Vail pulled his long rifle from his shoulder and readied
the weapon. “The explosions come from that direction.” They hurried
on but with as much caution as was possible.
Soon enough they reached the former camp of he whom they
sought to find the dead banth being feasted upon by scavengers, two of
whom were dead, their heads blown nearly away. “What did this?
And why kill scavengers? And why kill only two?” Eibhlin asked.
“Another mystery,” he cried with glee! “But one
easily solved. See you the neck and torso of the banth? Those
which are dead ate too fast and in their haste to feed, dislodged your
bullets. Then, upon biting the meat, they crushed the glass covering
to the radium powder which allowed the sun's rays to detonate the explosive.
The bullets exploded within the mouths of the beasts and….”
“Then perhaps we should leave before the other rounds
are chewed free.” She turned her thoat.
“Or shat out,” he laughed.
The thought of a pile of dung filled with radium powder
being expelled into the sun then detonating before it was free made her
laugh as well. “Vail Oran, you are the most enjoyable companion that
I have had in a very long time.”
“As are you, Eivleen Obreen. Come, here is the trail
of the one we seek.”
The moss had sprung back with the passage of the thoat
but in the darkness, some few stones had become dislodged and these were
seen as reddish-brown spots among the ochre moss. They soon faded
away and the steps of their quarry became more careful, but the way was
They searched all morning, occasionally climbing a hillock
and spying via binoculars or the rifle scope and shortly after noon, Vail
whispered, “Found him!” then a moment later as Eibhlin focused on
the man, he continued, ”He has found that which he seeks!”
“How do you know?”
“Before, he traveled as does a banth seeking prey, back
and forth in the general direction of Amhor but often changing his way
to the east or west. Now he travels to Amhor as does a rifle bullet,
save those diversions necessary to avoid a large rock. Come,
let us search for that which he found.”
It took a zode or more but they found the object.
“A flier, a small scout flier half buried in the moss!” Vail exclaimed
as they approached. “see, the moss has been disturbed here!”
Eibhlin had seen these craft but never flown in one as
she saw them as being nothing more than a flat board a few inches thick
with a wind-screen at the bow and a motor and propeller at the stern.
The pilot would lay flat on the board, strap himself to the thing and reach
forward to the controls and hope that the headwind wouldn't blow him free
or his buckles fail. They were fast and deadly because of the radium
rifle mounted in the bow but you had to fly directly at the target for
the rifle was fixed and you were helpless against an enemy approaching
from the side, above or below or behind. “He took the controls,”
Examining the wreckage, Vail added, “Not all, just the…
strange, everything remains, though damaged. But there is space here
where he removed controls. Look, a glass portal forward and another
through the deck.”
“A camera?” she asked.
“I believe so. This man was searching for a flier
and retrieved a camera.”
“How long has this flier been here?” she asked.
In Ireland the thing would rust away within a year. Here, with no
free water or humidity, and the Martian steel being mostly immune to rust,
she could not say.
“Moss grows fast down here. Perhaps a month, probably
less than a year. But who would spy ion Amhor? We have fought
no war in decades.” Yet another mystery.
“Then, Vail Oran,” Eibhlin stood and reached for her thoat,
“Perhaps we should question your mystery man!”
“Most certainly,” he laughed. “Why would a foreign
man, spying on Amhor, visit that city?”
“How do you know he is foreign? Maybe he was a soldier
returning to Amhor after a spying mission and crashed.”
“I doubt it, Eivleen Obreen. Were he from Amhor,
he would have been searching with his back to the city as he searched moving
away. Also were he an Amhoran, the Jed would have sent an army to
seek the craft. And why wait so long? No Eivleen Obreen, this
man was spying upon Amhor and was shot down. He escaped or was captured
so was unable to recover the camera. Now, months later, he is free
to return to search. But why go to Amhor? Why not leave?”
“Perhaps he has a confederate in the city? Another
spy who will aid him in returning the camera to their home?”
“I do hope so!” he laughed. “Come, the mystery awaits!”
and he kicked his thoat into a trot!
People with little authority tend to abuse what little
power they possessed. Eibhlin saw that with lesser Teirna in Ireland,
she saw that with the British Nobles who ruled Ireland, she saw that among
the Vanthi pirates and customs agents who took bribes, she saw that on
modern Earth and she was seeing that at the gates of Amhor. If leaving
the city generated suspicion and questions, trying to reenter was a nightmare.
Both were taken to a small room where their identity papers were examined
by the guard, then by the superiors of the guards, then by the guards again
and all the while they were questioned as to why they had left and returned
to Amhor. Then they were left alone while the guards examined and
conferred that the identity papers were real and not forgeries.
