The First and Only Weekly Online Fanzine Devoted to the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Webpages and Webzines in Archive
THE ETERNAL PILGRIM
This Thanksgiving tribute takes liberties and does deviate from ERB canon as well as historical fact.
It is intended purely for entertainment and is not a serious attempt at ERB Fiction.
I present it as a "Thanksgiving Treat" in the hope that you find adventure and fun this holiday.
“Eternal Pilgrim” first appeared on November 23, 2017 in my Facebook group
“For the Love of All Things Edgar Rice Burroughs”.
It was later included in ERB-APA #139.
The story shifts between time and location. Brackets are used to identify each jump.
Morning in Opar is the only peaceful time of day. The beastly priests slumber till noon recovering from their nightly orgy. The handmaidens are involved with laundry and housecleaning yet taking care to work quietly. And any nearby jungle creature moves in silence.
Nobody wants to wake the queen.
La, Queen of Opar, as on every morning was examining each hair upon her head giving a violent tug to any strands cursed with white or grey. No one was permitted in her quarters during this ritual. La was above the frailties of her subjects, or so she wanted them to believe.
In addition, La was developing a shopping list. Thanksgiving was only a day away and, as she had explained to her people, it could be a good practice in fellowship and good will to bring the holiday to Opar.
La selected her queen robe making sure it still fit after last night's bon-bons then made a mental note for her most trusted handmaiden to fashion a new robe with a more generous waist-line.
"I really need to learn how to sew", La muttered as she was relieved that her crown still fit.
Now suitably attired for the day's business and with shopping list in hand, La emerged from her quarters through the dark halls into the temple of the flaming god. She was well aware of the priests’ nightly frivolity. Both La and the hand maidens kept their doors locked such that the priests found companionship outside the city. La was surprised to find the temple totally empty. By this time some priests were usually in the temple mimicking the prayers of old.
"Cadj and his crew are more lax every day!" La stomped her foot in anger.
La knew from the stories handed down through Opar royalty as well as her own reading in the Hall of Records that the priests were only going through the motions but would never admit they did not understand the words they uttered. Their very speech of the ancient tongue was slurred and lacked meaning.
"But they still speak mangani fluently!" La fumed while thinking that the priests spend way too much time with the apes causing them to lose their humanity.
La's own reverence to the old beliefs and regard for the practices had long wavered but she knew her position and power was based on her subject’s adherence to those same beliefs. La was not ready to relinquish that power. What else could a girl do?
When La approached her throne she found two notes attached.
One note was from Cadj, the high priest. It read, "La, the priests and I have been invited to the Valley of the Diamonds for the weekend. See you Monday!" The note was signed with Cadj's unmistakable mark.
"This is an insult aimed direct at me!" La shouted to the empty room. "I explained that civilized people came together on this one day out of the year to put aside their differences and enjoy fellowship and be grateful for all they have. It seemed like a good idea!"
"That moron wants to party with the beasts on Thanksgiving weekend! Fine! I don't need them. I'll send the handmaidens out for a Turkey and we can still have our feast."
The other note was from the handmaidens. It read, "La we've all been invited to go skiing on Kilimanjaro. See you Monday."
La's jaw dropped as she fell into her throne. "They're all gone. They've left me here by myself on Thanksgiving weekend. What am I supposed to do?"
La slumped into her throne and stared in a daze at the Altar of the Flaming God. Remembering times past when the room was filled with her followers. There was chanting and drum beats. Dancers leaping in colorful costumes. And the victim tied to the altar with good reason to be terrified.
She held the sacrificial knife in her hand then tested it with a slight prick upon the thumb. "All sharpened up and no place to go", La said aloud. The whisper echoed through the empty temple.
"I know what's going on. I forbade the handmaidens from mixing with the priests. Those beasts do not know how to treat a lady. Why even though I once tried to sacrifice Tarzan he is much more of a gentleman than Cadj could ever hope to be."
"They've all left me. I guess no one believes in our people or our religion any more." Even though La's faith had been shaken long ago her heart still sank as she pondered an uncertain future.
"What does a Queen in a kingdom with no subjects do?" La scanned the empty temple room but no one was there to answer.
After a storm that must have lasted seven days the great ship finally found gentle waters and clear skies within sight of land. If anything the recent storm had proven the vessel to be sturdy.
