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Volume 3982

Part Twenty-One
Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
(Dedicated to George McWhorter)

(Chapter 2 concluded)
We left our hero, Bradley, checking out of one of the weirdest restaurants in the world of imagination. It seems that the Wieroo have some kind of economic system because his meal is not free; someone has to pay for it. It took a very brave man to wander into the establishment alone with only the name of another Wieroo to allegedly protect him. As it is, he still has his pistol and ammunition belt and can probably handle himself if attacked by one or two Wieroos, but he would have little chance if more than that were in the melee. We left him musing on the gradual evolution of man into bird-man:
“As these thoughts flashed through his mind, the Wieroo held out a pen of bone fixed to a wooden holder and at the same time made a sign that Bradley was to write upon the paper. It was difficult to judge from the expressionless features of the Wieroo what was passing in the creature’s mind, but Bradley could not but feel that the thing cast as supercilious glance upon him as must as to say, ‘Of course you do not know how to write, you poor, low creature; but you can make your mark.’
“Bradley seized the pen and in a clear, bold hand wrote: ‘John Bradley, England.’ The Wieroo showed evidences of consternation as it seized the piece of paper and examined the writing with every mark of incredulity and surprise. Of course it could make nothing of the strange characters; but it evidently accepted them as proof that Bradley possessed knowledge of a written language of his own, for following the Englishman’s entry it made a few characters of its own.
“‘Reassuring cuss,’ thought Bradley as he turned and left the building.
“Outside were several of the Wieroos that had been eating at the pedestals within. They immediately surrounded him, asking all sorts of questions, plucking at his garments, his ammunition-belt and his pistol. Their demeanor was entirely different from what it had been within the eating-place and Bradley was to learn that a house of food was sanctuary for him, since the stern laws of theWieroo forbade altercations within such walls. Now they were rough and threatening, as with wings half spread they hovered about him in menacing attitudes, barring his way to the ladder leading to the roof from whence he had descended; but the Englishman was not one to brook interference for long. He attempted at first to push his way past them, and then when one seized his arm and jerked him roughly back, Bradley swung upon the creature and with a heavy blow to the jaw felled it.
“Instantly pandemonium reigned. Loud wails arose, great wings opened and closed with a loud, beating noise and many clawlike hands reached forth to clutch him. Bradley struck to right and left. He dared not use the pistol for fear that once they discovered its power he would be overcome by weight of numbers and relieved of possession of what he considered his trump card, to be reserved until the last moment that it might be used to aid in his escape, for already the Englishman was planning, though almost hopelessly, such an attempt.
“A few blows convinced Bradley that the Wieroos were arrant cowards and that they bore no weapons, for after two or three had fallen beneath his fists the others formed a circle about him, but at a safe distance, and contented themselves with threatening and blustering, while those whom he had felled lay upon the pavement without trying to arise, the while they moaned and wailed in lugubrious chorus. 
“Again Bradley strode toward the ladder, and this time the circle parted before him; but no sooner had he ascended a few rungs than he was seized by one foot and an effort made to drag him down. With a quick backward glance the Englishman, clinging firmly to the ladder with both hands, drew up his free foot and with all the strength of a powerful leg planted a heavy shoe squarely in the flat face of the Wieroo that held him. Shrieking horribly, the creature clapped both hands to its face and sank to the ground while Bradley clambered quickly the remaining distance to the roof, though no sooner did he reach the top of the ladder
