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Volume 1707
Presents
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The Emerald of Mars
by Ed Augusts
First published in the 1964 fanzine Odwar #1
~ Editor: Kenneth C. Free ~

This rare ERB pastiche was discovered by Fredrik Ekman,
who received permission from the author for its revival in ERBzine.

Mr. Augusts intended to write a sequel to this story 
which would resolve the cliffhanger ending.

Unfortunately, the sequel appears to have 
disappeared into the mists of time.

.
.
The Emerald of Mars
by Ed Augusts

Although Barsoom was a planet already burdened with a proud and ancient history in the years before the advent of John Carter, his presence there nevertheless influenced the planet and contributed toward its development more than any other single factor in the long history of Barsoom. This singularly mysterious man, insignificant in size when compared to any Green Barsoomian, evoked an awe from those who knew him, as well as from those many millions of Barsoomians who only heard of John Carter through legends that swept across the dead sea bottoms of the planet, into nearly every broad plain and inaccessible canyon from the Lost Sea of Korus to the Artolian Hills.

    Though his form has vanished from Barsoom, he is still venerated and loved by those who knew him, and remembered by those countless millions who only heard of his deeds. A tale of his exploits that is widely known among the people of Barsoom is one that occurred in the summer of John Carter's eighth year on the planet. Few Barsoomians heard of the entire adventure at the time, since it took place in a remote spot of Barsoom removed from civilized life. And John Carter, by nature a modest man, was reluctant to tell anyone of it.


I

John Carter, Prince of the House of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium, winced at the bright morning sunlight from the sun that was rising above the broad horizon stretching beyond the last ancient houses of Greater Helium toward the yellow-coloured spire of Lesser Helium. A tiny dot of a moon sped overhead, a bright pebble in the glowing sunlight.  Suddenly, anguish swept over John Carter and he turned his face from the scene before him and wept silently in a dark corner, those tears the first to glisten on his cheeks since his coming to Barsoom. 

    John Carter held a letter in his hand, a letter written in a strange language not of Barsoom or of Earth. But Carter could imagine what meaning the letter had. It was undoubtedly a ransom note from the villains who had stolen his dear wife, Dejah Thoris from him the evening before.

    That past scene grew vivid in his memory. Returning to his room after an evening of walking through the streets of Greater Helium, he noticed Dejah Thoris not sleeping on her bed where he had last seen her. Spinning around he caught sight of her in the arms of a horrendous creature, much unlike any Barsoomian he had ever seen. A distorted female face surprised him from behind the door, and before John Carter could even comprehend what was happening, a heavy metal bar, swung by a third creature, grazed his skull and crashed across his shoulders, throwing him down to the floor in a state of unconsciousness. When palace guards found Carter he was not seriously injured, his rugged frame withstanding the powerful attack. But Dejah Thoris and the beasts that had been in the chamber were gone, and all that remained was a yellow parchment-like paper on her bed written in strange characters and forms.

   That night was spend in a search of the city to find the missing princess, but Dejah Thoris was nowhere to be found. Troops and police searched from house to house in Greater and Lesser Helium but to no avail.  A clue to her disappearance was found late in the afternoon when an airship was reported missing by a wealthy Barsoomian official in Lesser Helium. It was found that a policeman had seen it rise slowly above the city and fly southward, but he had thought it of no importance at the time. 

   As the morning came, John Carter realized that his wife was alone with cutthroats somewhere on Barsoom. As he impatiently waited for more reports from officials and the military, Carter vowed he would not rest a minute in his efforts to find his wife and the ones who had stolen her from him. His position, his palace, his life itself would mean nothing to him now if he were forced to live his days without his beloved Dejah Thoris. 

   "John Carter, I have come!" An ominously large green shape squeezed itself through a doorway. It was Carter's old friend, Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark.

   "I heard this morning what had happened and left my people to help you in any way I could."  John Carter smiled hopefully, and patted the huge Barsoomian warrior-chief on his tough shoulder.