Eibhlin fumed and then snapped, “Why are you so calm?
Our quarry is long gone and we have lost him.”
Vail laughed and replied, “you cannot rush these people
so we relax and allow them their way. BUT, we have learned one more
thing, the man we seek has excellent forged papers or is a Noble of Amhor.”
“Why think that?” she asked, marveling at her companion's
Vail was enjoying this too much, “Because he is NOT in
the room next to us!”
She gasped, “They passed him through without a thought.
“Exactly, now we convince the guard to tell us who he
Vail explained, “The gate guard is a low position that
pays what it is worth, so the guard may easily be bribed. But, did
he bribe the guard or was his metal of such power that the guard dared
not delay him?”
“I know,” she laughed, “You love a mystery.”
Shortly after they were released, their identity papers
returned and bade to ‘move along’. Vail sought out the guard that
seemed the most abusive and, with the exchange of a small bag of the oval
coins common on Barsoom, they entered the main road of Amhor.
“Our quarry is a minor noble of the House of Phor which
is related to the House of Phor Tak of Jahar. 50 years ago Jahar
sought to conquer Barsoom and their greatest scientist, Phor Tak, developed
terrible weapons for this end. Phor Tak, however, fell afoul of the
Jeddak and was forced to flee, he to some citadel in the Great Desert,
his family to Amhor where they sought refuge. Although they have
lived here since, the House of Phor has always sought to return to Jahar.”
Vail was a fountain of information.
“So this man is taking photos of Amhor for what reason?”
“Perhaps to enable conquest of Amhor? At one time,
there were three great nations that controlled much of Barsoom; Ptarth,
Zodanga and Jahar. Helium allied herself with Ptarth and destroyed
both Jahar and Zodanga, the latter now being a subject of Helium.
Jahar was allowed by Helium to remain free under the rule of Sonoma Tora,
a minor Noble of Helium who was taken by and married to the former Jeddak,
Tul Axtar who was killed by Tan Hadron. Sonoma Tora rules Jahar but
listens to Helium. The House of Phor may wish to return and replace
Sonoma Tora with their own Jeddak.”
“So how does Amhor fit into this mystery? Amhor
is one city with a few smaller subject Jeds. Plus Jahar is half the
planet away with the Toonoolian Marshes between. I see no geographic
or economic value to trouble with the two.”
“That we shall learn. Come, Eivleen Obreen,” he
led her on. “Let us visit the House of Phor for I suddenly find myself
with a lack of pi and would hire myself to that house.”
It took little time to find the ‘palace of Phor’ which
could only be called a palace by strict definition of being the home of
a noble. Though large and walled, it was near the city walls which
meant that it was in the poorer part of town and guarded by what Eibhlin
thought were ‘inexpensive ruffians’ who openly stared at the couple even
as they passed them through.
“Even my home was cleaner than is this, and we had been
burned by the British,” Eibhlin commented.
“Which would make them desperate to hire me,” Vail laughed.
When they reached the main chamber, they saw a woman on
a raised dais with a younger man at her side, though ‘young’ on Barsoom
simply meant in good shape with no wrinkles. Either could have been
from 40 to 400 easily as Martians achieved their adulthood at 40 and then
ceased to age until near 900. Like all Red Women, the Noble was beautiful,
had small breasts and long wavy ebony hair that fell to her waist.
She also had eyes that looked as if they had never seen anything pleasant.
Both visitors lay their long-swords at her feet as was custom and bowed,
Eibhlin curtsying as being from Earth, she had never learned the male custom.
Red Men found her curtsey to be curious and entertaining.
Vail began, “Lady of the House of Phor, I am Vail Oran
of Amhor, a simple than in need of employment in this time of peace.
I am a good swordsman as well as competent with the rifle, and I play an
excellent game of Jetan.”
“And your companion?” the man standing by the Lady
asked. Neither of them had taken their eyes from Eibhlin. “She
wears the metal of Ptarth, does she wish to ‘fight’ for the House of Phor?”
He almost laughed as he said ‘fight.
Since the question was aimed at Vail, Eibhlin remained
“No great Lord,” Vail explained. “The Princess Obreen
is but a friend who accompanies me here. It is I and I alone who
“Your choice in friend is unusual.” The lord replied.
“Still, I suppose that we must give you a chance.” He motioned to
a guard who approached.
Eibhlin and Vail moved to a far wall as the guard, an
ugly specimen who looked as if he had forgotten to bathe that day, or week,
approached and bowed. (They will make you leave, when it is dark,
can you climb the wall and seek me in secrecy?”
