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CHAPTERS FIVE AND SIX
Into the Jungles
“Now we better out of here, Pronto!” said John Carter. “Are the others coming?” looking at all of the women.
“Yes,” explained Valla. “One knows the way to the caves of the Raksa, and will lead us. If they stay here they will be doomed. We can't leave them.”
“I agree, they must be saved. Once Valla and the ladies are safe, we can think about attacking the science lab and getting out of this inner world.”
“Sounds like a tall order.” answered Turan as he held Valla close.
“You smell, guard.” said the Jeddara.
“We escaped through the sewers,” informed her father. “Now what is the best way out of town?”
“I know away out by the side gate,” answered Las. “Its close to the jungles.”
“Lets get going.” ordered John Carter as Valla and Turan parted. Las lead them out of the harem. Some of the women were shocked when they saw the two bodies in front of the doors. They had never seen a dead birdman before.
“They do eat their dead,” informed Valla to her father, “they are truly cannibals.”
“Lets get moving—I don't want to become dinner for anyone.”
Las lead them across the square and down an alleyway. It seemed that the slave had a special understanding of the city—every alleyway, path and street.
“The side gate may or may not be locked and guarded,” informed the former slave.
“Do you think its the best way out of the city?” asked Turan.
“Yes,” he answered. “It is the best path to our freedom. I understand that if I am captured I will be eaten. I have dreamed of my freedom---now is the best chance for success for me.”
Las, looking both ways led them thorough a maze of alleys.
“We are almost there,” whispered Las to the Warlord.
Just then a loud gong began to sound over the city. It was struck again and again.
“That's the alarm!” cried Las, “They must have found the dead ones! We must be quick now!”
“Pick up the pace—the sooner we get out of this awful city the better we will be.”
Now at a near run they made their way down a street. Slaves saw them and gasped but none offered any resistance. They turned a corner and saw a small wooden gate—with two tall birdmen standing a nervous watch. They looked up and saw the group running towards them. One had a tall firerod and tried to aim it at them. Valla was in front of the group, she had her radium pistol ready. She fired twice.
Both of the guards fell, blood coming from head wounds.
“Good Shooting! Valla.” praised the Warlord.
They rushed the small side gate. John Carter got there first as the Barsoomians looted the weapons from the two dead birdmen. The gate was locked.
“Stand back,” ordered the Warlord who aimed the spear like weapon at the metal lock. He step back and it blew the wooden gate to splinters. It opened up.
“Turan, you go first. The rest follow. I will be the rear guard.” cried John Carter. As he spoke a full company of the tall feathered warriors came rushing across the square towards the gate. John Carter aimed his second spear at them and sent the missile into the birdmen. Six fell in the explosion but they continued on. Now Carter picked up a sword. He saw Turan next to him with a sword.
“I though I ordered you to stay with the escaping party?”
“I am a Zorian, I do not take orders from a Helimetic Prince.” He said. “And...I thought you could use some company.”
“Lets back into the doorway, make them come at us a few at a time,” answered the Warlord. “Hold them until we can get away and join the others.”
The two backed up as more and more of the tall warriors gathered.
“Remember the tunnels, they may hit us from behind,” said Turan.
“Your right Zorian, Back further, Turan, I have one more exploding rod.” He aimed it at the roof of the tunnel through the thick wall, and fired, leaping back as the explosion caused the gateway to cave in and the falling blocks of stone stones block the exit.
“Now lets get going!” cried the Warlord of Barsoom. As they ran, they saw trap doors open in the ground and two of the Tall feathered warriors leap out to block them. John Carter drew his sword. As two more came from underground. Before they engaged, three shots rang out, and three of the creatures fell. He turned to see Valla with her deadly pistol coming towards them. John Carter ran up and dispatched the two survivors. No more came from the tunnel system.
“We will have protection in the jungle!” cried the Warlord. “Thanks Valla. I believe you have improved as a pistol shot.”
“Desperation is a great instructor,” she answered.
They followed the pathway into the dark enfolding vegetation of the tangle of plant life. It was still a novelty to Valla and the others. Nothing like this exists on Barsoom. John Carter seemed strangely at home in the mass of vines, leaves and flowers.
“I have seen worse in the Congo,” he said, using his sword to cut away the ensnaring vines.
“Will we encounter more lions here?” asked Turan.
“Perhaps,” he answered. “I rather meet them than our pigeon headed friends.”
They heard the nearly silent propellers of an airship overhead. Here the jungle was so thick no one could have seen or tracked them. They soon caught up with the rest of the party.