   "Thanks, Tars Tarkas. We haven't a minute to lose! I must find Dejah Thoris and I think I can accomplish that faster if I have this letter translated!" Tars Tarkas looked at the letter and blinked.

   "John Carter, I will follow you across all of Barsoom in pursuit of danger but you know I would rather destroy enemies than decipher letters."

   "In time we shall both be able to destroy enemies! Now let us go to my air flier in the street below, and speed to a distant province."

   A circular staircase led to a broad and elegant room of granite and marble. Beyond it, the street and airship waiting for the two warriors.

   A whispering, massive crowd had gathered in the streets when they had heard of the unfortunate incident the night before. Lines of tension showed on the faces of the gaily dressed palace guards who had worked feverishly the night through in their vain efforts of finding Dejah Thoris in the city, or of any clue to solve her disappearance. John Carter held the only, and certainly the most important clue, the unfathomable letter that he clutched as he and Tars Tarkas stepped out with the hard, determined look of those who believe that nothing can seriously affect them for long. The pair soon disappeared into their ship, and the silent craft flew vertically several hundred feet into the crisp Barsoomian sky to be above the tall spires and buildings of Greater Helium, and then streaked toward the distant horizon to grapple with forces of a kind no man of Mars or Earth had ever met or could hope to destroy. The tenacious John Carter thus began a campaign to find his dear wife, and punish those who had so rashly stolen her from him.

     An hour of flying across monotonous seas of yellow moss took John Carter and Tars Tarkas over an area seldom visited by many Barsoomians.  From the distance of one hundred haads, the brilliantly green edges of the Great Toonolian Marshes could be plainly seen, a striking contrast against the dull ochre moss which covers most of the planet.  In the depths of this giant jungled patch lived perhaps the only man of Barsoom who could decipher the strange language of the letter, and the reason for Carter's visit to the Marshes was solely to speak to this old scholar.

     The Great Toonolian Marshes were stilled as  as evening approached.  The small animals of the area had finished their food-seeking and they scurried inside their burrows in the trunks and branches of old marsh trees to spend the night.  Now was the time for the night creatures, generally the larger and more carnivorous animals to appear, either slithering out from their giant ponds of slimy water, or crawling from their homes in the trees on the many hills and ridges that protruded from the stagnant and muddy pools and streams that generally composed the swamps. Then they would find and kill their prey and then return to their natural homes as morning approached.

     Under a darkened sky the craft which carried John Carter and Tars Tarkas silently sped to the thickest portion of the Toonolian Swampland and then stopped, hovering quietly.  John Carter surveyed the countryside.  Green jungle foliage stretched from horizon to horizon.  Not far distant was a group of small steep hills that pierced the green blanket of the swamp.  They were darkly wooded and very similar in appearance.  Nevertheless, John Carter knew what his goal was.  He flew his ship directly above and over one of the peaks, and then settled the airship slowly into the jungle.

     John Carter and Tars Tarkas stepped from their craft and furtively climbed up a grassy slope that rose from the deep waters below, reflecting upon the cloudy sky of evening and the moons appearing through broken clouds above.  The grass was long and scratchy to walk in, but even the small cuts that appeared on John Carter's bare legs were nothing to the punishment of constantly slipping through and among the branches and strange roots of warped trees that stretched up the hillside of this old sinking mountain range.

     Tars Tarkas helped matters by pushing apart some of the smaller trees, but even he was occasionally stopped by picket-fence walls of trees growing within inches of each other. Finally though, the pair reached the top of the hill, several hundred yards from their starting point in the marshes below. The swamps below were quiet except for occasional bird-like whispers, shrieks, and low rumbles from creatures seldom seen by anyone.  But they seemed to be farther down in the swamps, and the steaming jungle was rather quiet.  In any case, Tars Tarkas wondered if the home of the old scholar they would visit was nearby.

     Finally John Carter gained the top of the hill where there was strangely no vegetation and no trees.  This was the only spot in the Toonolian Marshes where one could see the home of the scholar Rodemm.

   Even in the darkness of night, two small pinpoints of light could be seen reflected below them. They came from a dark opening on the side of the hill opposite the slope they had climbed.

