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CHAPTERS ONE AND TWO
Mission to Helium
Valla woke up, stretched out her arms and pushed aside her sleeping silks and furs. She was in her room at her father, John Carter's Palace, in Greater Helium. She saw the ornate vase and the fresh blooms of the Pimalia flower. For a moment she thought she had dream, a nightmare. But now it was over and everything was as it should be. Then she saw the two wide gold bracelets one on each wrist, welded in place by her late husband in her forced marriage in the distant city of Zor. He was the Jeddak of Zor, a brute who sought to use her to make a better deal with Helium and her empire. He was mistaken and now, after his death, she was Jeddara, empress of Zor. She was in Helium on a mission, to establish trade, sign an alliance with her father and purchase new warships for the Zorian air navy. She got up with a sigh and put on her silks and harness. She looked into the mirror, she looked older than her ten years (note Martian years are twice as long as they are on Earth). She had aged under the so called marriage and now the responsibilities of rule. She applied her make up and combed her hair, now worn up as a married woman, she was no longer a maid. She found foodstuffs on her night stand, as well as a goblet of sweet drink. She took one piece and slowly chewed the delectable. She missed the rich food of Helium. She found Zorian food simple and basic. Next to the plate was a small scroll. It was filled with information from her ministers on the trade deal and what they could pay for new ships. She was sure her father and mother would help to bring Zor into the modern world.
“Turan,” she called out loudly. The door opened and a square jawed man in the harness of the nobility of Zor came into the room.
“Majesty,” he said, respectfully, “how can I serve you?”
She looked at him, a tall man, handsome but so formal. He just wasn't her type.
“Is the hallway secure?” Valla asked him.
“Yes, my Jeddara, The Zorian guards protect this wing of the palace”.
Valla took another sweetmeat and ate the treat. She had grown up eating them.
“What time is the conference?” she asked.
“In one Zode,” Taran said.
“Always so formal, Have you ever seen Greater Helium before?”
“This is my first visit,” he said in a low voice.
“You should tour the city, The Scarlet Towers, the Hall of Truth, The Great Temple, there is no place on all Barsoom like Greater Helium.”
“I have seen Zodanga,” he said.
“Zodanga is nothing like Helium.” she said as she finished her make-up.
“I serve Zor and her ruler,” he said. “ I am here to protect you from all dangers and support the interests of the Zorian people.”
“Turan, why are you so formal?” she asked. “I selected you because you are the best swordsman in Zor. I have never seen anyone who can disarm a foe as quickly as you. I believe you could even best my father, the Warlord.”
“You honor me, my Jeddara,” he said with a sort of bow.
“You will escort me to the conference room. But, I will visit with my father before the meeting. We didn't have time to speak with him when we arrived last night.”
“Comar Zal, the minister of finance will be at the meeting as well as Zulan Tan of the council of advisers,” added Turan.
“I am not looking forward to this meeting---but for Zor—I will endure even Zulan Tan.”
Turan didn't answer but he smiled and nodded his head understanding her meaning.
Valla stood up, took the scroll and went out the door. Turan followed, respectfully behind the young woman. She walked down the hall she knew so well. As she passed more of her guards she nodded to them. They were smiling. She was popular with most of the people of Zor. Her reforms and new treaties have brought prosperity to the land winning over the people of that far away land. The people have grown fond of her even if she wasn't born a Zorian. She made her way to the apartments of her father and mother, Dejah Thoris.
She came in and found her mother eating a simple breakfast. It was a basic Tharkian dish. John Carter liked it, and so Dejah Thoris grew to like the simple food.
“Valla, my daughter,” she said. “Be seated. Have you eaten? You are looking so grown up, so imperial.”
Valla sat down and filled a plate with foodstuffs. “I am sorry I came in so late, Mother. I am no longer a girl. I am a married woman, a widow, and the Jeddara of Zor.”
“Why must you wear those awful bracelets?” he mother asked.
“They are welded on me by my late husband.”
“We could have them cut off of you.” answered her mother.
“I wear them to remind me of all the trials I faced and people who died to free me, and the struggles it took to free Zor from the tyrant who was my husband.”