Most of the passengers were a religious group, persecuted in England and seeking religious freedom in the New World. But the ship carried other passengers including , Josiah Quatermain, who was known to be a good hunter but in his heart, was an explorer. He had heard the New World was a fertile ground for discovery.
Josiah looked up to greet an approaching acquaintance. "Good Morning Stephen Hopkins! Have you any news?”
"I've just spoken with the captain. He says we were blown way off course. He believes that the land you see is the coast of Africa."
"Stephen that is not possible! The Dark Continent itself? Incredible that we would be that far off course!"
"Captain Christopher Jones, the pilot John Clarke, and the mate Robert Coppin are huddled around the map discussing Mr. Coppin's brief look at the stars this morning after the clouds cleared and before sunrise. He is confident of our location. But no one believes him."
"I am no ship-master but If there is any uncertainty as to our location I would expect them to stay near land until night for another star reading". Quatermain reached for his pipe but realized he'd lost it during the storm.
"That is what they intend to do. While they make repairs, they want us to go ashore to hunt and to confirm our location".
Quatermain looked about. “What kind of repairs? The masts look sturdy enough.”
“They said the main beam cracked. But instead of replacing it, the ship carpenter was talking about employing a giant screw that the passengers brought.”
“Really?” grunted Quatermain. “I’m sure the Pilgrim passengers will call it divine inspiration.”
Stephen seemed quite pleased at the prospect of adventure. "But before we agree to this I have one question. I'm not expecting a street sign or tavern about. How will we know this is Africa?"
Quatermain's eyes widened at the prospect. "If the stories I've heard are true. We will soon know! What a splendid opportunity to explore!"
Stephen tapped his friend on the chest. "I knew you'd go for it. You love an adventure! And I'll get material for my book!".
"That you will!" responded Quatermain still fumbling for the absent pipe. "Have you decided on a title for that book?"
Stephen's smile added inches to his height. "Why! Didn't I tell you? I'm calling it 'Here shall I die ashore'. What do you think?"
Quatermain, ever practical, bristled. "Well it is a grand title but I hope it doesn't come true on this trip."
Stephen the writer, brightened with a new-found phrase. "If we can survive last night's storm." He emphasized with an index finger to Quatermain's chest. "Then we can survive anything. This Mayflower is a sturdy ship". With that the two of them went to meet the captain as the nearby Pilgrims watched with interest.
The Greystoke estate was alive with activity.
In the house Jane, aided by the Waziri ladies, prepared a feast fit for an English Lord but also for the entire Waziri tribe, and several guests. Meanwhile daughter-in-law Meriem was in the barn supervising the setup of the dining area.
On the lawn her husband John (Tarzan), her son Jack (Korak), several Waziri, Akut, and a few mangani were engaged in a crude version of football.
Jane opened and closed the freezer door then summoned the Head Maid.
"Hasina, do we have any more of those blueberries? The ones that John likes?"
The maid, who was new to the estate, curtsied before the lady of the house. “All of the blueberries are in the freezer Lady Jane."
Tarzan's mate stood with hands on hips pondering her options. "Do you think we can spare two ladies from the kitchen?" The maid nodded her approval.
Jane called out to the kitchen workers. "Imani and Daliyah, put on your riding clothes we have an errand".
The maid, Hasina, screwed up her nose in bewilderment. "Lady Jane, you are going berry-picking?"
Meriem returned from the barn. "The dining area is all set up."
Jane turned to Meriem. "Great news. Look after things here while I'm gone. Two of the girls and I are going after blueberries. You know they're John's favorites and our supply is short."
Hasina stammered. "Lady Jane, are you taking Muviro with you? Lord Clayton would expect it".
"Muviro is busy with the game. Don't bother John. Let the men have their fun. It keeps them out of trouble and the kitchen." Before Meriem could say a word, Lady Jane was out the door.
In the front yard, Korak's team trailed Tarzan's team by a touchdown. Tarzan was on the field with the mangani playing defense. Tarzan had to devote his full attention to the mangani as they needed the occasional reminder that this was just a game. Korak was quarterback for the opposing team who had advanced ball into the red zone threatening to score.
