The Flying Men
I looked down at the fortress below us and saw several small
dots leaving the thing rising to meet us. At first I took the for
large birds. More and more left the roof and windows of the
structure and I could see their wings resembled more of those of bats than
birds. I didn't know what they were but I increased speed hoping
to outdistance this new threat, but when I looked toward the cavern
that lead from the sea chamber to the tunnel that joined with the surface
and saw more were rising up to intercept us.
“What are they?” asked one of the men. “I have never seen
such things in all my travels.”
I could see these were no birds or bats, but men
with large wings sprouting from their shoulders. These men wore harnesses
like red men that held swords. Most of the flying men had their swords
drawn and ready for action!
They were brown in color and proportioned as thin, lanky
men save for the giant bat wings they used to fly. Their faces were triangular
and had a reddish color to then and the eyes seemed large and owl-like.
I noticed that they were armed with odd swords with a saw tooth edge and
a curved blade rather like a scimitar unlike the standard swords employed
I drew my long sword as the group surrounded the ship
and looked to make a fight of it.
“For Helium and Dejah Thoris!” I yelled to my men as we
made ready to defend the ship.
“For John Carter,” they replied.
“Shall I fire of the flying creatures?” ask the gunner
at the bow. Barsoom demands that a weapon only be used to counter one being
used by a foe. “We are out numbered—and I do not know if these are
men! So by all means open fire!”
The small Radium cannon barked out a few rounds and I
saw an equal number of the creatures fall to the red sea below, but they
came fast and soon we were engaged in sword fights with an unequal number
of the flying warriors. The bird-like things let out a terrible high
pitched cry as they engaged us. Never have I ran away from a fight
and I didn't plan to start now. I saw that more and more were rising
to join the battle. The odd warriors were a fearless
lot, I saw one of my crew seized by three and pulled from the deck, to
be daggered and cast down to the sea below.
One of the men wore an orange leather harness and upon
it the metal of a Dwar, or captain.
“Throw down your weapons, John Carter,” he commanded.
“Surrender, you and your invaders are my prisoner! Surrender and I shall
spare your lives.”
A faint smile touched my lips, he knew who I was, knew
how I would react, and set this ambush. Their plan was a success.
I have faced many monsters in my stay on Barsoom, but these flying men
were different, they were fierce warriors and worked with uncanny
“You want my sword—creature!” I yelled. “Come and take
“As you wish!” he countered and the flying men redoubled
their efforts, as more joined their ranks. I crossed swords with
the dwar and he proved a good swordsman, as he kept me busy another tried
to come in with his saw edged sword, I parried and used my great sword
to sever a wing from the thing, it screamed with a hiss and fell to the
sea below, spinning. This set off more high trilling calls and the
creatures pushed me back in a wall of flashing swords.
The Dwar rushed me and I disarmed him, but he caused me
to be distracted for a moment, the others seized me from behind, grabbing
the harness I wore. The long sword was pulled from my hand by six
of the things. The things beating and blinding me with their bat like wings.
My hands were pulled behind my back and bound with leather straps. I saw
that two of my men were still alive, and also captives, one of them was
Just then the Dwar pulled me off the ship into the air
and for a moment I thought I would be tossed to my doom, But several had
me and flew along, taking me back to the fortress. I looked back
and saw that the other two of my crew were being treated to the same
sort of ride, two bat men with each struggling man. I started
cussing like a sailor at the ease of my capture. I saw that
one of the winged creatures was piloting my flyer down to the fortress
I could see that the odd men were covered with a downy
fuzz that was brown. Their big eyes were blood red like an albino's giving
them a strange look. I recalled the findings of the scientist An Thac who
once claimed to have discovered this new race. I had not believed him then,
I vowed to speak with him and give him a metal, if I should ever return
to Helium. Now I wondered if I would ever rescue Lee, perhaps he
would need to rescue me!
Our speed was swift and soon we landed at the grim fort.
I was deposited on the hard stone of the courtyard. One of the flying
creatures who carried me was the Dwar I had disarmed.
“That was a clever trick with the sword, Grounder,” the
winged creature said. “If these were better times I would ask you to teach
me the trick. My name is Nutan.”
“I would show you—if we were not enemies,” I responded.
“Why did you attack my ship?”
“Why did you enter our realm?” he countered. “Save
your breath for the Jed—Zab Than. It is he who will judge you.”
“Does he hold my Grandson?” I boldly asked him. “Why did
he attack Helium? He must be mad to provoke the mightiest nation on Barsoom?”
“Zab Than is anything but mad.” smiled the odd winged
man. “This way, John Carter.”
At that he lead us and the two survivors into an ornate
doorway into the dim fort. The walls were over seven feet thick and
built to withstand the most powerful cannons.
“We have many 'guests' here at the citadel of Doraxus,”
Nutan continued his narrative. “We have recently acquired the princess
Fandora as well as Ro-Bert Lee Carter.”
“I have no idea who Fandora is,” I told him. “But if Lee
has been harmed in any way I will see to it that this sea truly runs red
“I think we could be friends, John Carter,” the Dwar said
with a laugh.
“I do not befriend kidnappers nor people who injure my
family,” I told him.
“You have a point, John Carter,” he said smugly. “But
I didn't order the attack nor did my people take part in the assault—did
you see any flying men in the attack on your palace?”
I didn't answer him as we went deeper into the citadel.
I could see works of art on the walls and fancy lighting fixtures on ceiling
. The place began to take on the atmosphere of a residence rather
than a military establishment. The Hall went though three rooms,
resembling break rooms—with weapons on the wall. I could have
made a jump for it but I was curious about these people and their ruler.
