellow up there turning it on us now.”
Presently another man appeared upon the elevated bow deck of the enemy. “Heave to,” he cried, “or I’ll blow you out of the water.”
“Who are you?” demanded Jason.
“I am Ja of Anoroc,” replied the man, “and this is the fleet of David I, Emperor of Pellucidar.”
“Come about,” said Tarzan to Lajo.
“Someone in this boat must have been born on Sunday,” exclaimed Jason. “I never knew there was so much good luck in the world.”
“Who are you?” demanded Ja as the longboat came slowly about.
“We are friends,” replied Tarzan.
“The Emperor of Pellucidar can have no friends upon the Korsar Az,” replied Ja.
“If Abner Perry is with you, we can prove that you are wrong,” replied Jason.
“Abner Perry is not with us,” said Ja; “but what do you know of him?”
By this time the two boats were alongside and the bronzed Mesop warriors of Ja’s crew were gazing down curiously upon the occupants of the boat.
“This is Jason Gridley,” said Tarzan to Ja, indicating the American. “Perhaps you have heard Abner Perry speak of him. He organized an expedition in the outer world to come here to rescue David Innes from the dungeons of the Korsars.”
The three Korsars on the longboat made Ja suspicious, but when a full explanation had been made and especially when he had examined the rifles of the Waziri, he became convinced of the truth of their statements and welcomed them warmly aboard his ship, about which were now gathered a considerable number of the armada. When word was passed among them that two of the strangers were friends from the outer world and who had come to assist in the rescue of David Innes, a number of the captains of other ships came aboard Ja’s flagship to greet Tarzan and Jason. Among these captains were Dacor the Strong One, brother of Dian the Beautiful, Empress of Pellucidar; Kolk, son of Goork, who is chief of the Thurians; and Tanar, son of Ghak, the Hairy One, King of Sari.From these Tarzan and Jason learned that this fleet was on its way to effect the rescue of David. It had been building for a great while, so long that they had forgotten how many times they had eaten and slept since the first keel was laid, and then they had had to find a way into the Korsar Az from the Lural Az, where the ships were built upon the island of Anoroc.Jason must have forgotten about his own descent in a parachute, but that is easy to believe, because, after all, he didn’t remember a thing about it; but it was witnessed by Jana and the Phelians. Other than that, this scene is a comic masterpiece.
“Far down the Sojar Az beyond the Land of Awful Shadow we found a passage that led to the Korsar Az. The Thurians had heard of it and while the fleet was building they sent warriors out to see if it was true and they found the passage and soon we shall be there before the city of Korsar.”
“How did you expect to rescue David with only a dozen men?” asked Tanar.
“We are not all here,” said Tarzan. “We became separated from our companions and have been unable to find them. However, they were not very many men in our expedition. We depended upon other means than manpower to effect the rescue of your Emperor.”
At this moment a great cry arose from one of the ships. The excitement rose and spread. The warriors were all looking into the air and pointing. Already some of them were elevating the muzzles of their cannons and all were preparing their rifles, and as Tarzan and Jason looked up they saw the 0-220 far above them.
The dirigible had evidently discovered the fleet and was descending toward it in a wide spiral.
“Now I know that somone was born on Sunday,” said Jason. “That is our ship. Those are our friends,” he added, turning to Ja.
All that transpired on board the flagship passed quickly from ship to ship until every member of the armada knew that the great thing hovering above them was no gigantic flying reptile, but a ship of the air in which were friends of Abner Perry and their beloved Emperor, David I.
Slowly the great ship settled down toward the surface of the sea and as it did so Jason Gridley borrowed a spear from one of the warriors and tied Lajo’s head handkerchief to its tip. With this improvised flag he signalled, “0-220 ahoy! This is the war fleet of David I, Emperor of Pellucidar, commanded by Ja of Anoroc; Lord Greystoke, ten Waziri and Jason Gridley aboard.”
A moment later a gun boomed from the rear turret of the 0-220, marking the beginning of the first international salute of twenty-one guns that had ever reverberated beneath the eternal sun of Pellucidar, and when the significance of it was explained to Ja he returned the salute with the bow gun of his flagship.
The dirigible dropped lower until it was within speaking distance of the flagship.
“Are you all well aboard?” asked Tarzan.
“Yes,” came back the reassuring reply in Zuppner’s booming tone.
“Is Von Horst with you?” asked Jason.
“No,” replied Zuppner.
“Then he alone is missing,” said Jason sadly.
“Can you drop a sling and take us aboard?” asked Tarzan.
Zuppner maneuvered the dirigible to within fifty feet of the deck of Ja’s flagship, a sling was lowered and one after another the members of the party were taken on board the 0-220, the Waziri first and then Jana and Thoar, followed by Jason and Tarzan, the three Korsars being left prisoners with Ja with the understanding that they were to be treated humanely.
Before Tarzan left the deck of the flagship he told Ja that if he would proceed toward Korsar, the dirigible would keep in touch with him and in the meantime they would be perfecting plans for the rescue of David Innes.