A strange look crossed Dejah Thoris's face. Her little girl was now a woman. Valla didn't notice it but tears came to the mother's eyes.
“Your father is with Tardos Mors, your grandfather. Something to do with the new message that came in over the wireless. It seems that Xoda, the Dator of the Black Pirates has died in an accident.”
“I had not heard,” answered Valla. “He was such a nice, honorable man. Will there be a memorial for him?”
“Once the Zorian treaty is formalized, they will fly to the Omean to participate in the memorial.”
“Remember, mother, I must keep in mind the interests of my people.” the young woman said between sips of juice. “I would like to go to the memorial service. A trade treaty with the black pirates may well be useful to Zor.”
She saw Turan, who stood some distance from the table smile.
The chamber was large, with great round windows, but it was still stuffy. Perhaps twenty men sat at the ebony sorapus table. Valla was the only woman, save for several maids, in the room who brought in drink and small sweet cakes. Valla was at the table because she was the daughter of the Warlord and the empress of Zor. Still, she was ignored until she spoke up and made several important points in the trade deal. Across the table sat her father who was smiling when she spoke. She could see the pride in his eyes.
Even Comar Zal,the Zorian minister of finance, was impressed with his young ruler.
“Enough,” said John Carter. “Let us sign the agreement. Zor will get what she wants. You requested the purchase of five warship, We will give seven. They will be ships needed to rebuild the Zorian forces. I do not worry, her credit is good and we want a strong Zor as an ally. Besides, my wife is planning a great ball to honor the visit of our daughter, the Jeddara of Zor, and tomorrow we sail for the Omean and the lands of the First Born.”
“Thank you father,” answered Valla, “May I travel to you when you attend the Memorial for Xoda at the Omean?”
“It will be my pleasure.” smiled John Carter. “Now lets get this paperwork done.”
Comar Zal stood up. He was pleased. Zor had gotten more than he expected.
Valla left her small cabin and walked to the rail, below her rolled the dead sea bottom as the great Helimetic ship flew south towards the entrance of the buried sea of Omean and the lands of the First Born. Beside he came Turan, her guard.
“You rise early, my Jeddara.” he said respectfully.
“I couldn't sleep.” she said twisting the ends of her raven hair. “Have you ever visited the Omean?”
“Never, highness.” he said looking at the sea bottom that rolled under the hull of the air cruiser.
“Nor have I, but I remember the late Xoda, Dator of the First Born. He visited my fathers palace many times over the years.”
“We should be there in six Zodes,” he answered. “This ship is fast one.”
“It has the new engines,” She said. “Ever wonder why my father let us have the warships and more? They are ships with the old engines—being replaced in Helium by warships with the new engines.”
“The ship is the flagship of the Grand Fleet. It is the best I have seen. The only thing that strikes me as mysterious—is the name. “
“Virginia” she said, (She pronounced it Ver-gean-yaa).
“Is it a mountain range near lesser Helium, right?”
“No, thats Versemmia, Virginia is a province where my father owned as estate on Sasoom. He misses that land and his friends on Sasoom. He lost his lands in a great and terrible war that was fought there.”
“You mean he lost the war? That is hard to believe.” answered Turan.
As they watched, a light, a bright light, appeared off the port bow.
“Look, a light. Perhaps the First Born has send a ship to escort us the rest of our way.”
“I have never seen a ship like that,” answered Valla.
“Nor have I,” Answered Turan as he studied the vessel. Others on the ship had seen the thing.
“It looks as if it is made fully of light.” Valla said. “I can see no people on the things or even windows or propellers.”
John Carter came on deck and ordered the crew to man the radium cannons. There was a look of worry on his face.
Before the crew took their positions, a ray of yellow light issued from the strange light ship and bathed the Virginia in blinding light—an electrical shock hit Valla and the crew forcing them to the deck. The airship was filled with vibrations. A humming sound filled their ears and all went black.
The Inner World of Barsoom
Valla was dizzy when she woke up. The world seemed as if it was spinning. She saw her father standing, bracing himself on the rail. Turan was still flat on his back. The ship was moving swiftly. She could feel her ears pop, the ship was quickly descending.