When the play began Korak dropped back for a pass as his Waziri wide receivers took off for the end zone. Korak evaded a defender, faked a pass, then tucked the ball and headed straight for a score. One of Tarzan's mangani shifted to his left forcing Korak into Tarzan with all three tumbling to the ground well short of the endzone and no points.
Korak, the first one back on his feet, extended a hand to his father. "I expected you to tackle me, what were you looking it?"
Tarzan, unscathed, brushed himself off. "I just saw your mother leaving on horseback with two of the Waziri ladies. I'd better find out what's going on. This is a good time for a break."
With that the Lord of the Jungle trotted off to the house in search of Lady Jane's whereabouts leaving the game in extended timeout.
Meanwhile at Opar, La was finishing off a homemade brew from Cadj's personal stock.
"I have this entire place to myself. All the solitude I could want. The freedom to do whatever I like." La held the bottle upside down but no more drops to be found. She continued to speak to herself in the mirror. "Even Nemone is gone. Off to Egypt to see the pyramids with Henry. I wouldn't want to be a third wheel on that chariot to romance. Nemone deserves someone in her life."
La rose, felt woozy, then steadied herself while pondering a bon-bon.
"I'm tired of sitting around here moaning the blues. I'm going for a walk." Not quite steering a straight line the Queen of Opar walked out of the city.
Once on shore, Stephen and Josiah paused to examine the jungle foliage.
“Why do you do it?” Stephen questioned. “What are you looking for?”
“What?” Quatermain’s eyes remained fixed in his study of the jungle ahead.
“Seek adventure?” Stephen the writer was ever curious.
“I suppose I am looking for something. But I won’t know it until I see it”.
Stephen, a student of observing people. "I think you are looking for someone".
Onward they marched but within a few steps Josiah and Stephen knew they'd found Africa because immediately a lion found them. Neither had seen a lion before but Josiah had heard many stories at the pub while Stephen had read descriptions. When they encountered the huge cat each looked at the other simultaneously uttering but two words, "Lion, run!".
Together they fled into the jungle with the big cat on their heels.
"Hurry I can't load my musket while running." Neither was a coward but neither had faced danger like this before.
"Get down," shouted Stephen who simultaneously turned and fired his single shot English-lock pistol. Unfortunately, firing on the run, he missed the lion but came close to another target.
"You almost hit me!" Josiah flailed his arms in the air feeling the hot breath of the beast behind him. "Draw your rapier! I have an idea. Be ready to thrust should I fail".
With that, Josiah, holding the musket by the barrel, rammed the butt into the lion's head knocking it to the ground.
Stephen, with rapier at the ready, crept close to examine the fallen beast. "By Jove you've knocked it out." In his elation Stephen turned about almost gouging Josiah with the rapier point.
"Hey careful with that thing." Josiah cautiously pushed the point away from him.
"Sorry old man I've never used one of these except to pick apples."
Josiah paused while loading his musket. "Pick apples you say? Come again."
"Oh, the ladies quite fancy it," Stephen beamed. "Draw the rapier with gallantry. Point it skyward at the hanging apple. Thrust, twist, and with apple in hand, instant delight." He mimicked chewing a tasty apple.
Josiah leaned on his musket. "I can see it now. You will romp all across the New World planting apple trees for a never-ending supply with which to impress the ladies by your swordsmanship in fetching their treat. Why, they'll call you Stephen Appleseed."
"What a splendid idea!" Stephen made a note in his journal.
"We should get going before that creature awakens. He is apt to be angry."
It was rare that La would leave Opar and almost unheard of to do so on her own. Normally La would be accompanied by a well-armed band of frightful priests. But today La was alone with her only protection being the much-valued sacrificial knife. But a concern greater than her protection was her wish for better walking shoes.
However, no number of priests could protect her from the strange "bird" overhead. it was the biggest thing she'd ever seen in the air. It made a terrible constant noise that sounded like "whir-whir". It was a silver color, shaped kind of like an egg, but without wings. She hid behind a tree until it passed. It sailed through the air as though it were a ship upon the sea. An airship.
"That thing was flying in the direction of Tarzan's home. Maybe I should follow." Finally, with a purpose that had eluded her all day. The Queen of Opar threw back her head, stuck out her chest, pulled in her belly and walked with pride keeping the airborne object in sight.