“Who knows the way to the caves of safety?” John Carter asked turning to the woman.
“Taala I am called.” one of the young women stepped forward.
“I too know the way said Maas,” another of the women. “I only hope my people still live.”
“You lead the way, but be wary of lions, other beasts and....”
“The bird creatures.” added Valla. “If we are recaptured—it will be the dinner table for all of us.” The other women nodded their their heads, grimly.
“Then lets not get captured.” added John Carter.
They pushed though the jungle path. They saw snakes in the trees and creatures like monkeys swinging through the upper levels of the forests.
Valla was impressed with the sweet smells and flowers that bloomed all around her.
“The smells are better than pimalias,” she said.
“These are the smells of my home world, Sasoom.” added Warlord.
“I am glad I could experience them.” said Valla.
The Jungle path ended at a large glade. There were several flying ships and dozens of armed Emirin waiting for them. They could see the birdmen were scattering to surround the escaped slaves.
“How can we get passed them?” asked Turan. One of the women started to cry.
“We still live!” vowed the Warlord. “Let us go back into the jungle”.
Just then the bright sun flashed and went out! The whole inner world went black! The whole world was plunged into Stygian darkness. The Raksa were in a panic over the darkness—having experienced this few times.
“What is happening?” asked John Carter.
“This happens when they use the white light. The energy they tap from the sun.” Just then the shaft of bright light shot up from the city of Emerini toward the sky. The shaft of light gave dim illumination to the inner world of Dhaimira.
“Lets cross the glade now,” ordered the Warlord. “The pigeons are confused. Hold hands and lets keep together. I don't think they will fight.”
He lead the way, behind him the women and Las. The warriors formed a rear guard.
“The darkness will not last long,” advised Las, “Let us move fast.”
At a near run they crossed out of the jungle, running across the grassy glade. They would pass close to the bird warriors. But the Emerin were confused, some sitting, some running in circles.
“Be ready, be ready,” admonished Turan. He saw something moving in the grass, something fast and unlike anything he had ever seen before. They were moving in great leaps away from the ex-slaves.
“What are those animals?” he murmured fearful.
“Jack rabbits,” commented the Warlord. “They are not dangerous and rather good eating.”
“Such strange creatures!” said Valla, watching the jumping rabbits.
“Keep an eye on the Birdmen—if they level one of their rods our direction...” admonished the Warlord. As he spoke, one of the tall Emerin saw them and aimed a firerod towards the group. Valla was ready. Before he could fire her radium pistol spoke and he dropped with a wound in the chest. Another looked towards them, and she fired, taking off his beak—then a second shot dispatched him with a head shot.
“I could have used you at Valley Dor,” commented John Carter. None of the others bird warriors made any moved to attack and the party entered the jungle pathway without incident.
“Sorry Father,” commented Valla, “the Emerin was moving, I had to waste two shots on him.”
“You would have been at home in the Wild West, daughter.” he said with pride. They had not progressed far until the bright ray, winked out once again plunging the inner world into night.
“The sun will be back now,” came the voice of Las. Not a minute passed until the whole of Dhaimira was brightly illuminated by the central sun.
“We should see what unfortunates were transported here.” commented Taala.
“Your right,” said the Warlord. “Djor, think you can try to clime that tall tree?”
“I can but try, my lord.” he handed his sword to one of the women and scampered monkey-like up into the branches. He was looking towards the white city.
“There is a strange vessel in the lake, I have never seen such a thing?” he called down.
“Is it a First Born craft?” asked Xoiana.
“I have been to the Omean, It's nothing like anything I ever saw there.”
At that John Carter climbed up the tree. When he got to the fork in the branches, where Djor was watching he could see over the green tangle of the jungle. He saw a vessel floating in the water, he could make out her lines and nets.
“Its a Sasoomian fishing boat,” he said. “By the colors she fly's, its Swedish.” As he watched, a group of boats left the city, being rowed by slaves and attacked the dazed fishermen. They were quickly overcome, many captured alive by the long rods with nooses on them.
“Lets get moving, we can't help those poor fishermen.” stated John Carter as he descended the tall tree.
“We do not want to be captured again,” commented Xoiana. “This time we will be sent to the Dator to be eaten alive.” A look of fear crossed the faces of the women.
“Well, now we know how the Earthly Rats got here,” commented the Warlord. “I wonder what do they do with the ships they capture?”
“Take all that can be used, and sink them,” added Las. “I have seen this many times.”
“At least they were not Barsoomians, captured by these creatures,” observed Turan.