“Brace yourself!” Yelled John Carter. “We are about to crash!”
As the words left his lips, the whole ship violently came to rest. The Warlord was knocked to the deck. Valla had experienced a crash before but this was worse. She crawled to Turan. He was alive, but he was knocked unconscious. She looked up, her father was getting back to his feet. It was then she noticed the sun was at zenith. It had been low before. Had they slept the night away?
“Where are we?” she asked her father.
“Look around,” he said They were surround by a lush jungle. It was made up of strange plants Valla had never seen before. There were huge trees, vines, and flowers. This puzzled her.
“Look up,” said her father as he pointed to the sky. The jungle stretched upward. It was as if they were in a huge bowl. The sun hung directly above them.
“I have heard of such a place on Sasoom,” he father said with a grin. “It's called Pellucidar.”
“We have traveled to Sasoom? How is that possible?” She asked as others started to rise up from the deck. .
“Perhaps we are not on Sasoom, I call it Earth.” answered the Warlord. “But the plant life is much like I remember seeing in darkest Africa.”
“Af-ree-Cha?” she asked, “What is that?”
“A mysterious place with strange animals and peoples.” He answered.
“Are you all right, My Jeddara?” asked Turan, as he rubbed his head.
“I am well, but how are you?”
“My head is thick, but I will have a lump on my forehead and a headache tonight.” he said.
“It seems were are in a strange place.” Valla answered as she looked upward to a large lake or small sea. On the bank of the water was a white city. “We may well be on Sasoom.”
A worried look crossed Turan's face. “The Seventh Cycle Therns say, when we die our souls go to Sasoom. Are we.... dead?”
“And they think I am a goddess too,” She answered,dryly. “No, we are not dead.”
“Take one of the small flyers and check on that city. The buildings resemble those at Horz.” said the Warlord as the crew that had recovered began to take a two man airship out of her small hanger on the main deck of the warship.
“The crash has wrecked our wireless equipment,” informed one of the crew.
“I doubt if it would have worked at our present location,” answered John Carter almost absentmindedly. “ Send Padwars Dalan Kinn and Ulann Tanus to investigate. Is that city deserted? What are the inhabitants like?”
“It will be done, Warlord.” one of the warriors responded.
As Valla watched the small ship took off and headed upward to the white city, with its towers and domes.
“Let us collect as much as we can from the wreck,” ordered the Warlord. “We may need to battle our way out of this place—where ever it is.”
Most of the crew were watching the progress of the flyer as it got smaller and smaller as it drew close to the massive city. A gasp came from them as a white beam of light issued from a tower, striking the flyer, causing it to comedown within the walled city.
“That's the same kind of ray that hit our ship!” Blurted Turan.
“Those poor warriors,” exclaimed Valla. “Do you think they survived?”
“Hard to say at this distance, Jeddara,” answered Turan.
“We must conclude that the people of that city may well be the ones who brought us here,” said the warlord, grimly. “ From their actions we must conclude they are unfriendly—but if we wish to go home the only path may well be there!”
“If they have harmed Dalan, they will pay a stiff price,” whispered one of the men. “He was my brother.”
“Every warrior of Helium is my brother,” answered John Carter. “They will feel the wrath of the Warlord if they kidnapped us to this world.”
“Father, why did they take us here? What is their reason?” Valla asked.
“Hard to say, but in the place on Sasoom called Pellucidar, the lizard people, called the Mahars, used to eat people. Maybe we are to be their dinner!”
A shiver went down Valla's spine.
“You can't believe that.” she blurted.
“Many strange peoples dwell on both Barsoom and Sasoom.” answered John Carter.
“What shall we do?” asked Valla.
“We must march to that city, across this jungle, and discover their intentions. Then, see about going home,” informed the Warlord. “We will take one of the radium cannons with us, they may need to be intimidated into helping us.”
The hours passed as the supplies were gathered. The bow gun was dismantled and carried on a small flyer to haul the weapon with the party. Time seemed to stand still in this strange new place. The sun above never moved as inch.
