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CHAPTERS THREE AND FOUR
In the Harem of the Birdmen
Two of the tall, feathered warriors pulled Valla though the city. She saw several women like herself, some with red skin, many with white, even a few with dark ebony colored skin. They looked upon her with pity but none offered to help her. She was taken to a tall building with fancy carvings and murals in many colors. Two birdmen guarded the entrance with long spear like weapons, she came to believe were more firearms than spears. She was pulled in where a feathered official in a bright red tunic—looked her over with his huge owl like eyes.
“You are a fine specimen, female.” he said as her wrote something on a sheet of parchment.
“I am sure you would make a tasty meal, but you can produce many babies. You will live as long as you do.”
“Never,” she yelled back to him. “You will pay for this. I am a Jeddara. To touch me against my will is death!”
The guard at her left struck her fully on the face.
“Silence. Here you are nothing but a slave,” ordered the official. “Take her away to the harem, and introduce her to Korantis. He will know how to tame this lioness.”
Valla knew that if the man had lips and not a beak, he would have been smiling.
They pulled her through a barred door, up a ramp, through another metal door and into a large chamber. She noticed a group of women looking her way with expressions of wonder, curiosity , and fear. There she saw a man, not a bird creature but a man with white skin.
For only a moment she felt he might have been her savior.
“Bring the woman in!” the man said. Valla now noticed he had a brutal whip in his hand.
“Better be careful Korantis,” said one of the Birdmen, “She's a Jeddara and to touch her is death.”
This caused the man to leer at her and smile.
“Your a young one!” he said. “We will have fun together, high and mighty Jeddara. You will learn to respect and even love, Korantis.” the man touched his chest with his whip.
“Uslo, If you touch me—you will die!” she cried at him.
“ We shall see, many females come her but all bend to my will after they feel my whip,” said the man. “Cut her free and lets see what she looks like without the ropes.”
The bird creatures, obliged, and in moments she was released. She lunged at the smug man, who oversaw the harem. He was ready for her with his whip and lashed her on her shoulders, sending waved of pain though Valla. She fell to the stone floor.
“Act respectable or you will feel my lash,” he said. “Nice gold bracelets—give them to me.”
“I can not—they are welded to my wrists and can not be removed.” she said, looking for any chance to inflict pain on her tormentor.
“Perhaps we shall have to cut off your hands to take them.” commented Korantis.
“We will leave the lioness with you,” said one of the guards. “We are sure you will break her spirit.”
The man just nodded as the two bird creatures turned and left.
At that the man began to beat the woman with his whip. She put up her hand protecting her face. The beating seemed to never end.
“You will obey me now Princess!” barked the man. “If you don't, You will feel the lash again!”
“I have been beaten by better men than you!” she yelled back at him. She noticed his eyes grew large at her defiance. Behind him, the other women watched in horror, several shaking their heads as if to urge Valla to submit to the brute to stop the beating.
He, didn't answer but continued the beating until he grew exhausted. Valla was quiet now but inside was a growing rage. She would find her revenge!
The Keeper of the Harem left the room as the other women came to Valla to treat her wounds and help her to a coach.
“You mustn't anger Korantis,” one woman whispered to her. “He will beat us all if he is angered.”
“My former husband beat me harder,” answered Valla. “Now he is dead.”
“Would that Korantis was dead,” whispered another.
“While you are here—and it will be for the rest of your life—Korantis is your husband.”
“Never!” Valla vowed. “I will escape this place, and Korantis will die!”
“Then the Emerin will eat us.” a woman whispered fearfully.
“Some are eaten alive by the Dator of the Emerin—we hear their screams.”
“Then we must make sure we are not taken—alive.” whispered Valla with an evil grin.
In talking with the others she discovered many were from the other race that lived in the inner world called the Raksa. Some were from Dusar on the outer world, a few were of the First Born.
“More come all the time,” said an Xoiana, an ebony woman of the Omean. “They do not last long—most of the men are worked to death as slaves, the women come here—most go to the kitchens.”
“Where do the Raksa People live?” Valla asked. “Is it far from this city?”
“We once had a great city in the inner world. Our stories say we invited the Emerin to dwell with us many ages ago. They became our enemy, they built weapons the like of which we had never seen before. Our city is now a ruin, and my people live in caves three sleeps from here.”
“Will they protect us if we make our way to their village?” Valla asked.
“Yes, said Taala, a Raksa.”The weapons of the Emerin do not work well in the caves. But, if we escape the building and get over the walls, they will re-capture us with their flying vessels and white ray before we cover a single Haad.”
“I have friends with me—brave warriors, some of the bravest on Barsoom,” informed Valla. “I know where they are held.”
“That is if they are not sent to the kitchens,” said a beautiful lady named Maas. “Did your people slay any of the Emerin?”
“We killed Ten,” said Valla. “I only wish we had killed more.”
“Then your people will be safe for a time. The Emerin eat their dead in a ritual. They believe it honors the memory of the dead.”
