Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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FAN FICTION CONTEST
In the old days pulp magazines often had an outstanding image from their stable of artists and sent it out to their stable of writers. "Write me a story that fits this image!"
Tangor's Pastiche and Fan Fiction is thrilled to offer Kurt "Jake" Jacobson's pastel sketch as inspiration for the first ever fan fic story contest.
To Find a Wife
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2000
Odin frowned. When Odin frowned all Asgard trembled. Only Frigg dared approach when his mood was so foul. "What is it that troubles you?" she asked.
"It is time Bragi married, but there is no girl suitable for him."
"Ah!" the wise Frigg replied, she knowing much of love and marriage. "It is true he is of the age–and perhaps past it by some years. I know you will resolve the matter, for you are all knowing and all powerful."
Odin stroked his chin for a long moment, then smiled. "I will send Bragi to the tenth world, the one unknown, that he might find his wife there." Odin made a gesture with his right hand that caused glowing runes to appear in the air and, as they faded, a sudden cry from a young voice elsewhere in Asgard faded to abrupt silence.
* * * * * * * *
Bragi looked upon a desert so vast it startled the imagination. Where was here? How he came to be standing on the scarlet moss was obvious–his spine still carried the chill always associated with Odin's magic. In the near distance a wale of eroded hills rose in folds that blued with distance. In the opposite direction was a great depression cut by ancient waters long vanished. Turning to view what lay at his back Bragi's brow furrowed. Two moons!
Those moons, however, did not hold his attention long as a tawny monster of all teeth and ten legs roared and charged. There was no poetry on Bragi's lips as he side-stepped the creature's furious assault. He dispatched the creature as it passed by, using the heavy sword that came into his hand as easily as words to his tongue.
"A curious beast," Bragi said to himself. "What am I seeking, Alfadir Odin? What quest is upon me?"
There was no answer but a near silent sigh of wind.
Bragi marched into the hills. His choice was made by logic and like; he could see more of the desert from on high and he disliked the great depression below. Young and strong, he traveled with ease, covering ground rapidly as the small sun moved toward the horizon. He reached the highest elevation with only a few moments of daylight left–and in that short time located the spires of a city halfway down the other side of the hills.
"No city I have ever seen before, but as I have no destination known, it is as good a direction as any."
The sun set, plunging the desert into darkness relieved only by the millions of stars overhead. The two moons had vanished during his travel, but with such speed he expected to see them again before the sun next rose. In the far distance he heard roars like that of the creature he had killed. The thought of facing one of those monsters in the dark was disquieting, but Bragi was of brave heart and knew that his fate would be as Fate decreed.
Five tall towers reflected starlight, with a dozen lesser towers surrounding. Spread out from that central plaza was a collection of domes and houses and palaces–but all looked to be abandoned for many years. As he drew close Bragi saw the towers were decayed and the palaces crumbling, the domes were fractured and debris choked the wide avenues between.
"A dead city. What might I find in a dead city, Alfadir?"
Bragi paused in mid stride. "Besides a light which appears in a tower window!"
Intrigued, Bragi continued into the city. He watched the light appear and disappear in the dark windows, but always moving higher into the structure. Soon he was at the base of the tower, then inside and ascending the circular ramp. Some sinister premonition put wings to his feet as Bragi raced upwards. He heard a large body moving above, still unseen, yet at the same moment he heard others coming up the ramp from behind. He was between two unknowns and this fretted the poet no little bit.
The ramp seemed endless, yet it did have an end. Two things did Bragi immediately notice. A beautiful naked woman carrying a round globe that gave off a light and a hideous monstrosity not even the tortured Loki could fabricate. The creature was twice the height of a man, or more, and had two legs and four arms. It was green as an olive and had fearsome tusks rising from the lower jaw. Two dead white eyes with red irises were focused on the frightened woman, who had been cut off from her intended destination, a square section of floor in the center of the room.
The monster had not seen Bragi, but the girl had seen him. She did not cry out, nor run to him, yet her eyes pleaded assistance. So beautiful was her eyes and mouth that Bragi drew his sword. "Monster!" he called.