"My word! What is that?" Josiah stood agape at the animal grazing on the plain before him. "It is the tallest horse I've ever seen."
Stephen too was wide-eyed. "I read about something called giraffes. They are plant-eaters, I think."
"I hope they know they're plant eaters." Both of Josiah's hands were closed about the musket.
A nearby snort drew Josiah's attention, he turned to his friend. "That horse has stripes."
"Zebra I believe. Amazing." Stephen forgot all about his notebook but would have no trouble remembering the scene before him.
Thus engrossed neither realized the danger that lurked in the tall grass.
Stephen praised the splendor. “Africa is a canvas for nature’s amazing works.”
Noting the location of the afternoon sun, Josiah realized they were running out of time. “We are to return before sundown and we’ve yet to bag anything for dinner.”
Stephen shook his head. “These creatures are too much like horses. Our shipmates expect better than horsemeat. But first I must have a closer look.”
As his friend took a few steps forward, Josiah noticed movement in the grass. Before any warning could be issued. The Python enwrapped its victim dragging Stephen to the ground causing him to gasp for air.
Josiah knew he had to move quickly to save his friend. Thrashing about on the ground the snake would raise its head to look its victim in the eye as if attempting to hypnotize it. Josiah knelt on the ground bracing his musket against a rock. He had to be steady. Time was gone.
Blam! Came the blast sending the snake’s head flying into the air. Josiah rushed to Stephen’s side to unwrap the coils.
“It’s okay. It’s dead. You can relax, Breathe slow.” As Stephen's breathing returned to normal, Josiah became aware of a rumbling noise behind him.
Over his shoulder Josiah found the source of the noise. “Get up. Let’s go. They’re stampeding! Let’s move”.
In his haste to help Stephen and avoid the advancing herd Josiah's musket was left upon the ground. Together they ran away from the plain towards the rock cliff with the jungle to its left. Near to the rock wall they took shelter behind some boulders. The stampede veered to the right leaving them unharmed. Stephen was still gasping for his breath having been seriously squeezed by the python.
Josiah took stock of the stampede noting ample meat still on the hoof yet moving away from them. The aforementioned zebras and giraffes a plenty as well as gazelles, antelopes, and some great horned creatures that seemed to be all meat, he would learn later these were called buffalo.
Josiah at first thought the musket blast had been the cause of the stampede. But now he saw another possible cause. Something was taking down the the occasional zebra or antelope. Standing for a better view revealed a pride of lions feasting on the fallen victims. He looked around for his musket realizing it must be left back where he killed the snake. But between that spot and where he stood near the rock wall was a lion staring right at him.
"Stephen can you move?" he shouted.
Josiah was relieved to hear a hearty "yes".
"Then be ready; you still have your pistol?"
Hearing another "yes" Josiah responded, "Save your shot I still have my rapier."
Keeping his eye on the lion with rapier in hand Josiah kept the beast at bay. Stephen was walking much better having shaken off the effects of the snake attack. The lion, after receiving a couple of pricks, soon learned to respect the point of the sword.
Stephen's eyes were glued to the lion and lion to his. "Can you get to a tree?"
"Yes, some trees just around the bend."
"I will hold him here. Keep your pistol ready but go for the tree." There was silence behind him. Josiah yelled. "Do it my way, go." A glance over the shoulder revealed Stephen moving at a good clip to safety.
The lion also took notice of this escape attempt to lunge past Josiah after the fleeing prey. This presented the lion's broad side with a clear target for a thrust from Josiah's rapier. As he did so, sinking it deep into the lion's belly the beast wheeled about with a mighty paw knocking Josiah to the ground and the sword out of reach. The lion twisted and howled, mad with rage giving Josiah only a moment to regain his footing to run the opposite direction of Stephen. The lion, boiling mad, took out after Josiah.
Stephen meanwhile had made it to the lower branches of a tree but had come to realize the snake attack had left him with some cracked ribs. He held his side and was able to breathe carefully.
Josiah had outdistanced the ailing lion some enough to duck into a cave opening hoping the creature would not see him. Deep down he knew the lion could follow his scent. Inside the cave Josiah looked for something with which to block the entrance. But all he could find were the skeletal remains of possibly a man. Reluctant to disturb the dead he considered breaking off one of the bones to a sharpened point for use as a weapon.