As Thoar and Jana were hoisted aboard the 0-220, they were filled with a boundless amazement. To them such a creation as the giant dirigible was inconceivable. As Jana expressed it afterward: “I knew that I was dreaming, but yet at the same time I knew that I could not dream about such a thing as this because no such thing existed.”
Jason introduced Jana and Thoar to Zuppner and Hines, but Lieutenant Dorf did not come to the cabin until after Tarzan had boarded the ship, and it was the latter who introduced them to Dorf.
He presented Lieutenant Dorf to Jana and then, indicating Thoar, “This is Thoar, the brother of The Red Flower of Zoram.”
As those words broke upon the ears of Jason Gridley he reacted almost as to the shock of a physical blow. He was glad that no one chanced to be looking at him at the time and instantly he regained his composure, but it left him with a distinct feeling of injury. They had all known it and none of them had told him. He was almost angry at them until it occurred to him that they had all probably assumed that he had known it too, and yet try as he would he could not quite forgive Jana. But, really, what difference did it make, for, whether sister or mate of Thoar or another, he knew that The Red Flower of Zoram was not for him. She had made that definitely clear in her attitude toward him, which had convinced him even more definitely than had her bitter words,
The reunited officers of the expedition had much to discuss and many reminiscences to narrate as the 0-220 followed above the slowly moving fleet. It was a happy reunion, clouded only by the absence of Von Horst.
As the dirigible moved slowly across the waters of the Korsar Az, Zuppner dropped occasionally to within speaking distance of Ja of Anoroc, and when the distant coast of Korsar was sighted a sling was lowered and Ja was taken aboard the 0-220, where plans for the rescue of David Innes were discussed, and when they were perfected Ja was returned to his ship, and Lajo and the other two Korsars where taken aboard the dirigible.
The three prisoners were filled with awe and consternation as Jason and Tarzan personally conducted them throughout the giant craft. They were shown the armament, which was carefully explained to them, special stress being laid upon the destructive power of the bombs which the 0-220 carried.
“One of these,” said Jason to Lajo, “would blow The Cid’s palace a thousand feet into the air and, as you see, we have many of them. We could destroy all of Korsar and all the Korsar ships.”
While Ja’s fleet was still a considerable distance off the coast, the 0-220 raced ahead at full speed toward Korsar, for the plan which they had evolved was such that, if successful, David’s release would be effected without the shedding of blood – a plan which was especially desirable since if it was necessary to attack Korsar either from the sea or the air, the Emperor’s life would be placed in jeopardy from the bombs and cannons of his friends, as well as from a possible spirit of vengeance which might animate The Cid.
As the dirigible glided almost silently over the city of Korsar, the streets and courtyards filled with people staring upward in awe-struck wonder.
Three thousand feet above the city the ship stopped and Tarzan sent for the three Korsar prisoners.
“As you know,” he said to them, “we are in a position to destroy Korsar. You have seen the great fleet coming to rescue the Emperor of Pellucidar. You know that every warrior manning those ships is armed with a weapon far more effective than your best; even with their knives and spears and their bows and arrows they might take Korsar without their rifles, but they have the rifles and they have better ammunition than yours and in each ship of the fleet cannons are mounted. Alone the fleet could reduce Korsar, but in addition to the fleet there is this airship. Your shots could never reach it as it sailed back and forth above Korsar, dropping bombs upon the city. Do you think, Lajo, that we can take Korsar?”
“I know it,” replied the Korsar.
“Very well,” said Tarzan. “I am going to send you with a message to The Cid. Will you tell him the truth?”
“I will,” replied Lajo.
“The message is simple,” continued Tarzan. “You may tell him that we have come to effect the release of the Emperor of Pellucidar. You may explain to him the means that we have to enforce our demands, and then you may say to him that if he will place the Emperor upon a ship and take him out to our fleet and deliver him unharmed to Ja of Anoroc, we will return to Sari without firing a shot. Do you understand?”
“I do,” said Lajo.
“Very well, then,” said Tarzan. He turned to Dorf, “Lieutenant, will you take him now?” he asked.
Dorf approached with a bundle in his hand. “Slip into this,” he said.
“What is it?” asked Lajo.
“It is a parachute,” said Dorf.
“What is that?” demanded Lajo.
“Here,” said Dorf, “you put your arms through here.” A moment later he had the parachute adjusted upon the Korsar.
“Now,” said Jason, “a great distinction is going to be conferred upon you – you are going to make the first parachute jump that has ever been witnessed in Pellucidar.”“I don’t understand what you mean,” said Lajo.
“You will presently,” said Jason. “You are going to take Lord Greystoke’s message to The Cid.”
“But you will have to bring the ship down to the ground before I can,” objected Lajo.
“On the contrary we are going to stay right where we are,” said Jason; “you are going to jump overboard.”
“What?” exclaimed Lajo. “You are going to kill me?”