They dinned on emergency rations then started the trek. Swords cut a path through the lush plant life as they headed towards the city. They saw a small strange ship come out of the city. At first they hoped it was the two padwars who had escaped. But, as it drew near, the lines were vastly different. As it flew close one of the warriors pointed a radium rifle at the ship until John Carter ordered him not to fire.
“Let them fire first,” he said. “They are scouting us out.”
The small ship flew over the party and returned to the city.
“So much for surprising them,” said Turan to Valla.
“Lets keep up the pace!” ordered the Warlord. “We know they have flyers now.”
“Did you study the lines of that ship?” said Valla.
“It was an old design, at least a century old,” answered Turan.
“Older, I believe,” added John Carter. “It was slow for a small four man craft.”
The group found a path—a trail, and followed it through the tangle of plants. The trail ended in a glad where they heard a cry Valla had never heard before. It was like the Growl of a Calot only deeper and louder.
“What was that?” asked Valla.
“A Banth?” answered Turan. “I have never heard a sound like that before.”
“Be ready for anything.” ordered John Carter. Something came out of the shadows of the jungle. It was a creature the like of which no one on Barsoom had ever seen.
It was like a banth but it had only four legs. Its skin was a dull tan, and turfs of dark hair surround it head. Yellow fangs could be seen in the things mouth.
“What! What is it?” whispered Valla.
“Its the ugliest thing I have ever beheld. It must be deformed—it only has four legs rather than eight.” The strange creature was smelling the air, its golden eyes scanning the party.
“Stay still,” whispered the Warlord to his party. “ I have seen such animals on my expeditions to Africa. I have seen them on a circus as well.”
“What, what is it? And father, what is a circus?”
“Its called a Lion. They are the Sasoomian Banths,” he answered.
“Its not as big as a banth,” noted Turan.
“Don't be fooled, its just as savage,” said the Warlord.
The animal began to twitch its tail as it observed the party of warriors. It turned its head to the left and right. Then it started to lower its body down, ready to spring in an attack.
“Be ready,” warned John Carter. “Its about to charge!”
Radium rifles were ready, Valla drew her ornate radium pistol. It was smaller than a man's weapon but just as deadly.
Just then the lion let out a roar and leaped forward with surprising speed. He was almost upon them when five radium rifles exploded striking the beast in the head and chest. It went down, dead. They continued to fire at the lion until ordered to cease fire.
“Watch out,” cried out the warlord. “Look out behind us, these animals hunt in pairs!”
A second lion, this one lacking a mane, leaped out of the jungle towards a warrior. The rifles spat death and made short work of the creature.
“Are these beasts common on Sasoom?” asked Valla to her father.
“Not in most sections,” answered John Carter, “save for the wild parts of Africa.”
“Thanks for the warning,” commented Turan, “ Without it we may have lost a man.”
“It was the mate of the first lion we shot.” informed the Warlord. “They hunt in pairs, making them extremely dangerous. The plant life is much like I have seen in Africa.”
“That is a land I do not wish to visit,” whispered Turan to Valla.
“I agree,” she said in a low voice. “If the beasts are like this? What of the people who live there?”
“Just as savage in some places, friendly and helpful, in others.” answered John Carter.
The party labored on, making their way toward the mysterious city on the wide lake. They set up camp and had dinner, dining on rations from the ship, they slept for a time, dinned and started the trek to the city. Valla talked with her father about his travels in Africa and his search for a lost city. He told her of the many animals that lived on the dark continent.
The sun was still at high noon when they reached a stone paved road that went through the jungles toward the city. Once they got to the road the travel was faster and easy. On the road they found no vehicles save for a few ruts in the pavement that indicated that some sort of wheeled conveyances had used the road in the past.
The city was surrounded by a high wall and they found the massive gates were closed to them.
“Open your gates!” ordered the Warlord to the unseen inhabitants of the city. “We wish to speak with your rulers! We come in peace but if you wish a fight, we will give it to you.”
“Surrender!” came a deep voice from the walls.
“Warriors of Helium never surrender!” counted John Carter.