   "That, Tars Tarkas, is where Rodemm the scholar lives, and has lived for the past thousand years."

   "What an infernal spot in which to spend one's time."

   "Rodemm was a great scientist of Barsoom, a descendant of those scientists that engineered the canals of this planet. He has learned the secrets of time and science and now has chosen to spend his remaining days on Barsoom here, in this distant spot."

   "Why trouble the old creature?" Tars Tarkas and John Carter were now quickly descending.

   "He is possibly the only one alive who could tell me the meaning of this letter.  Along with his prowess as a scientist, he is also an exceptional linguist."

   Struggling out of the grip of a sharp branch, John Carter saw that far below them were the dark waters of the ancient marshes. And between the marshes and where they were standing was the opening to the cavern of scholar Rodemm.

   Descending still further, John Carter finally jumped to the lip of a ledge that hung a few feet above the murky and frightening waters. He looked up and saw the massive Tars Tarkas step down, nearly placing his green foot on top of him because of the darkness.

   "Easy, there."

   "Easy?"

   "Never mind. Lets look in the cave." Around the edges of the cave's entrance was a semi-luminescent ring, and two burning white lights glared upon them and the dark marshes from the two sides. It was unexpectedly dark inside. The light around the Cave's exterior did nothing to light the inside.

   "John Carter.. I feel the presence of a strange beast."

    Carter stopped in his tracks and listened cautiously, putting his hand on the hilt of his sword.

   A breathing sound was issuing from farther inside the cave, and a whiff of something fetid and decaying was in the air. Fearlessly, though, John Carter stepped forward. Suddenly, he felt a sharp pain strike his face and the wetness of his own blood flowed in a sudden gush down his bare neck and chest. Toppling to the cave floor, part of his cheek nearly gouged out, he heard a few distant sounds and felt a soft numbness that came slowly upward from his lower body and finally wafted
him to unconsciousness.

   The darkness he endured for long moments on the floor of the cave seemed only a second to him as he came awake under the strenuous tugs and efforts of Tars Tarkas. Carter opened his eyes and saw that the cave was now brilliantly lighted, and that a man of the Red Barsoomian race stood with Tars Tarkas above him. A many-clawed, double-headed, and otherwise fearsome beast was lying sprawled over much of the floor of the cave, dead by the hand of Tars Tarkas. The man, easily recognized as Rodemm, had finished applying medications to John Carter's face. He fingered his cheek gingerly, but it felt numb, cold, and like plastic. He shook his head and then rose from the floor of the cave.

    "How feel you, John Carter?" Queried Tars Tarkas.

    "Never better, but for the coldness in my cheek."

    "That will pass quickly and you will be stronger than before, and I have sewn you together again so that not a scar will remain."  Rodemm was speaking, his old voice still mellow and youthful.  "The beast behind us crawled out from the marsh and has bothered me these past sixty years. I am grateful to both of you for coming and destroying the creature." Rodemm was smiling cheerfully.

    "We come, Rodemm on a mission of oppressive importance. You must help me if you can." Tars Tarkas spoke in his low crisp voice to old Rodemm.

    "Why, yes. If it is anything reasonable I certainly will do it. I owe you a debt of gratitude for destroying the beast. Tell me what it is as you come with me to my living quarters." 

    A small cave that joined the larger one perpendicularly, was filled with odd bones, decaying food matter and excreta. It had obviously been the den of the beast Tars Tarkas had killed. Beyond it, the cavern was dark and then around a sudden narrowing turn, brilliantly lighted with glowing panels atop the now-tubular long cave. A large steel gate, placed there to guard against large and small Toonolian Marsh creatures opened easily to the hand of Scholar Rodemm, and the three entered a huge room flanked with walls of grey and silver computers, strange scientific devices, and machinery that both Carter and Tars Tarkas had never seen before.

   "Speak what you will, John Carter."

    John Carter, now completely recovered from any wounds he received, stood and told Rodemm that he was a friend, sympathetic to science, and that he had come to show him a strange letter and to see if he could translate it for him.