“They are people!” answered the Warlord. “They will be avenged, along with all the others they have kidnapped, enslaved and devoured.”
“We gave them some of their own to feast upon,” said Taala. “The people they just captured will be fattened before they are sent to the kitchens.”
“I think this place is worst than Valley Dor as it was years ago,” murmured John Carter. “I would like to have TarsTarkas and his green men over run that city.”
“I would like to have the grand fleet of Helium blast that city out of existence!” said Djor.
“Remember that white ray they have. We will need to put that thing out of commission before anyone can bombard that city,” added the Warlord.
“I would love to see the ships of the First Born reduce that hateful city.” commented Xoiana.
“How far are we from the caves of your people?” asked Turan to Maas.
In answer she pointed to a far mountain range.
“There is my home. We will be there is several sleeps. Before we reach them we will pass through the city of Hortz. My people no longer live there but, we visit the ruins to gaze upon our past glory—Once we dominated the inner world, that was before the coming of the Emerin.”
“I would like to see this city,” commented John Carter. “I always loved examining ruined cities—on Barsoom and Sasoom. I remember looking at the ruins of Zimbabwe.”
“Such a funny sounding name.” asked Valla.
“I should tell you about Atlanta and Richmond,” he said offhandedly.
They progressed though the Jungle, cutting away vines and fronds that blocked part of the trail. They progressed until they grew tired. They slayed a muskrat sort of animal and building a fire, cooked the meat and feasted upon it before sleeping. John Carter stood the first watch. They heard the noisy engines of Birdman airship as they flew patterns over the the forest, but they never stopped or dropped low.
After a time Valla and Turan woke. One of the Barsoomians gathered some fruit and they ate well on oranges, pears, bananas and breadfruit.
“The city of Hortz is not far away.” added Maas as she finished a banana.
“I have never seen such a plant as odd as this. Father, what is it called?”
“Its a banana. Common where I come from.”
“Its rather good.” Valla said. “I was under the impression Sasoom was a dry place.”
“The plants you see all around you are from Sasoom.” answered John Carter. “Nothing like Barsoom.”
“I should like to visit your world—maybe tour Zimbabwe?” Valla said finishing her banana.
“I think you would rather prefer Paris or London,” answer the Warlord. “Maybe I will show those places to you someday.”
The party set off again, with Maas and Las leading the way. They avoided clearings or anyplace where they might be spotted from the air.
The ruined city of Hortz
It wasn't long before an ivory colored tower appeared high in the jungle. The tower was covered with ornate carvings, ivy covered much of the thing, clinging to the ornate carvings. As they drew near more and more structures and shattered domes could be seen, all richly carved with hints of paint still clinging to the weathered surfaces.
“I have visited several lost cities,” commented Turan, “but nothing like this.”
“I have toured and lived in several abandoned cities.” said John Carter, but this is unique. It does hint at some of the ruined cities I have seen near Valley Dor.”
“Could the Raska be linked to the Therns? But, they are not bald?” asked Valla.
“Stories say the Therns once had hair,” added Turan. “Look at Las, doesn't he look like a Thern? Only with hair.”
“What is a Thern?” asked Las.
“You don't want to know.” added John Carter.
“They are a race of priests who follow the religion of Issus, the great goddess.” informed Djor.
“We too have stories of a great goddess,” added Maas. “She is called Ras. We also have a story, a legend, of a heroic savior who will come and free us from the Emerin.”
“What is this savior like?” asked Valla, interested.
“He is a deathless warrior,” added Las. “A great man of justice who can not be defeated.”
Valla and Turan looked at each other then glanced at John Carter.
The Warlord looked at them. “What? Why are you looking at me in such a way?”
“In the great temple there is an illustration of this hero,” said Maas with a gesture.
“Lead the way,” said John Carter. “I would like to see this mural.”
The party found themselves in a maze of paved streets, but even here the jungle had impacted the site. There were faded signs with odd hieroglyphics and pictures of things such as sandals, weapons and foodstuffs.
Maas lead them to an impressive white building with statues of a women, and designs of the sun. Part of the wall was open and they followed a well used pathway into the dim structure.
Inside the colorful murals covered the walls and ceiling. They were bright almost as if they were painted now. Valla heard a gasp from the Barsoomian warriors and even some of the women.
“On the far wall is the coming hero—the one who will save the Raksa people,” commented Maas in a reverent tone of voice. She led them though the rubble strewn chamber to the far wall, where a beam of sunlight illuminated the mural. In the center was a powerful male figure, nearly nude. He had a grim look on his face and a sword in his hand.