“Shall we set up the radium cannon?” asked one of the crew.
“Get it ready, Padwar,” commented the Warlord. “We must be ready to use it to blast open the gates, if we must.”
“Worry not, my Jeddara, I will protect you from any danger.” Said Turan to Valla. She nodded to him as she felt a sudden chill of fear even under the hot sun.
“Surrender now!” came the voice from walls.
“Who am I speaking with?” asked John Carter. “Who is your leader? Who are you? We rather be friends than enemies.”
“No one speaks to the Emerin in such a way, especially the lowly Raksa.” answered the voice.
“We are from Helium, we know naught of your people or the Raksa.” yelled the Warlord.
“You sent the two in a flying ship,” came the voice, “they tasted wonderful!”
“Let em have it!” ordered John Carter. A dozen radium rifles spoke and the Radium Cannon fired taking out part of the wall. Still no foe showed themselves over the wall.
“Aim for the gate!” cried John Carter, “lets see what these eaters of men look like.”
His words were prophetic. Before the cannon could fire, the gate opened smoothly by itself.
“Be ready!” cried the Warlord. “They are coming out for a fight.”
As the gate opened a white beam of light issued from the walls hitting the radium cannon. It dissolved before their eyes along with the gunners that manned the weapon! Other forms appeared all around them. They seeming came out of the ground.
They were tall forms, perhaps seven feet tall—Armed with staff equipped with nooses. These they would use to snare warriors, and disarm them,
“They want to capture us alive!” yelled John Carter. One of the figures snared him. He cut away the staff and thrust his long sword into his attacker. Valla had her radium pistol out and took out one of the attackers with a head shot. The enemy moved swiftly and overwhelmed the Men of Helium. Turan killed one until two nooses were slipped over his head. Valla felt a noose slip over her head, she turned and fired, killing the tall attacker. But another, looped a noose over her head. She shot him as well, until a staff knocked the pistol from her grasp. She looked, only her father was still free, fighting the odd attackers. Valla found herself tied at the wrists and wast. Others in her party were being tied.
“Surrender or we kill the woman!” came the voice. The warlord saw his daughter was a captive and threw down his long sword in an act of surrender. He was quickly tied up.
Valla examined her captors. The were tall, she noticed their arms were muscular, and they had feathers on their head like a bird. Their eyes were large and there mouth was replaced by sharp beaks, the beaks of carnivorous birds. When they walked and moved they would move their heads up and down. Their feet were made up of long toes with sharp talons. They wore tunics and belts for swords and daggers. A row of long feathers went down their spines. They were colorful feathers of blue, yellow and red. Valla would learn that the females were a dull tan, unlike the males.
“Pigeons with fists,” mumbled John Carter.
“What is a pigeon?” asked one of the birdmen.
“A bird creature like you,” he answered.
In the fight ten of the Bird men were killed, and five of the Heliumetic warriors were dead.
“Take them all.” yelled one of the tall creatures. “We will feast on the dead at dinner!”
“The others we shall fatten up for the coming high feast!” answered another.
A chill ran down Valla's spine. Was she destined to end up as dinner?
“You interest me,” said one of the tall birdmen, “You have a white skin like the peoples of Etarith, yet you dress and speak like the red skinned men of the surface world. Are you a Thern? We have brought some to the inner world.”
“I was of Sasoom,” answered John Carter. “I am a prince of Barsoom and demand we be released.”
“In this place you are only a slave to be used any way we wish.” the tall feathered creature said in an arrogant tone of voice.
“I demand you release us, or feel the wrath of Helium!” countered the Warlord.
“You will be sent to the games, most will become part of the feast. The woman is young, we will breed her for more children. Babies are tender and we enjoy dishes with their meat.”
“You are sick—Release us or face the bloody retribution of Helium!”
Rather than answer, the tall creature struck John Carter in the face, almost knocking him unconscious.
“You will need to learn how to speak to your betters!” the big birdman screeched.