“Then, they are truly cannibals,” murmured Valla. “When Korantis returns, be ready. Take anything you can use as a weapon. That vase, that rod, even the small table.”
“He is so strong,” said Maas. “I don't think we can …..”
“I will take care of him!” commented Valla with a voice of skeel. “Just be ready to help.”
“I will follow you, Jeddara,” said the tall Xoiana. “I do not wish to be the slave women of this man any longer. I would rather be dead.”
“When he comes, separate, act normal, until I act.” The ebony woman smiled and picked up a heavy vase of pottery.
“Death to Korantis!” whispered Taala.
“Death to the feathered ones!” said Maas.
“Victory to the Raksa!” added Valla.
All heard the lock in the door work, then the metal door opened slowly and Korantis entered, looking at each of the women, they recoiled at his gaze. Valla wondered if they would help her in her escape attempt.
“Lioness, are you ready to serve me?” Korantis bellowed. Valla only smiled at him.
“ I know what I must do, my master,” she said with an evil smile. He drew closer, his whip ready, his eyes on Valla. He didn't see Xoiana coming up behind him.
“I see you have changed your mind Princess,” he said ready for any move she might make.
“Come to me,” she said, “I want to be your woman.”
He opened his mouth and she saw it change to a toothy grin. He slowly advanced on her as she reclined on a couch. He bend down as if to kiss her.
“Princess, I do not believe you,” he smirked and uncoiled his whip. “You need a taste of the lash.” He drew back the whip to strike her—but quick as a flash of lightening, Valla seized the whip and lunging, she wrapped it around his neck and pulled it tight. He fought to loose the whip from his neck. He was strong. Valla saw Xoiana hit him on the head with all of her might shattering the vase. She too grabbed the whip and pulled. The other women attacked as well, hitting him with anything they could find. Maas jumped on his back and he fell to the floor. Valla could see he was trying to scream. She didn't stop pulling in the whip that was now cutting deep into his thick neck. It was not long before he stopped struggling in death. Valla continued to pull for a long time. She wanted to make sure he was dead and not just stunned.
“It is death to strike a Jeddara!” she said out loud.
Xoiana took his keys from the body of their former tormentor. Maas took his short sword, Taala Secured a dagger. Valla secured his radium pistol, her weapon of choice, having been trained to shoot by her father, the Warlord, few in the royal palace of Helium could best her with a pistol.
“Now we must leave or it is the kitchens for us!” cried Xoiana.
“I will show you the way to my people's caves.” explained Maas.
“What of the two guards at the door?” asked Taala.
“Worry not,” said Valla. “Just be ready to move! The Dator will have two more to eat tonight.”
Just then there was a loud bang on the door, and it flew open.
“We are dead!” yelled Taala.
To the Harem
Turan kept a steady lookout for guards as the ropes pulled the bars apart. John Carter used his earthly strength to open a way for them to escape.
“Still no guards.” assured Turan. “I wonder why?”
“We killed many, so they know we are dangerous warriors,” reminded The Warlord. “The way I see it, they expect us to try to escape. Its a trap—they may have an army waiting for us or one of their ray cannons just outside the gates.”
“If Its a trap—what shall we do?” Asked one of the warriors.
“We do what they do not expect,” smiled John Carter with a grin. “I have a few surprises these pigeons have never seen.”
“I say we rush them,” cried Turan.
“That's what they want.” answered John Carter, “There must be some way out of here. A rout they have not thought we would use. Search, but do not leave the building—at least not now, until we have a plan.”
One warrior looked out the small barred window. He ducked down and joined the rest of the party.
“Your right sire, there is a hundred of these creatures in the street, trying to hide.” He whispered to the Warlord.
“Let us bar the door to keep our guests out.” smiled the earth-man.
Djor Zari ran from the back of the building.
“There is another entrance but they have it guarded,” he said.
“Keep looking, their must be another way out of this prison.” ordered John Carter.
Turan ran down the hall, seeking a way to escape the prison. Others did the same.
“Maybe they have pits?” asked the Warlord, “most cities do. Look for any doors that lead down.”
Turan ran back to report to the Warlord. “There is a way, but you will not like it.”
“Spit it out man!” answered John Carter.
“Why should I spit?” asked Turan. “But you may wish to if we use this exit.”
“Just tell us, Zorian!”
“I found the bathroom off the guard room. There is a way into the sewers. Its foul, sire, I fear all of the sewage of the City runs through that tunnel.”
“These bird men are a fastidious lot. They would not want to get their feathers dirty,” answered John Carter. “That is out way out. Zorian, I owe you a glass of Dusarian Ale. You have found our exit.”
Turan had a frown on his face, but it faded into a smile.
“I wish only we had a few swords.” he said.
“We will gather them as soon as we get out of this place. Any weapons in the guardroom?”
“No sire, they took all that was there—just empty racks.” answered Turan.
A few of the warriors armed themselves with iron bars salvaged from the cells. As John Carter lead them back to the guardroom and baths, It smelled, as they looked down at the running water that carried away the waste. The water was foul from other stations within Emerini.