   The scholar then spoke, his voice friendly and reasonable, but his words fierce and distracting.

   "Your strange letter may be of importance to you, and it may not. In any case, it is of no importance to me! I must busy myself with other matters.. replenishing the Barsoomian Seas with water, and many kindred and diverse matters. Now you may return to your ship and go back to whence you came!"

   "Wait, Rodemm!" But  Rodemm had spoken quietly and distinctly, and turned to leave the chamber. Thirty feet separated him from John Cater, and he would be gone in another moment. Quickly, looking and seeing that the roof of the cavern they were in was nearly a hundred feet above them, Carter took a step and jumped with all his strength, landing a few feet in front of the old scientist.

   "You are not of Barsoom, By the throne of Issus!" The old scientist was surprised by this miraculous showing of athletic ability no one of the planet could have possibly equaled, allowed to Carter by the weakened Martian gravity and his own powerful muscles. 

   "John Carter, "Said Tars Tarkas, approaching from the other end of the giant room, "Let me hang this scholar by his toes for his ungrateful attitude as a warning of what happens to those who tamper with the temper of Tars Tarkas!"

   "No, Tars Tarkas." A faint smile etched John Carter's features. "Remember, I might have bled to death had he not helped me." Then he thought. "But perhaps we could do it later though, if the old scholar does fail to help us after we have reasonably discussed the matter with him and he persists in his attitude!"

  The old man's ancient shoulders shrugged, and his face grew glum, but he winked and seemed content with the situation and the persistence of these strangers. 

     "All right, you have won the battle. Now let me see your fabled letter!" 

    John Carter withdrew from his side a yellow piece of paper and slipped it into the scholar's hand.

   "Tell me what it says, old Scholar, and we will leave you here to your work."

   The eyes of the scientist narrowed as he scanned the paper, and then suddenly glowed with excitement. He took an enlarging glass and looked intently at the letters and words written the night Dejah Thoris was stolen from John Carter by the strange creatures at the palace in Greater Helium.

   "Can you decipher its meaning, Rodemm?" 

    The bony figure twitched and then ran about the room, searching to find and old book of language comparisons, but Rodemm failed to answer John Carter. The man skimmed across page after page in the book, and then looked up at Carter as he asked the very same question again, this time in an impatient tone.

   "Its meaning? I must notify the Universities of Barsoom. Never was I as pleased with anything since I discovered a dozen books of the ancient white race. Its meaning? Untranslatable to me, but perhaps a machine could unravel it for you!"

   Tars Tarkas smashed his huge fist upon the table, scattering papers upon the floor.

   "Scholar, you say much yet tell us little. Can you decipher it or not?"

    Rodemm curled his lip and thought a minute. "Possibly after weeks of calculation and speculation, after thousands of failures, an ordinary Barsoomian scientist could unravel the meaning of the first several words. But I, to satiate your lust in this matter, will decipher the letter in several seconds!"

   Carter and Tars Tarkas were duly impressed. The scholar seemed certain of what he was doing, and confident that he would succeed.

   "Follow me, gentlemen, and you will find I accomplish what to anyone else would be a miracle!"

   Rodemm then pressed a switch and part of the wall facing them slid back, revealing a dark chamber beyond. Rodemm disappeared into it, and John Carter and Tars Tarkas followed. All was darkness as the wall closed again. Tars Tarkas nervously spoke to Carter of their situation.

   "John Carter! It is a trap. Prepare to fight and die, for I sense danger ahead!"

   John Carter scoffed at the idea of any danger confronting them here, in the dark tunnels of an old and eccentric scientist, but he remembered that Tars Tarkas had been quite correct in warning him against the ferocious cave-beast minutes earlier and then wondered what lay ahead.

~ TO BE CONTINUED NEXT ISSUE OF ODWAR FANZINE
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The latest publication from Ed Augusts:

Spectral Smoke & Other Stories
19 Short Stories of Horror, Occult Terror, Sci Fi & Fantasy and the Supernatural
by Ed Augusts

ANY PORT IN A STORM --  What was bearded old former Rev. Carew doing, starting a used & rare book store on a street so close to the waterfront,  and likely to get hit by the next Gulf hurricane?  it made more sense what he was making upstairs, out of pine!