than a great flapping of wings beneath him warned him that the Wieroos were rising after him. A moment later they swarmed about his head as he ran for the apartment in which he had spent the early hours of the morning after his arrival.
“It was but a short distance from the top of the ladder to the doorway, and Bradley had almost reached his goal when the door flew open and Fosh-bal-soj stepped out. Immediately the pursuing Wieroos demanded punishment of the jaal-lu who had so grievously maltreated them. Fosh-bal-soj listened to their complaints and then with a sudden sweep of his right hand seized Bradley by the scruff of the neck and hurled him sprawling through the doorway upon the floor of the chamber.
“So sudden was the assault and so surprising the strength of the Wieroo that the Englishman was taken completely off his guard. When he arose, the door was closed, and Fosh-bal-soj was standing over him, the hideous face contorted into an expression of rage and hatred.
“‘Hyena, snake, lizard!’ he screamed. ‘You would dare lay your low, vile, profaning hands upon even the lowliest of the Wieroos – the sacred, chosen of Luata!’
“Bradley was mad, and so he spoke in a very low, calm voice while a halfsmile played across his lips; but his cold, gray eyes were unsmiling.
“‘What you did to me just now,’ he said – ‘– I am going to kill you for that,’ and even as he spoke, he launched himself at the throat of Fosh-bal-soj. The other Wieroo that had been asleep when Bradley left the chamber had departed, and the two were alone. Fosh-bal-soj displayed little of the cowardice of those that had attacked Bradley in the alley-way, but that may have been because he had no slight opportunity, for Bradley had him by the throat before he could utter a cry and with his right hand struck him heavily and repeatedly upon his face and over his heart – ugly, smashing, short-arm jabs of the sort that take the fight out of a man in quick time. 
“But Fosh-bal-soj was of no mind to die passively. He clawed and struck at Bradley while with his great wings he attempted to shield himself from the merciless rain of blows, at the same time searching for a hold upon his antagonist’s throat. Presently, he succeeded in tripping the Englishman, and together the two fell heavily to the floor, Bradley underneath, and at the same instant the Wieroo fastened his long talons about the other’s windpipe. 
“Fosh-bal-soj was possessed of enormous strength and he was fighting for his life. The Englishman soon realized that the battle was going against him. Already his lungs were pounding painfully for air as he reached for his pistol. It was with difficulty that he drew it from its holster, and even then, with death staring him in the face, he thought of his precious ammunition. ‘Can’t waste it,’ he thought; and slipping his fingers to the barrel he raised the weapon and struck Fosh-bal-soj a terrible blow between the eyes. Instantly the clawlike fingers released their hold, and the creature sank limply to the floor beside Bradley, who lay for several minutes gasping painfully in an effort to regain his breath.
“When we was able, he rose and leaned close over the Wieroo, lying silent and motionless, his wings dropping limply and his great, round eyes staring blankly toward the ceiling. A brief examination convinced Bradley that the thing was dead, and with the conviction came an overwhelming sense of the dangers which must now confront him; but how was he to escape?” (OTA/2.)
That was quite a fight, wasn’t it? At the end I was reminded of the classic James Bond versus Red Grant fight aboard the Orient Express in From Russia with Love. It almost went down in exactly the same manner, with Bond almost a gonner when he flicks out the secret knife in his trick brief case and saves himself in the nick of time. Like I said, ERB knew how to write action.