An instant later the creature with the frog-like head and strange antennae turned, filling its hands with swords and knives. Like a whirlwind from Hell did the creature seem as it charged Bragi. Though a poet of all languages beyond measure, the son of Odin was not without other skills. He met the assault with determination.
At the first clash of steel upon steel there came a great shout from the bowels of the tower, voices similar to that of the strange being Bragi fought. If he did not soon dispatch this warrior there would soon be others with which to contend.
"By the blood of Aesir
"The children of Odin
"Raise arm and voice
"You are smoten!"
A strangled cry was torn from the monster's throat as Bragi's magic enveloped it. Weapons fell from senseless fingers. The creature collapsed to the floor, writhing with terror.
"Your words will not work on all of them," the woman said. She had moved closer during the fight, holding the glowing sphere to best advantage that Bragi might view his opponent with ease. "Come, strange warrior, to the lift!"
She tugged upon his arm, drawing him across the floor to the center of the chamber. They stood upon a section of unusual wood the dimensioned the length of a man's height on all sides. Her dainty foot stepped upon some device embedded in the floor just as a half dozen green monsters raced into the room.
Bragi gasped as the floor began to rise of its own accord. "Odin! What magic?"
"No magic," the woman replied. "The Eighth Ray. Dear Issus, please help us to the roof before..."
The platform stopped, shaking violently. The monsters had gathered below and each laid hand upon a tether rope fastened to the base of the floating floor. Slowly their combined strength was drawing the platform down.
"I regret that you will die for your act of bravery," the woman said. "They have us now."
Bragi knelt down to grip the edge of the platform. He leaned over and looked upon the hideous faces below. "We are not yet dead," he said. With a mighty swing of the sword Bragi severed the tether rope.
Instantly the platform rose more swiftly than a diving hawk. The woman, unbalanced, slipped and would have gone over the edge if Bragi had not thrown an arm about her waist. He was glad to have saved her from the monsters, but regretful that they would both die when the platform slammed into the ceiling of the tower. Holding her tight, face to face, eye to eye, Bragi knew he had found his wife and thanked the Alfadir for having given him this precious thing, no matter how briefly.
They kissed, and her reply was as ardent as his.The kiss lengthened until Bragi's wonder and delight over the woman's pure response was disturbed by his intellect. They should have hit the ceiling long since. He opened his eyes.
There were no walls rushing by and the air was sweet rather than musty with eons of dust and erosion. Stars seemed to glow both above and below the platform. The two moons raced together as a hint of sunlight to come indicated their adventure had lasted one night. Bragi knelt, the girl drawing close to embrace him. The poet of Asgard looked over the side to see the broken crown of the tower fast disappearing beneath them as the platform continued to rise.
Into the heavens the platform rose, and as it did a blue nimbus encircled it–Odin's protection and well wishing for the journey ahead. Bragi sheathed his sword and swept the woman into his arms and kissed her more properly. When at last they lay quiet in each other's embrace, the woman's soft voice said:
To which Bragi could only reply:
"My priceless jewel
"From a land of regard
"No desert for you,
"Your home is Asgard!"
The lovers watched, arms about each other, as the shimmering rainbow bridge of Bifrost came into view. And by the time the platform of strange wood came to rest in Asgard, a marriage had been made in heart and deed.
* * * * * * * *
Frigg brought another horn of honeyed mead to Odin. "What troubles you now?" she gently inquired. "Idun is all the daughter we could hope for Bragi and her care of the golden apples will ensure long life to all of Asgard."
"The girl is wonderful. Far better a match than I might have made for Bragi if I had meddled too seriously. No, Idun is not the problem which weighs upon my mind. There's Thor and Loki and..."
Frigg laughed sweetly. "There will always be something amiss in Asgard." She sat upon his lap to press her lips to his cheek. "It would not be Asgard were it otherwise. But, if Thor or Loki trouble you so, why not send them to the tenth planet, the one unknown, to see if they come out all right?"
"Frigg, I love you. I truly do. But what works for one son will not work for another. Still, this is a thing well done and even gods should not ask more than that."