Quest of Zipantoric can be found in Magazine Entry


Out of the fastness of the night steeped jungle, from nowhere and from everywhere, from the star-studded sky overhead and the foetid earth beneath, came a thin, sibilant, crackling sound, like the parting of a taut violin string. Swiftly it ran around the rim of the world, like a sharp sword slicing the night in twain. Then it withdrew into the unknown void that gave it birth. The jungle was silent. Too silent. . . .

Dick Markle dropped his pipe.

"There it is again," he whispered.

Lean, leathery-faced Dr. Burstone nodded his iron-gray head.

Bright flecks of light gleamed again in his dull, knowledge-weary eyes, eager lights, they were, as if the spirit of youth still burned in that old body.

"I heard it," he answered softly. "If you turn around, you'll see it."

Dick whirled. They were standing on top of the Pyramid of the Sun which formed part of a far-flung colony of the ancient Mayas that they had discovered hidden and long deserted in the jungle of northern South America.

They were no longer alone on the flat-topped structure. An upright oval of golden fire as tall as a man was glowing on the western edge of the parapet. It was not flame in the meaning of the word when it is associated with combustion, there was no suggestion of heat, the glow was not feeding on anything. It looked like a huge football standing on end and was about the same color. It apparently was electrical in nature, and slightly resembled ball lightning, except that no lightning ball ever known to man was a hundredth part as large as this.

DICK heard Burstone catch his breath. Out of the corner of his eyes he saw that the old ethnologist was trembling, yet Dick knew it was not from fear. The scientist did not know the meaning of that word.

"What is it?" he whispered.

"I don't know, lad," Burstone answered. "Don't move. Something is going to happen."

The golden bubble of flame glowed more vividly. Its flame came from innumerable coruscating points that were visible yet did not illuminate the soft tropic darkness. It glowed like yellow witch- fire, like golden phosphorescence.

As they watched, the pin-points of light swirled, glimmered, raced in weird circles, coalesced, took on a vague outline. It looked like a television receiver that was out of phase with the transmitter; racing across the reception screen was an incoherent ramification of swirling white dots.

The lambent dots of light moved into phase and almost disappeared, leaving only a thin bubble of golden light.

Within that bubble of flame was a girl.

The golden light played over her lithe body, shimmered from the metal ornaments that covered her breasts, flickered and danced from a light skirt that fell half-way to her knees, coalesced in the circle of metal that crossed her forehead, met in an arch at the top of her small head, played lovingly through the midnight hair that cascaded over her shoulders. In her right hand she held a slender rod. Markle gasped. That rod was ornamented with the design of the Feathered Serpent, potent symbol among the prehistoric Mayans.

Dick started to move forward, but he felt Burstone's hand tighten on his arm.

"Easy, Markle," the old scientist whispered, suppressed eagerness vibrating in his voice. "She is carrying the scepter of the Feathered Serpent. I think she is probably a priestess of Zipantoric."

"But what is it, a mirage?" the younger man questioned.

"I don't think so. I think that girl is alive, somewhere."

"How can she be alive? The Mayans mysteriously disappeared centuries ago."

"Perhaps, somewhere in this wilderness, a colony survived, and expanded their science to dizzy heights, outstripping, with their earlier start, the younger science of the Aryan races." Burstone's voice was alive with eagerness.

"Maybe," he continued, "we are seeing the transmission of images to any desired spot without the necessity of cumbersome receiving apparatus. It sounds impossible but who knows that it is impossible. Anything may be true. Watch. . ."

Imperiously, the girl in the golden bubble raised the rod. She had the haughty, regal bearing of a queen who was accustomed to commanding and having her commands obeyed.

If it was a mirage, a television projection, it was a remarkably realistic one. Dick could see the tiny ear-rings she wore in the lobes of her golden pink ears. He could see the deep black of her eyes, and the haughty look that was within them.

She raised the scepter, brought down the tip, so that it pointed at them. She could see them, she knew they were there!

Dick felt that the finger of fate was pointing at them. He had the feeling when her scepter pointed at him that he was being selected for some unguessed sacrifice to some unknown but potent deity. It had the appearance of a ritual, the selection of a victim.

The haughty look within her eyes confirmed this feeling.

He shook off Burstone's arm, stepped forward, his lithe six feet overshadowing the girl.

When he moved she seemed to become aware of his existence as an individual. The haughty look in her eyes faded, she looked at him as a girl may look at a man, and in her eyes was suddenly startled concern.

Dick's face was oddly pinched as he gazed at her. In his mind was turmoil, which coalesced in a nervous tension that was transmitted to his muscles. He did not will to act, he did not know where his muscles got their orders.

IGNORING Burstone's warning shout he leaped into that bubble of golden fire. A wave of sick agony shot through his body, the bubble collapsed, he held in his arms a writhing struggling girl.

She was real. He could feel her. What he had thought was a mirage was reality. The girl was alive, here. Burstone's flashlight cut a cone of radiance through the night; The girl cowered away from it. She was afraid of that flashlight.

"Release her, lad," Burstone whispered.

Dick let his arms drop. She slipped out of his grasp, drew herself erect, stood proud and haughty before them, only tiny muscular tremors showing that she was frightened. She flinched, but she faced the flashlight. Its rays poured over her golden brown body.

She spoke. Markle, standing, beside her, saw her lips move and knew that he heard the words. At that moment it did not occur to him to think it strange that he knew what the words meant.

"Who dares to profane Zantha by touching her sacred body?"

"Mayan!" ejaculated Burstone. "She is speaking Mayan. I recognize elements of it."

"But the meaning of her words," Markle interrupted. "I know what her words mean—in English! When she speaks, I see mental pictures. . . and I know what she is saying. . ."

He turned to the girl. "How. . ."

"You have the answer," she replied. "I make you see pictures in your mind, and you know what I am saying. . ."

"Mental telepathy!" Burstone gasped. "Brought to perfection."

"Can you understand us?" he asked the girl.

"Certainly. You and your comrade have strong minds and I can easily grasp your thought impulses."

"Who are you?" Burstone continued. "I am Zantha, which means high priestess to. . ." She stopped, a glint of fear coming into her eyes. Burstone and Markle got a chaotic mental image of fright.

"Listen," she brea...

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