Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the stories of pulp heroine Jirel of Joiry, the Medieval French woman-warrior created by female author C.L. Moore in 1934. For the first story click HERE.
QUEST OF THE STAR STONE (1937) – It’s crossover time! C.L. Moore decided to do a story in which her two most famous pulp creations – Northwest Smith and Jirel of Joiry – meet each other. Trouble is Jirel’s adventures take place in Medieval times while Northwest Smith’s stories are set around 2500 A.D. Any reader of pulp fiction knows that’s no real obstacle so let’s dive in.
The story opens in Jirel’s time. She is leading her obedient soldiers in an assault on the castle of a sorceror named Franga. Our sword-wielding heroine battles her way through to Franga’s chamber where she seizes a mystic gem called the Star Stone. That jewel is so powerful but so unfathomable that even Franga was still trying to discover how to harness its arcane energies.
Jirel defeats Franga and forces him to flee between dimensions, but as he leaves he promises Jirel that he’ll return to get revenge on her and get the Star Stone back – just as soon as he finds a champion capable of matching Jirel’s courage, cunning and force of will. “No matter what world or what time I find them in” he adds, letting the reader know what’s coming up.
Cut to an outlaw tavern in a Martian city of the far future. Northwest Smith and Yarol are relaxing after a gun-running caper by slamming down glasses of Segir (Venusian whiskey) and smoking intoxicating Martian cigarettes. Franga arrives via an interdimensional doorway and talks Smith into accompanying him by promising a huge fee. Yarol tags along uninvited and Franga transports the pair to the distant past outside Jirel’s Castle Joiry. Northwest and Yarol (despite Yarol’s alien appearance) get themselves taken to Jirel – whom we see in the meantime has been keeping the Star Stone as a good luck charm.
Per Franga’s instructions our two outlaws from the future convince Jirel to confer with them about a non-existent treasure they supposedly want to join forces with her to plunder. At a crucial moment the pair are able to drag Jirel and the Star Stone through one of Franga’s portals, where Franga confronts them all. They are now in a perpetually night-dark realm with odd spongy ground and where the stars are so close to the surface of the world that they seem like streetlights overhead.
Franga’s magic power is at its height in this enchanted dimension where he can turn the mists solid with a gesture and command the starlight to blaze down like blaster-fire on his foes. In return Smith and Yarol have their ray-guns and Jirel her blade. The sorceror plans to recover the Star Stone then torture and kill Jirel, Northwest Smith and Yarol before conquering the Earth.
A running battle takes place through this bizarre realm and onto solid pathways that climb to the stars. Our trio of heroes also must contend with the undead, emaciated man-beast zombies that prowl the dark world.
Just when everything seems hopeless for our comparative “good guys” Smith destroys the Star Stone, revealing that for millenia it has been a prison for alien beings of pure energy. They are fully aware of what’s been going on and so they destroy the evil Franga while restoring Northwest, Yarol and Jirel to their own time periods.
We’re supposed to believe Smith “fell in love” with Jirel during this brief adventure prompting a now- morose Northwest to try to escape his longing for her in booze and other intoxicants with his pal Yarol.
I’LL EXAMINE THE FINAL JIREL OF JOIRY STORY NEXT TIME. (In 2014 I reviewed Moore’s 13 Northwest Smith stories.)
FOR OTHER NEGLECTED PULP HEROES CLICK HERE.