And you have to hand it to Bradley – he managed to kill the Wieroo without wasting a round of ammunition and giving away his trump card. Now he must ask himself, what would Indiana Jones do in this situation?

“His first thought was to find some means for concealing the evidence of his deed and then to make a bold effort to escape. Stepping to the second door he pushed it gently open and peered in upon what seemed to be a store room. In it was a litter of cloth such as the Wieroo’s robes were fashioned from, a number of chests painted blue and white, with white hieroglyphics painted in bold strokes upon the blue and blue hieroglyphics upon the white. In one corner was a pile of human skulls reaching almost to the ceiling and in another a stack of dried Wieroo wings. The chamber was as irregularly shaped as the other and had but a single window and a second door at the further end, but was without the exit through the roof and, most important of all, there was no creature of any sort in it. 
“As quickly as possible Bradley dragged the dead Wieroo through the doorway and closed the door; then he looked about for a place to conceal the corpse. One of the chests was large enough to hold the body if the knees were bent well up, and with this idea in view Bradley approached the chest to open it. The lid was made in two pieces, each being hinged at an opposite end of the chest, making a snug, well-fitting joint. There was no lock. Bradley raised one half the cover and looked in. With a smothered ‘By Jove!’ he bent closer to examine the contents – the chest was about half filled with an assortment of golden trinkets. There were what appeared to be bracelets, anklets and brooches of virgin gold.
“Realizing that there was no room in the chest for the body of the Wieroo, Bradley turned to seek another means of concealing the evidence of his crime. There was a space between the chests and the wall, and into this he forced the corpse, piling the discarded robes upon it until it was entirely hidden from sight; but now how was he to make good his escape in the bright glare of that early Spring day?” (OTA/2.)
It first appears as if ERB got his seasons mixed up here. According to my calculations it is September 15, 1916, the following day after his capture; in fact, almost Autumn, and far from Spring in the Northern Hemisphere. But we are, of course, down under where the seasons are reversed, so he is just having a little fun.
“He walked to the door at the far end of the apartment and cautiously opened it an inch. Before him and about two feet away was the blank wall of another building. Bradley opened the door a little farther and looked in both directions. There was no one in sight to the left over a considerable expanse of roof-top, and to the right another building shut off his line of vision at about twenty feet. Slipping out, he turned to the right and in a few steps found a narrow passageway between two buildings. Turning into this he passed about half its length when he saw a Wieroo appear at the opposite end and halt. The creature was not looking down the passageway; but at any moment it might turn its eyes toward him, when he would be immediately discovered.
“To Bradley’s left was a triangular niche in the wall of one of the houses, and into this he dodged, thus concealing himself from the sight of the Wieroo. Beside him was a door painted a vivid yellow and constructed after the same fashion as the other Wieroo doors he had seen, being made up of countless narrow strips of wood from four to six inches in length laid on in patches of about the same width, the strips in adjacent patches never running in the same direction. The result bore some resemblance to a crazy patchwork quilt, which was heightened when, as in one of the doors he had seen, contiguous patches were painted different colors. The strips appeared to have been bound together and to the underlying framework of the door with gut or fiber and also glued, after which a thick coating of paint had been applied. One edge of the door was formed of a straight, round pole about two inches in diameter that protruded at top and bottom, the projections setting in round holes in both lintel and sill and forming the axis upon which the door swung. An eccentric disk upon the inside face of the door engaged a slot in the frame when it was desired to secure the door against intruders.
“As Bradley stood flattened against the wall waiting for the Wieroo to move on, he heard the creature’s wings brushing against the sides of the buildings as it made its way down the narrow passage in his direction. As the yellow door offered the only means of escape without detection, the Englishman decided to risk whatever might lie beyond it, and so, boldly pushing it in, he crossed the threshold and entered a small apartment. 
“As he did so, he heard a muffled ejaculation of surprise, and turning his eyes in the direction from whence the sound had come, he beheld a wide-eyed girl standing flattened against the opposite wall, an expression of incredulity upon her face. At a glance he saw that she was of no race of humans that he had come in contact with since his arrival upon Caprona – there was no trace about her form or features of any relationship to those low orders of men, nor was she appareled as they – or, rather, she did not entirely lack apparel as did most of them.
“A soft hide fell from her left shoulder to just below her left hip on one side and almost to her right knee on the other, a loose girdle was about her waist, and golden ornaments such as he had seen in the blue-and-white chest encricled her arms and legs, while a golden fillet with a triangular diadem bound her heavy hair above her brows. Her skin was white as from a long confinement within doors; but it was clear and fine. Her figure, but partially concealed by the soft deerskin, was all curves of symmetry and youthful grace, while her features might easily have been the envy of the most feted of Continental beauties.” (OTA/2.)
We’ve had enough experience with Ajor to know that Bradley is looking at a Galu woman. He left out the part, of course, about her right breast and vulva being exposed; however, he suggested a little more covering by changing Ajor’s “belt” into the Galu girl’s “loose girdle.”

He also left out the leopard’s tail descending from her left shoulder, but big deal! It must have been a real shwing! moment just the same. Now, the only question that remains is whether or not Bradley regards himself as a ladies’ man.