With ropes tied around their necks and wastes and were directed into the city passed a strange, bulky metal unit with a tube and metal dish. They guessed it was the strange ray cannon they used. They also saw the underground openings that permitted these creatures to get behind them and surround the Barsoomians. The city was white, with ornate carvings in the walls. Many of the inhabitants was watching, looking at them as earth men examined a heard of cattle. They didn't go far until they were directed down a ramp into a dark basement filled with metal cages. They forced them into cages, Valla was separated from them and taken to another place.
“Do not lose hope my Jeddara!” yelled Turan. “I will rescue you if I must bend these bars with my bare hands.”
Valla looked at him as she was pulled out of the chamber.
“I still live!” she said back to him in a defiant voice.
“We still live,” answered The Warlord. “While we live there is hope.”
“I want to get my hands around the throat of one of these cannibalistic monsters.” whispered Turan.
“As they are birds, when they eat us they are not really cannibals.” Answered the Warlord.
The time passes slowly in their dark cell until a birdman in a bright blue and gold robe walked in. He was excited, looking over the new slaves.
“Where is the White Skinned Thern?” he asked.
“I am John Carter, prince of Helium, Warlord of all Barsoom.” as he came to the edge of the cage. “I am not a Thern.”
“So you are not of Etarith? You call it Sasoom?” asked the big bird creature.
“I was of the Earth.” answered the Warlord. “Those of Barsoom call it Sasoom.”
“We have brought others from that world, men, women and beasts.”
“We saw the lions in the jungle,” informed the Warlord dryly. “We killed them. Tell me how were you able to bring them here?
“We call this inner world of Barsoom, Dhaimira.” The bird creature said. “You are a curious creature. What is your name? white skin.”
“I am John Carter, who are you?”
“I am Bulanta Zu, I work for the Dator of the Emerin. I lead his science center, I am the high lord of the white ray.”
“Where are we?” asked the warlord
“You are in the city of Emerini, the capital of the inner world. How did you come to Barsoom?”
“I willed myself here.”
“Were you in great stress, fear for your life, when the transition took place?”
“Yes, I was under attack.”
“Perhaps we are the reason your here? Said Bulanta Zu.
“What do you mean?”
“You saw the light form, that used the ray to bring your ship to the inner world?”
“Yes, how do you leave this world?” asked John Carter.
“There is a way, a submarine tunnel from the lake to the Omean. There were other passages that we have blocked. We do not leave Dhaimira—but our ray can penetrate the crust—form a focal point in the atmosphere and from it the ray can bring people and ships, plants, animals, objects to our world. Our light ships made of powerful energy can be sent to other worlds. We are draw to people under stress, or near death—sometimes in transit we lose them and they only reach the surface of Barsoom. You may have been transported in this way.”
“I may have you to thank for my arrival to Barsoom.” answered John Carter.
“You are a remarkable man, John Carter. I will enjoy dissecting your brain.”
“I will enjoy cutting you in half.” the Warlord said, dryly. The birdman blinked at him.
“I see you are like many we have brought here—filled with rage and hate.”
“Tell me, have you brought many from Sasoom to your world?”
“Some.” the scientist answered.
“Can you return us to the outer world?” asked John Carter.
“Do not worry of that. You are destined for the arena, and the kitchens.” said the tall birdman.
At that, the creature called Bulanta turned and left with a huff.
“Warlord,” said a padwar, “we must escape this place.”
“Padwar, you are Djor Zari, I knew your father, Mors Zari, we fought together at the Valley Dor.”
“You honor our family,” the young padwar answered.
“You are right, we must escape. First let us get these ropes off. Work as teams to get free.”
The others checked the bonds. The men worked hard and untied the knots. One of the men had a small blade hidden in his harness. The ropes, strong as they were, were pulled off and cut. Once free, John Carter began to check the bars of their cell. They were thick metal, but rusty and ancient.
“Use the ropes to help us bend these bars,” commented the Warlord. “As long as they have no guards watching, we may well be able to escape.”
“And then we must free Valla!” added Turan.
“Your right, Zorian, She must be freed,” agreed John Carter.
“We best be ready, the birdmen may have expected an escape attempt.” commented Djor Zari. A rusty bar was found and the men gathered pulling the ropes to bend or release it from the stone.
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