FAMILY BEACH STORY -- So nice, an attractive young mother on the sandy beach near Santa Cruz!. 18-year old Erik, vacationing before his first semester at college, offered to help and drive her around,  Little did he know what horrors awaited that mother during her short vacation!

HOLY FAMILY STORAGE* -- in a future world where everyone is Catholic, a security job in a huge, gloomy storage facility can have untold cosmological dangers... or was he in the middle of a repeating nightmare?  Were there really crocodiles in the moat around the cemetery?

HONEYSUCKLE, HYACINTH & EMERALD --  It was Halloween and she could have been in costume, a sexy little costume.  But was it the elusive killer who was this moment stalking her, or was the young girl using the streets of San Francisco to lure victims back to where her mother and aunt were waiting?

THE RED ROCK OF LORD GANESHA -- The Santa Cruz Mountains woman went all the way to India to see it, and once seeing it, would not be denied having and keeping it, no matter if blood had to flow over the already red, magical stone!

VISITING A SEISMIC PLANET -- What happens when humans land on a LARGE planet where tectonic and seismic forces are 100X greater than those on earth, and the earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are 100X greater, as well?

THE EYES OF THE BEAST -- What was the unearthly secret which convinced the big-time casino owners that a fire-breathing dragon was required at the very heart of Las Vegas?

SHE RETURNS AT NIGHT TO THE OCCULT SHOP -- To go back at night to a place where various things, occultish things, have happened, and dwell upon the past in the darkness, is not always a good idea.  In part, a true story!

DANGEROUS NIGHT ON LAKE MEAD DRIVE -- Do you ever have the feeling that some one is following you?   You can't quite 'shake' them?   Someone not quite human?

"SUPERFLY" HEMINWAY'S BAD DAY* -- The kid could have gotten an "A+" in science, but his experiment with the pesky little bugs got totally out of hand!  He should never have started feeding them human blood.

LATE NIGHT AT THE RACETRACK -- The one night per year when one lone watchman gets to see, not only horses, but horrors, galloping out into the open!

MORE THAN ENOUGH CRITTERS!  -- "The Lab", a modest, under-funded insect and arthropod research facility that supported itself by selling lethal bugs to anyone who would pay,  was on the Old Highway  between Hoover Dam with Las Vegas.  The good thing was, if a disaster struck, surviving spiders and scorpions would only be likely to crawl as far as the nearest blocks of houses.

WOMEN AND CHILDREN, FIRST!  -- Were the women and children really being evacuated to safety from the cruise ship that had been attacked off the coast of South America?

"INVISIBLE RESIDENTS" INDEED --   At first one has to begin thinking about the idea that intelligent, nearly invisible, creatures, perhaps even the source of UFO sightings, haunt the depth of the ocean!   .

"HEADS UP!" -- A STORY -- He fell into hopeless love so quickly!  The more exotic the woman was, the more he wanted her, in every way!   If only some of the females could have gotten a psychic warning that they were heading for trouble...

SPECTRAL SMOKE -- It was very subtle at first, the aroma of tobacco smoke that came from out of nowhere,  except maybe the walls floor and ceiling of the weird old house. But it was surely related to the bumps and thumps in the walls and ceiling!   A true story.

A THOUGHT IN THE MIND OF GOD  -- In the end, even the Amazon Queen with the Power of Life and Death over all of her subjects throughout her kingdom, didn't have ALL the power!

I WAS NEVER ALONE IN THE DARK -- True story about a haunted but not-so-lonesome childhood, where a dark presence lured his victims into those big, deep, walk-in closets.

THE LARGE & THE SMALL OF IT -- Have you ever had the feeling your house was getting smaller and smaller?   How about --- larger and larger?


These stories are available in special easy e-mail format!
Contact the author at:
AugustsBks@aol.com
for details.


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