“If the girl was surprised by the sudden appearance of Bradley, the latter was absolutely astounded to discover so wondrous a creature among the hideous inhabitants of the City of Human Skulls. For a moment the two looked at one another in unconcealed consternation, and then Bradley spoke, using, to the best of his poor ability, the common tongue of Caspak.
“‘Who are you?’ he asked, ‘and from where do you come? Do not tell me that you are a Wieroo.’
“‘No,’ she replied, ‘I am no Wieroo.’ And she shuddered slightly as she pronounced the word. ‘I am a Galu; but who and what are you? I am sure that you are no Galu, from your garments; but you are like the Galus in other respects. I know that you are not of this frightful city, for I have been here for almost ten moons, and never have I seen a male Galu brought hither before, nor are there such as you and I, other than prisoners in the land of Oo-oh, and these are all females. Are you a prisoner, then?’
“He told her briefly who and what he was, though he doubted if she understood, and from her he learned that she had been a prisoner there for many months; but for what purpose he did not then learn, as in the midst of their conversation the yellow door swung open and a Wieroo with a robe slashed with yellow entered.
“At sight of Bradley the creature became furious. ‘Whence came this reptile?’ it demanded of the girl. ‘How long has it been here with you?’
“‘It came through the doorway just ahead of you,’ Bradley answered for the girl.
“The Wieroo looked relieved. ‘It is well for the girl that this is so,’ it said, ‘for now only you will have to die.’ And stepping to the door the creature raised its voice in one of those uncanny depressing wails.” (OTA/2.)
It appears to me that the Wieroo was worried about the girl being sexually defiled by Bradley. For if she is cos-ata-lo, then she was born vaginally as a Galu, and did not come up from the beginning with the obvious amount of sexual partners that that encompasses. In other words, she is a virgin through and through. And I don’t know about you, but that Wieroo wail reminds me of the wail of the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Creepy to the max.
“The Englishman looked toward the girl. ‘Shall I kill it?’ he asked, half drawing his pistol. ‘What is best to do? – I do not wish to endanger you.’ 
“The Wieroo backed toward the door. ‘Defiler!’ it screamed. ‘You dare to threaten one of the sacred chosen of Luata!’
“‘Do not kill him,’ cried the girl, ‘for then there could be no hope for you. That you are here, alive, shows that they may not intend to kill you at all, and so there is a chance for you if you do not anger them; but touch him in violence and your beheaded skull will top the loftiest pedestal of Oo-oh.’
“‘And what of you?’ asked Bradley.
“‘I am already doomed,’ replied the girl; ‘I am cos-ata-lo.’
“Cos-ata-lo! cos-ata-lu! What did these phrases men that they were so oft repeated by the denizens of Oo-oh? Lu and lo, Bradley knew to be man and woman; ata was employed variously to indicate life, eggs, young, and reproduction and kindred subject; cos was a negative; but in combination they were meaningless to the European.
“‘Do you mean they will kill you?’ asked Bradley.
“‘I but wish that they would,’ replied the girl. ‘My fate is to be worse than death – in just a few nights more, with the coming of the new moon.’
“‘Poor she-snake!’ snapped the Wieroo. ‘You are to become sacred above all other shes. He Who Speaks for Luata has chosen you for himself. Today you go to his temple’ – the Wieroo used a phrase meaning literally High Place – ‘where you will receive the sacred commands.’
“The girl shuddered and cast a sorrowful glance toward Bradley. ‘Ah,’ she sighed, ‘if I could see my beloved country once again!’
“The man stepped suddenly close to her side before the Wieroo could interpose himself and in a low voice asked her if there was no way by which he might encompass her escape. She shook her head sorrowfully. ‘Even if we escaped the city,’ she replied, ‘there is the big water between the island of Oo-oh and the Galu shore.’
“‘And what is beyond the city, if we could leave it?’ pursued Bradley.
“‘I may only guess from what I have heard since I was brought here,’ she answered; ‘but by reports and chance remarks I take it to be a beautiful land in which there are but few wild beasts and no men, for only the Wieroos live upon this island and they dwell always in cities of which there are three, this being the largest. The others are at the far end of the island, which is about three marches from end to end and as its widest point about one march.’
“From his own experience and from what the natives on the mainland had told him, Bradley knew that ten miles was a good day’s march in Caspak, owing to the fact that at most points it was a trackless wilderness and at all times travelers were beset by hideous beasts and reptiles that greatly impeded rapid progress.
“The two had spoken rapidly but were now interrupted by the advent through the opening in the roof of several Wieroos who had come in answer to the alarm it of the yellow slashing had uttered.
“‘This jaal-lu,’ cried the offended one, ‘has threatened me. Take its hatchet from it and make it fast where it can do no harm until He Who Speaks for Luata has said what shall be done with it. It is one of those strange creatures that Fosh-bal-soj discovered first above the Band-lu country and followed back toward the beginning. He Who Speaks for Luata sent Fosh-bal-soj to fetch him one of the creatures, and here it is. It is hoped that it may be from another world and hold the secret of the cos-ata-lus.’