Hazarding a peek out of the cave entrance he saw no sign of the lion but noted the darkness that wasn't quite night but eerie as though the sun was blocked. He crawled back to the bones of a long dead warrior taking care not to disturb them to catch his breath and pray the lion would go on about his business.
Then "the ground trembled and shook. Deep rumblings muttered upward from the bowels of the young earth, and answering grumblings thundered down from the firmament above." (*)
La had lost sight of the airship but its direction was consistent with the location of Tarzan's estate so La continued in that general direction. Without warning the sun was obscured causing her to look skyward for another airship. A strange darkness was all around as the ground shook knocking La off her feet. Wallowing in the dirt was yet another indignity for the Queen of Opar.
While Stephen was relieved that a party from the ship had found him. He was distraught that no sign was to be had in their search for Josiah. Reluctantly he had agreed to return to the Mayflower as night was soon to fall upon them. He welcomed the stretcher that was fashioned to ease his journey. He hoped the ship's doctor could relieve the pain in his ribs. But more than anything he needed to find Josiah because his friend would be looking for him.
Josiah woke in the cave feeling refreshed from his nap but disoriented by the darkness. He soon found the cave entrance and stepped out to the welcome sunlight. There seemed to be no ill effects from the earth tremor he had experienced and, thankfully, no sign of the lion. But he began looking about for something that would serve as a weapon just in case.
He heard something approaching, thinking it was the lion he retreated near to the cave entrance when before him stepped a regal queen from his imagination. She walked with an air of royalty yet she seemed troubled. The crown upon her head and the jewelry in her dress dazzled the onlooker. Her only apparent weapon was a bejeweled knife at her hip.
Here in the jungle Josiah was stymied with the same question that had plagued men throughout time. How to break the ice with a woman? Josiah, awkward with the ladies, began with the simple "Hello".
La froze in her tracks not realizing anyone was there for the speaker was hidden. She drew her knife with muscles tensed. "Who threatens the Queen of Opar?"
"I mean you no harm dear queen." Josiah stepped out where he could be seen and indicated he was unarmed. "I am an adventurer who has had a brush with one of your lions and I'm trying to find my friend. How is it that a woman wanders about in such a strange and dangerous land?"
"I am the Queen of Opar I go where and when I please."
"I am lost your ladyship and in need of a guide and help."
"Then I will take you to the one person who can help you better than anyone. His name is Tarzan.
"I am grateful for your kindess, Queen of Opar."
"It is Thanksgiving, a time of fellowship, friendship, and appreciation for family, friends, and fellow human beings."
"I've never heard of such a thing." Josiah was intrigued both by the queen and the story she told. "But it sounds like a good idea."
La felt at ease with this stranger whose eyes were the bluest she'd ever seen. "I am told Thanksgiving is an annual event in civilization ever since the Pilgrims came from England to someplace called Plymouth Rock on the Mayflower ship."
Josiah was taken aback at some familiar names. "I know of the Pilgrims and the Mayflower. When was this?"
"We'll have to ask Tarzan but a long time ago, I think 300 years." La watched the man's feature grow cloudy with bewilderment. Then her ears perked. "Someone approaches."
Before either La or Josiah could move, three riders on horseback appeared.
"La is that you?" Jane called from her horse. "Everything okay?"
"Awkward" La muttered under her breath. "I was just bringing this traveler to Tarzan. He has lost his way."
"Your name?" Jane queried.
"Josiah Quatermain, my lady".
Together La and Jane chorused "Quatermain?"
At that moment, John Clayton, in his Tarzan garb, dropped out of a nearby tree.
"Jane I heard you went berry picking. I don't like for you to travel out here alone."
Josiah piped up, "He's right there are lions all around."
At that moment a huge golden lion bounded into view causing Josiah to scramble for a weapon.
Tarzan immediately moved between Jad and Josiah. "It's okay. This is my lion."
"Does everybody have their own lion?" Josiah looked stunned.
"No just me. What is your name?" Tarzan gently stroked Jad's mane.
"Quatermain." Josiah did not extend his hand to maintain a distance between himself and this pet lion.
"Quatermain?" responded Tarzan. "Interesting. And how did you get here?"
"Well yesterday I was on the Mayflower with the Pilgrims." From his conversation with La, Josiah thought this news would have impact.
