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*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK QUEST OF THE GOLDEN APE *** Produced by Sankar Viswanathan, Greg Weeks, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

Transcriber's Note:

This etext was produced from Amazing Stories January, February, March 1957. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

The Table of Contents is not part of the original magazines

 

 

They were bent upon rapine and slaughter—and what greater prize than the Queen herself?

 

QUEST OF THE GOLDEN APE

 

By IVAR JORGENSEN and ADAM CHASE

 

How could this man awaken with no past—no childhood—no recollection except of a vague world of terror from which his mother cried out for vengeance and the slaughter of his own people stood as a monument of infamy?

CONTENTS CHAPTER     I   Mansion of Mystery II   The Great Clock of Tarth III   The Man in the Cavern IV   John Pride's Story V   Question Upon Question VI   On the Plains of Ofrid VII   The White God VIII   The Brown Virgin IX   In Custody X   The Road to Nadia XI   On the Ice Fields of Nadia XII   Volna the Beautiful XIII   The Journey of No Return XIV   Land Beyond the Stars XV   The Golden Ape XVI   The Raging Beast XVII   The Prison Without Bars CHAPTER I Mansion of Mystery

n a secluded section of a certain eastern state which must remain nameless, one may leave the main highway and travel up a winding road around tortuous bends and under huge scowling trees, into wooded country.

Upon a certain night—the date of which must remain vague—there came a man who faced and was not turned back by a series of psychological barriers along this road which made it more impregnable than a steel wall. These barriers, which had kept out a hundred years of curiosity-seekers until that certain night, were forged by the scientific magic of a genius on a planet far beyond the sun....

The man who boldly followed his headlights up the road was of middle age with calm, honest eyes and a firm mouth indicating bargains made in his name would be kept. He pushed on, feeling the subtle force of the psychological powers against him but resisting because he vaguely understood them.

He left his car presently and raised his hand to touch the hard outline of a small book he carried in his breast pocket and with the gesture his determination hardened. He set his jaw firmly, snapped on the flashlight he had taken from the dash of his convertible and moved on up the road.

His firm, brisk steps soon brought him to its end, a great iron gate, its lock and hinges rusted tight under the patient hand of Time. It was high and spiked and too dangerous for climbing. But someone had smashed the lock with a heavy instrument and had applied force until the rusted hinges gave and the gate stood partially open. From the look of the metal, this could have been done recently—even in the past few minutes.

The man entered and found a flagstone pathway. He followed this for a time with the aid of his flashlight. Then he stopped and raised the beam.

It revealed the outline of a great stone mansion, its myriad windows like black, sightless eyes, its silent bulk telling of long solitude, its tongueless voice whispering: Go away, stranger. Only peril and misfortune await you here.

But I am not exactly a stranger, the man told himself, approaching the door and half hoping to find the scowling panel locked.

But it was not locked. The ponderous knob turned under his hand. The panel moved back silently. The man gripped his flashlight and stepped inside.

The knowledge that he was no longer alone came as a shock. It was brought to him by the sound of labored breathing and he flashed the light about frantically trying to locate the source of the harsh sound. Then the bright circle picked out a huddled form on the floor nearby. The man moved forward instantly and went to his knees.

He was looking into an incredibly ancient face. The skin was so deeply lined as to hang in folds around the sunken eyes. The mouth was but a toothless maw and the body so shrunken as to seem incapable of clinging to life. The voice was a harsh whisper.

"Thank God you have come. I am dying. The opening of the gate took all my remaining strength."

"You have been waiting for me?"

"I have been waiting out the years—striving to keep life in my body until the moment of destiny. I wanted to see him. I wanted to be there when the door to his resting place opens and he comes forth to right the terrible wrongs that have been done our people."

The strength of the ancient one was ebbing fast. The words he spoke had been an effort. The kneeling man said, "I don't understand all this."

"That matters not. It is important only that you keep the bargain made long ago with your sire, and that you are here. Someone must be with him at the awakening."

The newcomer again touched the book in his pocket. "I came because our word had been given—"

The dying man picked feebly at his sleeve. "Please! You must go below! The great clock has measured the years. Soon it tolls the moment. Soon a thundering on the Plains of Ofrid will herald the new age—the Fighting Age—and a new day will dawn."

While the visitor held his frail shoulders, the dying man gasped and said, "Hasten! Hurry to the vault below! Would that I could go with you, but that is not to be."

And then the visitor realized he was holding a corpse in his arms. He laid it gently down and did as he had been directed to do.

CHAPTER II The Great Clock of Tarth

he Plains of Ofrid on the planet Tarth stretched flat and monotonous as far as the eye could reach, a gently waving ocean of soft, knee-high grass where herds of wild stads grazed and bright-hued birds vied in brilliance with the flaming sun.

From the dark Abarian Forests to the Ice Fields of Nadia, the plain stretched unbroken except for the tall, gray tower in its exact center and it was toward this tower that various groups of Tarthans were now moving.