Beyond these chambers was a larger room, with maps on
the walls, model flyers and an ornate desk. This was no thrown room, but
a working space. Behind the deck sat a thin man with a long nose.
He wore a simple harness and his only symbol of office, a band around his
forehead set with a single red jewel. He looked up with a smile at
“You have exceeded my expectations Nutan!” he started.
“I shall need to give you a bonus for capturing the Warlord of Barsoom.”
“Let my bonus go to the families of those lost in
the attack, eight fell to the people of Helium.”
“I will make it so,” the ruler said, the smile gone from
“I demand to know why my grandson was taken and for what
purpose?” I yelled at him.
“Why did you attack my palace? Why did you try
to have me killed and assault my son and his wife?”
“All in due time, John Carter.” he said grimly. “Have
you ever thought my actions were to prevent a war?”
“I do not believe you!” I shouted back.
“I did not organize the attack on your palace. That
was the work of another. You do not know the things that
happen in Tubax. I believe you would understand if you knew the condition
of things in the underground sea and the territories controlled by the
so called Jeddak of the West.”
“Who rules here?” I asked.
“I do—for now, but The Jeddak of the West ,Kulan Tith,
is about to attack us. His Skeel Legion is as bloodthirsty as they come.”
“So you wish to start a war and have him so involved in
a war with Helium so that he can not attack you,” I demanded. “A cold hardhearted
plan. There are members in Helium who would like to eliminate Tubax
from the face of Barsoom.”
“That would be all right with me,” the Jed smiled.
“Be seated and I will tell you of things as they stand in Tubax.”
“Let me tell you this, Jed of the Bloodseas, We have long
suspected that Tubax was behind raids upon our trade ships and stations,”
I started. “We were trying to work out a new treaty with Tubax and getting
no where—we found the ambassador from that land arrogant and hardheaded.”
“I know of whom you speak, John Carter, he is a man with
“So, I take it a civil war is going on in Tubax?”
“You are right. The peoples of Tubax are a proud
and ancient race—but too much change has happened too fast. People have
promised much and given little. They have stirred up ancient hates
and waged war upon the small peoples of this territory—even those of the
“You speak for these groups?” I asked him.
“I am one of many voices, but perhaps the greatest one.
The tactic of our enemies is to seize loved ones and hold them as hostages.
He invited us to a dinner and festival to celebrate the renewal of Isis.
At the end of the party, he seized my wife and daughter.”
“How did you escape?” I asked.
“I had been called away by a loyal subject or I would
have been killed or captured,” he said regret marked his features.
“If only I had been able to save my family. Now, if I resist the invasion
of the Blood Seas they will be killed before my eyes.”
“What of my Grandson?” I demanded. “Why do you hold
“I had agents in the military of Tubax. After the
attack on your palace—the one that took the lives of the most fanatic of
our enemies, my men seized the flyer and brought it to my fortress. I assure
you Ro-bert has been well treated. It has been hard, he listens not
to reason but seeks revenge. He has wounded several guards so far.
He have him with Princess Fandora now.”
“Let me see him. If what you say is true you will have
no greater ally on all of Barsoom.”
“Come with me, John Carter, he's not far away,” said the
Jed as he stood up and led me out of the small chamber and down a wide
a hall. “He has proven a most difficult prisoner.”
We progressed perhaps a hundred yards to a fancy doorway.
The ruler unlocked the panel and opened the thick door, as it opened
a vase flew out and smashed onto the stone wall!
“Let me out!” came a young voice. “I am a prince of Helium.”
I stepped in and saw Lee, armed with another vase, ready
to throw. The angry look on his face vanished as he saw me. It melted
to a smile. He put down the vase and rushed to me saying only one word.
“I'm here to take you home,” I told him as he embraced
“I knew you'd come for me! How is my mother? She fought
like a savage green man.”
“She was badly hurt, but she will live,” I told him as
we embraced. I noticed that we were not alone in the room—there
was a young woman, more a girl than an adult. She had beautiful raven hair
and was dressed as a princess. She had a haughty look to her and
wasn't impressed with our reunion.
“May I introduce you to Princess Fandora of Tubax,” added
the Jed, dryly.
“My father will have you all skinned alive for treating
me as a common prisoner!” she yelled.
“We have not mistreated you, Fandora,” answered the Jed.
“Holding you prevents his attack on the hidden sea, and any misdeeds he
might inflict on my family.”
“Has this woman caused you any harm?” I asked Lee.
“No, she is just worried that's all, Grandpa,” he said.
“Zab Than, can you free my men. We can take the flyer
and return to the battleship—maybe we can help in your war.”
“We were surprised that you were upon us so swiftly,”
answered the Jed. “For a moment we thought it was a trick by Kulan
Tith. I wish you had surrendered and saved bloodshed.”
“Men of Helium do not surrender,” I told him.
“I will have your men released. There is a man here
who spoke for you, who would like to meet with you. He's a Thern.”
“Seventh Cycle?” I asked and the Jed nodded. The Therns
of this cult have gotten it into their heads that I am some sort of God
and that my mate, Dejah Thoris, is a re-incarnation of the goddess Isis
herself. The last part I might agree with them. I have
tried to tell them I am as human as they but they will hear none of it.
Still, they might be helpful here as they have been in the past.
“There are many Seventh Cycle Therns in the Hidden Sea,
and an equal number of Tenth Cycle as well,” the ruler said. The Tenth
Cycle hate my guts and most want to stick a dagger between my ribs
if they thought they could do it.
“I will meet with him,” I said steeling myself to the
fawning and scrapping common when a Seventh Cycle meets their God.
“He will be impressed to learn I managed to capture the
great Warlord of Barsoom.”
“You should be proud of your flying men, few have crossed
swords with me and won the day,” I told him.