“No,” said Jason with a laugh. “Listen carefully to what I tell you and you will land safely. You have seen some wonderful things on board this ship so you must have some conception of what we of the outer world can do. Now you are going to have a demonstration of another very wonderful invention and you may take my word for it that no harm will befall you if you do as precisely as I tell you to. Here is an iron ring,” and he touched the ring opposite Lajo’s left breast; “take hold of it with your right hand. After you jump from the ship, pull it; give it a good jerk and you will float down to the ground as lightly as a feather.”
“I will be killed,” objected Lajo.
“If you are a coward,” said Jason, “perhaps one of these other men is braver than you. I tell you that you will not be hurt.”
“I am not afraid,” said Lajo. “I will jump.”
“Tell The Cid,” said Tarzan, “that if we do not see presently a ship sail out alone to meet the fleet, we shall start dropping bombs upon the city.”
Dorf led Lajo to a door in the cabin and flung it open. The man hesitated.
“Do not forget to jerk the ring,” said Dorf, and at that same time he gave Lajo a violent push that sent him headlong through the doorway and a moment later the watchers in the cabin saw the white folds of the parachute streaming in the air. They saw it open and they knew that the message of Tarzan would be delivered to The Cid.
What went on in the city below we may not know, but presently a great crowd was seen to move from the palace down toward the river, where the ships were anchored, and a little later one of the ships weighed anchor and as it drifted slowly with the current its sails were set and presently it was moving directly out to sea toward the fleet from Sari.
The 0-220 followed above it and Ja’s flagship moved forward to meet it, and thus David Innes, Emperor of Pellucidar, was returned to his people.
As the Korsar ship turned back to port the dirigible dropped low above the flagship of the Sarian fleet and greetings were exchanged between David and his rescuers – men from another world whom he had never seen.
The Emperor was half starved and very thin and weak from his long period of confinement, but otherwise he had been unharmed, and great was the rejoicing aboard the ships of Sari as they turned back to cross the Korsar Az toward their own land.
Tarzan was afraid to accompany the fleet back to Sari for fear that their rapidly diminishing store of fuel would not be sufficient to complete the trip and carry them back to the outer world. He followed the fleet only long enough to obtain from David explicit directions for reaching the polar opening from the city of Korsar.
“We have another errand to fulfill first,” said Jason to Tarzan. “We must return Thoar and Jana to Zoram.”
“Yes,” said the ape-man, “and drop these two Korsars off near their city. I have thought of all that and we shall have fuel enough for that purpose.”
“I am not going to return with you,” said Jason. “I wish to be put aboard Ja’s flagship.”
“What?” exclaimed Tarzan. “You are going to remain here?”
“This expedition was undertaken at my suggestion. I feel responsible for the life and safety of every man in it and I shall never return to the outer world while the fate of Lieutenant Von Horst remains a mystery.”
“But how can you find Von Horst if you go back to Sari with the fleet?” asked Tarzan.
“I shall ask David Innes to equip an expedition to go in search of him,” replied Jason, “and with such an expedition made up of native Pellucidarians I shall stand a very much better chance of finding him than we would in the 0-220.”
“I quite agree with you,” said Tarzan, “and if you are unalterably determined to carry out your project, we will lower you to Ja’s flagship immediately.”
As the 0-220 dropped toward Ja’s flagship and signalled it to heave to, Jason gathered what belongings he wished to take with him, including rifles and revolvers and plenty of ammunition. These were lowered first to Ja’s ship, while Jason bid farewell to his companions of the expedition.
“Good-bye, Jana,” he said, after he had shaken hands with the others.
The girl made no reply, but instead turned to her brother.
“Good-bye, Thoar,” she said.
“Good-bye?” he asked. “What do you mean?”
“I am going to Sari with the man I love,” replied The Red Flower of Zoram.
That was quite an adventure with a humorous ending, wasn’t it? And when you really think about it, didn’t the story occur in more of a way that resembled a screen play rather than a traditional novel, like Moby Dick? ERB stated that his main literary influences came from classic mythology, but since he began his official writing career at the dawn of the moving pictures, that influence is easy to discern in his writing style. Hollywood and ERB had a very symbiotic relationship that still exists today.
What has Jason gotten himself into now that The Red Flower of Zoram had expressed her weird love for him? And did you enjoy how ERB wrapped up the rescue of David Innes from the dungeons of the Korsars? And wouldn’t you love to know the fate of the 0-220, since it is never utilized again in a Tarzan plot?
Oh, well, in a few years Hitler would succeed in taking over Germany, well on the start of his mission to kill scores of millions of people. It would have been a sad thing to have this super vacuum airship used for military purposes with a bright red Nazi swastika blazed on its hull. Adios, amigos. It was real fun sharing this wonderful story with you.
TARZAN AT THE EARTH'S CORE IN ERBzine C.H.A.S.E.R.
Tarzan at the Earth's Core :: TEXT
INTRODUCTORY AND CONTENTS PAGE FOR
THE EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS SERIES OF ARTICLES
BY WOODROW EDGAR NICHOLS, JR.
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