From the vantage point upon her horse Jane looked about. "John could the cave have something to do with this?"
La perked up. "Yes he was coming out of the cave when I found him."
Tarzan noded. "That is the cave of Nu, son of Nu. It has some properties we don't quite understand but it makes for a good story."
Josiah totally perplexed, "La told me that you would explain Thanksgiving to me?"
Tarzan smiled and looked to Jane for an approving nod.
"I will do more than that, I will show you Thanksgiving. Both you and La are welcome to join us."
La gasped. "Tarzan I don't know what to say. Jane is this okay?"
"You are both welcome to join our holiday. Thanksgiving is a time of friendship and fellowship." Jane extended her hand to La.
"Lady Jane while you were talking we've picked the blueberries."
"Good job, Imani and Daliyah. We all need to get back the feast is probably ready."
When they returned to the Greystoke compound the great airship from Pellucidar was moored where they had previously played football. Jason Gridley and Jana, with David Innes and Dian and Abner Perry too had brought steaks and delicacies from Pellucidar that Muviro and the Waziri were preparing on the grill. Everyone gathered at a series of long tables with room for all.
Both Josiah and La related their exploits from the day. Tarzan was confident that Josiah had experienced time travel simlar to that had by Nu and Victoria Custer. Despite the strange world he found himself in, Josiah's greatest concern was the fate of his friend Stephen. Hearing this concern, Tarzan rose and excused himself. He returned shortly with a book in hand.
"It just so happens I am an avid reader and recalled this title from my library." Tarzan held the book so that those around him could see, notably Josiah. "Open it up. Look just inside at the dedication."
Josiah did as he asked. He found the inscription. "To my dear friend Josiah Quatermain whom we lost in Africa. He would have loved the New World."
Tarzan continued. "I recall the book now that you've mentioned it. You may borrow if you like. I can say that your friend, Stephen Hopkins, had an interesting life. He survived a ship wreck, a hurricane, the famine in Jamestown, he knew Pocahantas, and signed the Mayflower compact for the Plymouth Colony. It is all there in his book."
Josiah sighed with relief clutching the book to his chest. "Thank you Tarzan I will read this with pleasure."
Tarzan decided to approach a sensitive issue. "Josiah I'm not sure we can send you back. In this book it says they looked for you but couldn't find you. So that history has already been written."
Josiah smiled and looked at La who returned his smile. "Tarzan I've spent my life looking for something while finding adventure along the way. I think I may have found what I was looking for here in this world."
It was Korak's turn to speak up. "Father we still have a football game to finish."
Tarzan reclined in his chair responded with a smile. "The game will just have to wait. There is a blimp parked in our football field."
[References used in developing this story]
(*) This verbiage borrowed verbatim from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Eternal Savage/Eternal Lover.
[Characters in this story and other historical notes.]
> Josiah Quatermain is an invention for this story intended as an ancestor of H. Rider Haggard's Alan Quatermain hence everyone’s recognition of a familiar name.
> Stephen Hopkins is based on a real person passenger on the Mayflower. His accomplishments described in the story by Tarzan are true. The book "Here I Shall Die Ashore" was actually written about Stephen Hopkins by author Caleb Johnson.
> The Mayflower crew mentioned by name in the story are actual crew members.
> In real life the ship's carpenter did repair the Mayflower's main beam using a "giant screw" provided by the Pilgrims.
> Tarzan, Jane, and Muviro by Dave Hoover
> Stephen Hopkins
> Josiah Quatermain (sketch with rifle) Artwork by Pat006, see this website for more.
> La of Opar by Roy Krenkel[COPYRIGHT Jess Terrell 2019]
MORE JESS TERRELL APPEARANCES IN ERBzine:
McWhorter ERB Presentation
Tarzan Untamed Core Values
Moon Maid Glossary Update
Evil Queens Anonymous
Sleepover at Opar
Visit our thousands of other sites at:
BILL AND SUE-ON HILLMAN ECLECTIC STUDIO
ERB Text, ERB Images and Tarzan® are ©Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc.- All Rights Reserved.
All Original Work ©1996-2019 by Bill Hillman and/or Contributing Authors/Owners
No part of this web site may be reproduced without permission from the respective owners.