“Easily” she whispered, touching him to fix his mental
imprint. “Good luck.”
Vail and the guard drew steel and faced off, both knowing
this was to first blood only as no one wished to kill or injure a valuable
employee over a simple test. In Ireland Eibhlin, being a woman, was
untrained in battle so had to learn the blade as a martial Art when she
was a slave to the Demons. Brount, a warrior-monk who was a passenger
on the Demon ship had taught her the blade, but her training was different
from what she now watched. Although the styles were vastly different,
Brount taught her to fight with quick slashes to vital arteries followed
by a dismemberment to finish her opponent, the Martians fought more to
stab and thrust and only occasionally slashing for the Barsoomian Long
sword was very light and not suited to dismemberment. Only the strength
of an Earthman could decapitate a Martian. Thus she watched what
resembled an Earthly Fencing match with a long curved blade.
The fight went quickly, neither man wishing to take a
cut so defense was the order as each tested the other. Eibhlin had
spent enough years on Mars to have learned the style though being young,
very young, she survived her battles mainly by virtue of her superior strength
and speed and her unnatural vitality. Still she could see that Vail
an excellent fighter whose skill was honed on the battlefield while his
opponent was more aggressive who seemed to have learned in a butcher's
shop. The end was easy to see to even Eibhlin’s untrained eye and
it was clear to her and to the Nobles who was the better. Finally
Vail won with a quick deflection-and-thrust that barely touched the guard,
yet still drew a drop of blood.
“Enough!” the woman suddenly cried as both backed
off, their blades touching the floor. “Return to your duties, Vail
Oran will go with my son to negotiate terms. You, Eivleen Obreen,
must have duties to your own Lord and I would not keep you.”
Obviously dismissed, Eibhlin curtseyed and left, waving
at Vail as she left.
Having no duties, Eibhlin left and found an alley that
appeared to be deserted in the approaching dark. Between the shadows
and the night, she was so glad that Vad Varo had changed Amhorian fashion
to eliminate the typical nudity of other nations. She waited until
the street traffic faded for even Amhor had a curfew. Then she removed
her weapons and donned a black silk jumpsuit over which she donned her
weapons and moved through the shadows to the compound, her mind-shield
preventing discovery by the Martian telepathy for the Red Man was unable
to read or even perceive the thoughts of anyone of Earth.
Red Men are poor climbers, be it a hill or a wall, and
for a person engineered to climb about a starship in zero gravity, the
wall was of no concern and she was soon on top, searching for a guard or
guard dog for though rare, occasionally a Red Noble would have calots in
their compound. The thin air of Mars carried little noise but Eibhlin
was certain that she was alone, the guards probably gambling inside where
it was warm, so she dropped to the ochre grass and moved forward seeking
the mind of her friend.
Climbing the wall to the building, for the Red Men so
loved ornamentation, she soon found her friend and listening with hears
and mind, determined that he was alone and entered the conveniently open
window. “You were expecting me?” she asked.
“Of course.” He replied. “I determined that with
your anatomical differences, you would have no difficulty climbing either
wall and you made certain to touch my mind before you left so I excused
myself with the pretense of solitary prayer and waited for your arrival.
The household is small and the guards lax and these would conquer Amhor?”
He led her about the house, they hiding when sighting
another, and eventually reached the floor where the Nobles lived.
Eibhlin could never get used to those curved ramps the Martians used instead
of stairs, and nearly tripped a number of times.
Finding the apartments of the Lady of the house, they
searched and upon sighting the longsword of his new employer, Vail quietly
drew it and sniffed the blade. “Clean.”
Eibhlin sniffed the opening to the sheathe and handed
it to her companion who sniffed and smiled, “Banth blood! None other
smells like that. He cleaned his blade but forgot the sheathe.
He is the one we seek. Now for the film!”
“Rather, now you die!”
At the door was Phor Vallas, the son of the Lady who
stood there with drawn revolver. Eibhlin glanced at the radium bulbs
that lit the chamber, wondering if they were bright enough to detonate
the shells for she could easily survive a normal bullet though she feared
for her friend.
“Why?” she asked, cautions for a man who could kill a
banth with lance and sword was not someone she wished to face.
“You are trespassers and spies, need I any other reason?”
Crime was almost unknown on Barsoom so anyone found in your chamber was
either an assassin or a spy.
“No,” Vail interrupted. “Why spy on Amhor?
Do you intend to bring in a force to conquer the city? I must stop
you if so.”
Vallas laughed at that, almost lowering his weapon.