“Lets go, follow the current until we can find a way out of the sewer—even if it goes all the way to the lake. Use the ropes to keep together. The current is strong.”
John Carter lowered himself into the surging stink. He found he could stand in this part of the sewer. He turned and looked upward, motioning them to follow him.
“Come on down!” he whispered.
Turan came next followed by all of the group as John Carter began to travel down the smelly sewer water. He didn't pause to think of all the waste that flowed around him. In the near darkness he made his way slowly, not wanting to slip in the channel.
They moved in silence, as they progressed through the sewers Now side channels started to intersect with the main channel. Rats, Earthly rats, scurried as the warriors approached them. The escaping men, saw a metal door with bars that admitted the light of the central sun. A metal ladder went from the sewer to the barred door, the Warlord went up first. The door opened when John Carter pushed it. The fresh air was welcome.
It lead to a lonely street of cobblestones. John Carter was glad to be in the sun, but unhappy he didn't have his weapons. There was no one visible. He turned back and motioned for his men to come into the street. They were a sorry stinking lot of men after their journey.
“Scatter,” whispered John Carter. “We will attack the first of the Emerin that shows his beak.”
They hid in an alleyway. They saw a shadow in the street. They watched, ready to pounce on anyone who came down the street. As he turned the corner, it proved to be a light skinned man. They grabbed him.
“Who might you be?” the Warlord asked the newcomer. He was a strong man, with the marks the lash. He wore an iron collar.
“I... I am Las. Slave to the Dator.” he answered with a fearful look on his face.
“Your a Raksa?” asked John Carter.
“Yes,” he answered. “I was captured by the Emerin when I was but a boy.”
“You are a lucky slave to have escaped the kitchens,” asked Turan.
“Your the men from the flying ship!” he said. “You have escaped?”
“You are right, Las,” smiled John Carter. “There was a woman with us—where is she now!”
“The harem.” he said. “It is well guarded, leave her if you want to escape. I escaped once, but I was recaptured. There is little chance you can reach the lands of the Raksa.”
“Can you lead us to the Harem?” asked Turan.
“Yes, I know the way—but it is near the kitchens.” his expression changed to one of absolute fear.
“Can you lead us so as to escape the notice of the Emerin?” asked John Carter.
“We can but try? I know that if I am captured with you—the Dator will dine on my bones.”
“Do you know where we can get weapons?” asked The Warlord.
“Only the Emerin have weapons,” answered Las. “Weapons are not permitted save for the warriors of the Emerin.”
“Lets get going,” ordered John Carter. “If you help us you can come with us to freedom. If you betray us---it will be death.”
“I will obey!” Said the big man with a sort of bow.
“Now lead us to this harem.” ordered John Carter. “Do you know the location of the Science Laboratory?”
“Yes...yes. It is very well guarded—as guarded as the Dator's Palace.” he said.
He motioned for them to follow him, he lead them down a narrow alleyway, through a maze of passageways. Only a few looked out windows and door, none were birdmen, all were slaves and none acted to sound the alarm. The most common response was to turn their backs.
“We go this way to avoid being seen by the Emerin,” explained Las to the Warlord. “This way we can reach the harem without being noticed. We slaves know its best to not be seen by the masters—least we end up on the dinner platter!”
“I understand,” confirmed John Carter. “One must be wary when you live with such creatures.”
“It is as you say,” Las said with a nod.
The Warlord didn't trust him. His fear of the Birdmen might cause him to betray the Barsoomians to keep out of the infamous kitchens.
They rounded a corner and were at a large square---a tall building dominated the area, covered with garish paintings and mosaic murals. Two guards stood with long spear like weapons.
“They have firerods,” whispered Las. “Very deadly. If they aim them at you, your lost.”
“We must take them by surprise,” answered the Warlord. He had the men with metal bars, sneak up behind the men. Four Heliumetic warriors crept up behind each of the Emerin Guards. They crept up. At the right moment, John Carter came out of the shadows of the Alley.
“Come and get me you over sized pigeons!” he bellowed. Both of the creatures lowered the spears and aimed them at the Warlord.
“Now!: ordered John Carter. The warriors fell upon them. The iron bars did their work. The Emerin were strong and fast but they had hollow bones and thin skulls. They down before they could fire their weapons.
John Carter, Las, and Turan, joined them.
“Good work!” he said as the birdmen were striped of their weapons. “I would like a sword, and one of these spears.”
“Now we must rescue Valla!” said Turan. “We must save the Jeddara.”
They went into the building, leaving the bodies where they were slain. Up the ramp and when they got to the metal door. Not having a key. John Carter aimed the spear at the portal and pushed a button that fired the spearhead at the door. There was a loud blast and the door opened. They entered to find Valla and the rest of the women shocked to see them. Valla rushed to her father with a hug, then to Turan.
“It looks like you had things well in hand,” said the Zorian as he saw the dead body of Korantis.
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