“There is the coming savior of the Raksa. We call him the Kali-Maaka,” Maas commented.
Just then a sound echoed in the room, it was a falling stone. A figure stood up facing them.
“I am here,” said the man. He spoke in Barsoomian, with an odd accent. The man had long dark hair, with a thin mustache. He had a long nose and white skin. He looked nothing like the image in the painting.
“And who might you be?” asked John Carter.
“I am Count Alexievich Ivanovna of the place called Sasoom.” he answered in a haughty tone of voice.
“A Russian?” John Carter said in English.”
“A fellow from Earth?” he answered in that language. “Who am I speaking with?”
“I am Captain John Carter, formerly of the Army of Northern Virginia, now I am a prince of Heliumetic Empire and the Warlord of Barsoom.”
“A lofty title,” replied the Russian. “You're from the United States of America? I served with the Czarist, White Army, until I was wounded and found myself here, in this strange place.”
“Were you captured by the Emerin?” asked The Warlord.
“You mean the tall bird monsters in the White city?” he answered. “I was enslaved by the things until I escaped. Russians aristocrats make poor slaves!”
“Alex, how do you get on?” John Carter inquired.
“The cave people, think I am some sort of god and leave food for me. I have set up a home in an old palace.”
“What is he saying?” asked Valla.
“He's from a place called Russia. He speaks one of the languages of Sasoom,” he told her. “He lives in the city. The Raksa think he's a god and give him food.”
“They must think he is the savior, Kali -Maaka, they seek.” commented Maas.
The noise of a Emerin flyer echoed through the temple. More than one could be heard.
“Quick, come to my palace where we can hide from the monsters,” cried the Russian in Barsoomian. He ran out a side door and down an alleyway.
“Follow him, he knows the city and is as fearful of the birdmen as we are!” said John Carter as he followed Alex. Valla waited til the other women left before she followed.
They entered a huge palace, it stood over twelve stories tall. Even in a ruined state it was an impressive sight, with murals, carvings and reliefs. None of the party took time to examine the marvels. As they ran, more and more Emerin flyers were heard above. From the sounds they were landing in a large square close to the palace. The Russian lead them up several ramps and a spiral that lead to a large set of apartments on the sixth floor. He lead them down a corridor, where he operated a hidden stone door, it pivoted and they entered a dim chamber.
“Come in, come in,” the Russian said with a gesture. “Be silent, I have supplies you can share. If we are quiet and keep away from the windows, we will be safe. The monster creatures have searched before and never discovered these rooms.”
“Is there a back way out of this hole?” asked John Carter.
“Certainly, but I have never had to use it.” the Count said.
“We killed a bunch of their warriors, they are angry and will do all they can to find us and bring us back to their city.”
“We will be eaten alive!” whispered Taala. “I will take my own life rather than let these creatures take me again.”
“No one will seize us!” vowed Turan.
The Russian closed the stone doorway. And put his finger to his lips to bid them to be quiet.
He then brought out bottles of water and foods for them. John Carter looked around. There were many supplies and furnishing of a strange style he had never seen before. Chairs with spiral legs, chests and cabinets. He saw a strange sword, with a wide blade and a basket hilt.
“Where did you get this sword?” The Warlord asked the Russian in a whisper.
“Found it in the ruins,” he said. “Its like a Turkish Tulwar. The steel is as good as any I have seen.”
John Carter tested the weight of the weapon and was pleased.
“Have any more of them?” he whispered.
“Just two,” the Russian said. “Be silent, the monsters will be close by.”
The Warlord nodded his head with a smile.
The Russian went to a wall and pulled away a rotting curtain, where a small peep hole looked into the outside corridor. He looked back, at the escaped prisoners and nodded his head. Listening hard, the others could hear footsteps in the hall. The look of total fear crossed the faces of the women and Las. They could hear the birdmen in the hall, tapping on the walls.
The time passed slowly until they moved on, searching every part of the ancient palace. It seemed like an eternity until they left, and they could hear their noisy aircraft take to the skies. Alex went to the window, looked out and whispered That one ship remained. They could hear the Emerin in the hallway once again.
Time stood still as they heard the birdmen tapping on the walls again. They suspected there was a hidden set of rooms.
John Carter took a piece of chalk and wrote a single word on the wall in the Barsoomian universal language; “Silence”.
Valla tried to imagine the fear the women held for the Emerin. The thought of being eaten alive terrified them.
They heard tapping on the stone door that caused all to gasp. Turan gripped his sword tight, as did John Carter with his ancient blade. If they came in, it would be a fight to the finish. Maas was looking at the window—it was clear she would leap to her death rather than be taken alive.