Every nation on the planet was represented in greater or lesser number. The slim, erect Nadians in their flat-bottomed air cars that could hang motionless in space or skim the surface of the planet at a thousand jeks an hour. The grim-faced Abarians, tall and finely muscled on their powerful stads, their jeweled uniforms flashing back the glory of the heavens. The Utalians, those chameleon men of Tarth, their skins now the exact color of the grasses across which they rode, thus causing their stads to appear unmounted and unguided.

All the nations of Tarth were represented, drawn toward the tower by a century-old legend, a legend which Retoc the Abarian clarified as he rode at the head of his own proud group.

He waved a hand, indicating the vast plain and spoke to Hultax, his second in command, saying, "Little would one think that this flat, empty land was once the site of a vast and powerful nation. One of the greatest upon all Tarth!" A smile of cruelty and satisfaction played upon his handsome features as he surveyed the plain.

"Aye," Hultax replied. "The realm of the Ofridians. Truly they were a great nation."

"But we Abarians were greater," Retoc snapped. "We not only defeated them but we leveled their land until not one stone stood upon another."

"All save the tower," Hultax said. "No weapon known could so much as scratch its surface."

A new voice cut in. "Quite true. Portox's scientific skill was too great for you." Both Abarians turned quickly to scowl at the newcomer, Bontarc of Nadia, who had swung close in his one-man car and was hovering by their side.

Retoc's hand moved toward the hilt of his long whip-like sword, driven there by the look of contempt in Bontarc's eyes. But Retoc hesitated. A formidable squadron of Bontarc's Nadian fighting men hovered nearby and the Abarian had no taste for a battle in which the odds were close to even.

"We defeated the Ofridians fairly," he said.

"And slaughtered them fairly? Cut down the men and women and children alike until the entire nation was obliterated?"

The systematic annihilation had taken place a century before when Bontarc had been but a child and Retoc a young man. Karnod, Retoc's father, now dead, had planned the war that defeated the Ofridians, his winning card having been spies in the court of Evalla, Queen of Ofrid. Karnod had been fatally wounded during the last battle and had delegated to his son the task of annihilating the Ofridians and levelling their nation. This task, Retoc accepted with relish, reserving for himself the pleasure of slaying Queen Evalla. Details of the torture to which Retoc subjected the beautiful Evalla were whispered over the planet and it was said the sadistic Retoc had taken photographs of the Queen in her agony to enjoy in later years.

It had been the scientific ability of Portox of Ofrid that had engendered the Abarian hatred and jealousy in the first place. Portox used his science for the good of all on the planet Tarth, but when Karnod, Lord of Abaria, struck, no other nation came to Ofrid's aid. Then it was too late, because Abaria's military might greatened as a result of the Ofridian defeat and only an alliance of all other nations could have conquered them.

Ironically, Portox had never been captured.

Now as the tall gray tower came into view, Bontarc's mind was filled with thoughts of Portox, the Ofridian wizard. It was said that Portox had been able to travel through space to other planets that were known to exist, that he had left Tarth and found safety somewhere across space, first building his tower which would never be destroyed; that a great clock within it was measuring off one hundred years—the time on the planet Tarth of an infant's development into manhood—and that at the end of that span the clock would toll and there would come forth a man to avenge the slaughter of the Ofridians.

Bontarc turned suddenly upon the dour Retoc. "Tell me," he said, "is there any truth to the legend that the clock in the tower will toll the end of one hundred years?"

"None whatever," the sadistic Abarian snapped. "A rumor passed from the lips of one old woman to another."

Bontarc smiled. "Then why are you here? The hundred years are up today."

Retoc's hand moved toward his whip-sword. "Are you calling me a liar?"

Bontarc watched alertly as the blade came partly from its scabbard. "If we fight we may miss the tolling of the clock," he said evenly.

With an oath, Retoc pushed the sword back into its scabbard and put sharp heels to his stad's flanks. The animal screamed indignantly and rocketed ahead. Bontarc smiled and turned his car back toward his own group.

And now they were assembled and waiting, the curious of the planet Tarth. Would the clock toll as it was rumored Portox had said? Would an avenger come forth to challenge Retoc and his Abarian hordes?

There was not much time left. Swiftly the clock ticked off the remaining moments and the end of one hundred years was at hand. Silence settled over the assembled Tarthans.

Then a great sound boomed over the plains; a single ringing peal that rose majestically into the air, reverberated across the empty land that once had been the site of a thriving, prosperous nation. The first part of the legend had been fulfilled.

Then, suddenly, chaos reigned. With a great thundering that shook the ground upon which they stood, the gray tower exploded in crimson glory; a great mushrooming blossom of red fire erupted skyward hurling the assembled Tarthans to the ground where they lay in numbed stupor.

The thunderous report echoed across the plain ten thousand times louder

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