“You think that this is about Amhor? Foolish man! Amhor is
but a tool. It is Ras Thavas we want!”
“Why?” Eibhlin asked. “Is she ill? Ras Thavas will
heal her without spying.”
“Spying? This isn't spying.”
“Your flier in the seabed! You sought it and took
“I took photographs of the Toonoolian Marsh! Years
ago, Ras Thavas was driven from his Tower and created an army of unbeatable
Hormads to reclaim his home. Those where the pictures I took but
was damaged by rifle fire and barely reached the seabed! The Hormads
still live and I want them.”
“An army of the unkillable! You think to ask Vad
Varo to intercede with Ras Thavas for that army to conquer Jahar!”
Vallas holstered his weapon and laughed again. “Almost.
Sonoma Tora hires panthans to kill the savages of U-Gor. This is
breaking the economy of Jahar and the people groan under the weight of
‘national security’. I want the hormads to enter U-Gor and destroy
the savages! Being unkillable, they can easily do so with few losses.
Plus aside from the pittance I will pay Ras Thavas for their use, they
are virtually free of charge.”
“Then,” Vail exclaimed, “when it becomes known that it
was you who destroyed the savages, the people will overthrow Sanoma Tora
and place you upon the throne. Of course, it is so simple.”
“And with Sonoma Tora gone, Jahar becomes free of the
yoke of Helium, U-Gor is recolonized and rebuilt and Jahar returns to the
glory of her past!”
“Glory to reconquer you mean,’ Eibhlin stated, ready to
attack the Prince.
“You foolish woman. You wear a man's harness, carry
a man's weapons and think a man's thoughts. It isn't like that!
Tul Axter was a madman! He sought to conquer the world. I have
no such ambitions. My mother and I simply want to return home.
The House of Phor was a Noble house for a hundred thousand years.
The dirt of Jahar runs in our veins! WE helped build the waterways
that saved Barsoom. What care I for Helium or Ptarth or the rest
of those nations that are younger than my family name!”
Vail interrupted, “Will you swear upon your House and
family that you mean no harm to Amhor!”
Eibhlim added, “Nor Ptarth or Helium?”
The Prince snorted, “Gladly. We only want to go
home and the only way we can is to be invited and for that we must become
great again. Even John Carter cannot argue with my methods.
I destroy the savages of U-Gor and remove the Hormads as a potential threat
which makes Helium and Ptarth happy. I remove Sonoma Tora and rebuild
U-Gor which makes the people of Jahar happy. We sign a treaty with
Helium that trades our freedom with our military aid and everyone wins!”
“Amazing, every mystery solved! I do wish that you
had waited long enough for me to learn this by myself. But all questions
are answered. My Lord, I applaud your goal.” Vail bowed to
the Prince who acknowledged the respect.
Later, as she returned to the office of her Ptarthan employers,
she thought, “Finally an adventure where no one tried to kill me.
I can get used to this.” A part of her even wondered if dating
Vail Oran would be cheating on Kara.
EIBHLIN INGHEAN UI BHRIAN (41-42) Eivleen
Obreen: Irish Princess trapped on Mars. Abducted by alien Demons,
she was changed by them to be a useful tech-slave.
"I am Vail Oran, a common warrior: One of Eibhlin's
few friends on Mars.
Aonghus O’Brien of Innis and
Mairayd Ui Neill
of Belfast: Eibhlin’s parents in 18th century Ireland. Both
Brount: a wandering alien Warrior Monk and
Eibhlin’s teacher aboard her Demon Starship.
Jetan: Martian chess, played with 20 pieces per
Kara: Eibhlin’s Vanthi lover and co-pilot, now
on Earth 20th century
Mairayd: Eibhlin's mother
Mairayd: The name of Eibhlin’s Starship, a Vanthi
Odwar Farren Koff and his daughter Para Far:
Eibhlin’s superior in Ptarth
Phor Tak: A scientist of Jahar, inventor of the
invisible paint, the disintegrator ray, and the Flying Death. –FMM
Phor Vallas: An exiled noble of Jahar.
PI: Money. Barsoomian money is oval
and of a uniform diameter(s), their value determined by thickness.
"How high does your pi reach/stack" is a common phrase for "How much will
you pay me?"
Ras Thavas: The Mastermind of Mars and Barsoom’s
Ulyssius Paxton: An American aviator who died in
France during WWI. He reanimated in Toonool and became Prince of
Timeline- very casual.
1887-1897- Fall of Iss
1925- fall of Jahar & death of Phor Tak
50 B-years after the fall of Jahar- today
+70 B-years after the death of Iss- today