The tapping stopped and the creatures started talking to one another and then walked away. Not long after this, they heard a Emerin flyer take off and fly back to their own city. Still the former prisoners didn't speak for a good long time. John Carter saw Valla was holding on to Turan.
He approved, Turan was a great warrior, he would be a good mate for the young Valla.
“I believe we are safe,” said Alex in a whisper to the others.
“They may be on to your hideout.” added John Carter. “They will be back. I think we had better go on the the caves of the Raksa. Only there we may well be safe.”
“You are right.” commented Maas. “I will lead you.”
Turan looked out the window, keeping his head down. As they watched he slowly stood up.
“The bird creatures have left. Their airships are gone,” he said.
“The sooner we start the better!” commented the Warlord. “Maas, how far are the caves?”
“One or two more sleeps,” she said.
“Do you have enough supplies and water for us as we head out?” John Carter asked the Russian.
“More than enough, even for this large party. I will be going with you.” He answered.
“Good, we would be proud to have you with us,” commented the Prince of Helium.
“If we meet the Emerin, the more swords the better,” added Turan.
Valla checked her radium pistol and counted the shells. She would save the last bullet for herself if she was about to be captured—she would not be taken alive, but she would take as many of the birdmen she could with her in death.
They gathered the supplies as did Alex and they opened the stone door. Maas lead them down the ramps to the surface as John Carter and the Russian closed the door behind them.
“I may wish to comeback here some time.” added Alex in English.
“We all may,” added John Carter.
The Warlord saw that the Russian Count was eyeing Valla. The Warlord had seen looks like this before.
“Valla is my daughter,” he told him.
“Is she married?” Alex asked.
“She was, she is a widow now, and the Empress of Zor.”
“What of the tall man she is with?”
“Turan is her guard, but I think hes more than that. He is a tough warrior and an aristocrat in Zor. He's the best swordsman I have seen in a long while.”
“I too am good with a saber.” smiled Alex. “Valla is a very beautiful woman. She needs a guard.”
“She is also a dead shot with a pistol. Better watch out if she's mad at you,” added the Warlord. “She is the best pistolier I have ever seen.”
“I will take that into account.” the tall Russian said with a twisted grin.
With the hidden door closed, the two rushed to join the others now in the courtyard.
The woman Maas was leading them though the ruined city into the jungles. At some point it was hard to determine where the ruins stopped and the jungles began. Soon the city wall came into view with a massive wedge blasted into it. Beyond this they tangle of lush green plant life stood before them with only a few twisting pathways to give access to the interior. They heard the calls of monkeys and other animals.
“We will be safe in the jungle,” added Maas, “the Emerin fear to enter here.”
John Carter realized it would ideal for an ambush, or traps, It was like the worst jungle he had seen in Brazil or British East Africa.
“Its amazing!” commented Valla. “Father, is this like Sasoom?”
“Not all of it,” he said. “Mostly Earth is a beautiful place—only a few spots are like this—lush plant life and wet.”
“I find it quite beautiful,” she said. “The smells are so sweet.”
“ I am glad the bird creatures can't see us from the air,” added Turan. “And I find the smells are so strong that they give me a headache.”
“If I could put that smell in a bottle I could sell it for a fortune in Greater Helium.” smiled Valla.
“I would call the perfume 'Sasoom' and women all over the Empire would buy it.”
“It might just sell at that.” commented the Warlord.
The party saw large snakes in the trees as well as monkeys, Insects of all sized from butterflies to biting flies. They pressed on as they headed for the distant mountain range. The party tired as the trail went up hill. Here and there they saw ruins of older structures that implied that this was once productive farmlands and the jungle was a recent addition to the inner world. Maas kept up a fast march to her homeland.
“Kept on the watch for lions,” warned John Carter, “There maybe other predators in this jungle as well.”
“In the city I saw paintings on the walls of Banths,” commented Djor. “We may encounter them.”
“Possible, but I don't think so---They would have eaten the Sasoomian lions.” added John Carter. “I bet this inner world has a few surprises of its own.”
“No predators could be worse than the Emerin,” said Valla. “I would rather be eaten by a Banth than the Dator of the birdmen.”
“Amen to that!” said Alex. He used the English term 'Amen', that only caused the Barsoomians to give him confused looks.
The Raksa woman, Maas, pushed on with a fanatic pace. The high trees still blocked them from the sky but the wild tangle of the jungle started to decrease and the travel became easier, even if it was up hill.
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