“The Wieroos approached boldly to take Bradley’s ‘hatchet’ from him, their leader having indicated the pistol hanging in its holster at the Englishman’s hip, but the first one went reeling backward against its fellows from the blow to the chin which Bradley followed up with a rush and the intention to clean up the room in record time; but he had reckoned without the opening in the roof. Two were down and a great wailing and moaning was arising when reinforcements appearead from above. Bradley did not see them; but the girl did, and though she cried out a warning, it came too late for him to avoid a large Wieroo who dived headforemost for him, striking him between the shoulders and bearing him to the floor. Instantly a dozen more were piling on top of him. His pistol was wrenched from its holster and he was securely pinioned down by the weight of numbers.
“At a word from the Wieroo of the yellow slashing, who evidently was a person of authority, one left and presently returned with fiber ropes with which Bradley was tightly bound.
“‘Now bear him to the Blue Place of Seven Skulls,’ directed the chief Wieroo, ‘and one take the word of all that has passed to Him Who Speaks for Luata.’
“Each of the creatures raised a hand, the back against its face, as though in salute. One seized Bradley and carried him through the yellow doorway to the roof from whence it rose upon its widespread wings and flapped off across the roof-tops of Oo-oh with its heavy burden clutched in its long talons.” (OTA/2.)
You have to hand it to Bradley; he’s one tough customer. But now he’s lost his trump card just when he needed it most.
“Below him Bradley could see the city stretching away to a distance on every hand. It was not as large as he had imagined, though he judged that it was at least three miles square. The houses were piled in indescribable heaps, sometimes to a height of a hundred feet. The streets and alleys were short and crooked and there were many areas where buildings had been wedged in so closely that no light could possibly reach the lowest tiers, the entire surface of the ground being packed solidly with them.
“The colors were varied and startling, the architecture amazing. Many roofs were cup or saucer-shaped with a small hole in the center of each, as though they had been constructed to catch rain-water and conduct it to a reservoir beneath; but nearly all the others had the large opening in the top that Bradley had seen used by these flying men in lieu of doorways. At all levels were the myriad poles surmounted by grinning skulls; but the two most prominent features of the city were the round tower of human skulls that Bradley had noted earlier in the day and another and much larger edifice near the center of the city. As they approached it, Bradley saw that it is was a huge building rising a hundred feet in height from the ground and that it stood alone in the center of what might have been called a plaza in some other part of the world. Its various parts, however, were set together with the same strange irregularity that marked the architecture of the city as a whole; and it was capped by an enormous saucer-shaped roof which projected far beyond the eaves, having the appearance of a colossal Chinese coolie hat, inverted.
“The Wieroo bearing Bradley passed over one corner of the open space about the large building, revealing to the Englishman grass and trees and running water beneath. They passed the building and about five hundred yards beyond the creature alighted on the roof of a square, blue building surmounted by seven poles bearing seven skulls. This then, thought Bradley, is the Place of Seven Skulls.
“Over the opening in the roof was a grated covering, and this the Wieroo removed. The thing then tied a piece of fiber rope to one of Bradley’s ankles and rolled him over the edge of the opening. All was dark below and for an instant the Englishman came as near to experiencing real terror as he had ever come in his life before. As he rolled off into the black abyss he felt the rope tighten about his ankle and an instant later he was stopped with a sudden jerk to swing pendulumlike, head downward. Then the creature lowered away until Bradley’s head came in sudden and painful contact with the floor below, after which the Wieroo let loose of the rope entirely and the Englishman’s body crashed to the wooden planking. He felt the free end of the rope dropped upon him and heard the grating being slid into place above him.” (OTA/2.)
On this sad cliffhanger note, Chapter 2 concludes. What is to become of Bradley?

Expect more thrills in Chapter 3.

(Continued in Part Twenty-Two)
(For any comments, contact


Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.
(Dedicated to George McWhorter)
ERBzine Refs
The Land that Time Forgot - eText edition

CASPAK IN REVIEW by Steve Servello
Caspak Dictionary by Banks Miller
Wieroo of Caprona by Den Valdron
The Mystery of Caprona by Den Valdron
Caspak Maps
Caspakian Demography
Caspakian Fauna
Caspak Art by Mahlon Blaine
Sociology of the Wieroo by Rick Johnson
Popular Science and the Land That Time Forgot by Phil Burger
LOOSE STRING ~ COS-ATA-LO by Sailor Barsoom
The Land That Time Forgot - Film Version
The Land That Time Forgot - ERB C.H.A.S.E.R.

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