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Since 1996 ~ Over 15,000 Web Pages in Archive
Volume 1627
A Long Time Ago From A Galaxy Far, Far Away . . . 

. . . . . Came . . .
Jeff "Elmo" Long's


Jeff Long
ERBzine is proud to present a reprint
-- retrieved from the Web archives --
Volume 1 ~ Number 7
of this much-prized collector's publication.

Jeff Long's collection of 
news items from Barsoom
first appeared on the Web in

Submissions, comments, lunatic ravings
... are still welcome.
E-mail them to Elmo



What Reason to Battle
Rod Hunsicker

Duelists of Thark
John R. Fultz 

T’zan and the Invisible Men

The Mucker Revisited
with Henry Knibbs



What Reason to Battle
by Rod Hunsicker

Fray stood on the mossy ground and watched the Thark ride toward him. The green man handled the thoat with harsh resentment and came to a reluctant stop several yards in front of Fray. He was a fifteen-foot giant armed with radium rifle, pistol and longsword. There was no mirth or friendship in his glare as he waited for the hooded man to speak.

Fray wore his harness over a plain brown robe. His features were concealed by this robe, but the green man knew who he was. For the last year in Thark there had been rumors of a man lurking about their territory. There had been a few isolated incidents, and the Tharks had come out the losers. The stranger was rumored to possess a marvelous technology that always guaranteed him victory. His swordsmanship was said to be equal to John Carter's. The green man knew it to be true for he had met the stranger before. And the stranger had asked for Gator Nel to come and meet him personally. 

Gator Nel had come for he was a little bit more intelligent and thus more curious than his fellows. This strange man had haunted him since the day Gator had backed down from the human in a fair fight, deciding to live and fight another day. Now he waited for the man to speak.

"Kaor, Gator Nel," said the human. He spoke pleasantly, without mirth or malice. "I am pleased that you have come."

"Am I a slave to run at your call, human? Your message said you have important business with me. Let's get to it," growled the green giant.

"If you were a slave, I would have no interest in you. I want to know who is that greatest green warrior on Barsoom," said Fray.

Gator Nel flipped his leg over the thoat and slid to the ground. Towering over Fray he speculated on the human's small size and large audacity. Then he laughed, a huge, mirthless laugh that mocked the man.

"And what would a little man like you want with such a warrior?" he asked, placing his hands on his hips. Although Gator Nel had seen Fray slay two green men with ease, it was his conclusion that it had been done with some sort of scientific trick rather than swordplay.

"The savagery and fighting heart of the green man of Barsoom is well known. I would like to test my mettle against one of their best," said Fray. He took a few steps closer to Gator Nel. "This is no joke."

The green man put his hand on the hilt of his long sword. Though few of his breed were cowards, Gator Nel was a little brighter than most of his brothers , and he knew there was something dangerous about this strange man. He wasn't sure if it was a technological advantage or a martial one. He had come to this meeting with Fray in the hope of discovering what the hooded man's advantage was and if he could use it for his own good. What interested Gator Nel particularly was Fray's ability to stop a bullet from hitting him. The last time Gator Nel had fought Fray this is exactly what had
happened. If there was a way that the green men could become invulnerable to rifle fire, this would greatly enhance their ability to make war on the red men. Of course Tars Tarkas was at peace with Helium, since the coming of John Carter, but there were other red men to fight. The green men must live by plunder on a world swept clean of resources.

"Few red men can fight one of us man-to-man," said Gator Nel slowly. "We are too large and skillful for them. Could you meet one of us naked except for your sword? Is this the way you want to test your mettle?"


"What could you offer a champion to fight you? I see no riches behind you. No herd of thoats, no harem of women. I see no booty that a champion can claim once you are slain. What do you have to offer, faceless one?" the greenman taunted.

"The answer is in your own mind, green man," said Fray evenly.

Gator Nel reviewed what he had last thought. Obviously the man was reading his mind, but Gator Nel couldn't do the same to Fray. When he tried it was as though Fray wasn't there. In fact, the effort of trying made the green man's head swim so badly it took a severe mental effort to remain standing still.

"You refer to the time our bullets failed to reach you?" snarled the green warrior. He resented the difficulty he suffered when dealing with this puny human. Like most greenmen Gator Nel did not fear death. If anything he sought it in the glorious pursuit of battle. What discomforted Gator Nel about Fray was the impression that the human could slay him at any time, regardless of Gator Nel's own formidable combat skills.The green warrior took some comfort in the rationalization that it was Fray's technology that granted him superiority. Man-to-man, naked in the dirt, Gator Nel thought he had a chance against anyone or anything.

Fray restrained a smile. The green man's thoughts were easy to follow. His warrior-mind was fascinating to touch. Like most of his kind, Gator Nel structured his mind along a martial pattern against which all other concerns were almost trivial. This creature lived to fight. Love, and even sex was dimmed by his desire to be the best fighter and greatest chieftain. Barsoom was so miserly poor in resources that the only way these people could survive was to take what they wanted by brute force. So they developed a social structure that advocated that brutality. They selected their progeny
according to these criteria. There was something different about Gator Nel, though. This was a mind that could think beyond the brutal subject matter that dominated most green men. There was a trace of depth to Gator Nel's mind, and Fray wondered if that depth reached down to an ancient time when the green men were a healthier race in a healthy world. 

"I refer to the thing you want. What all green men want. An advantage over the red men. Or at least an equalizer. While your gunsmiths can make and repair rifles and pistols, you are not technologically equipped to compete with the red men on a grander scale. That day, one year ago, when we faced each other it wasn't fear that stopped you from attacking me it was curiosity and greed. You saw a military advantage and wanted it for yourself. Or at least for the green warriors of Barsoom. The other two green men who died that day were limited to their lust to kill, while you showed true courage
and a knowledge of warfare by stalling your lusts until you obtained the greater prize. This is why I have called you, today, Gator Nel."

Gator Nel laughed harshly. His large hand closed on the pommel of his long sword. "Are you saying I am easier to manipulate than my brothers?"

"In a way. A good way. You are more intelligent. Thus you see options beyond the cleverness of a shrewd warrior Whether you are manipulated is for you to decide."

Gator Nel wanted to kill this human. But he wanted his power more. His wide mouth split in a vicious grin. "How will you deliver the prize to us if you are killed? And you surely will be."

Fray pointed to a spot behind Gator Nel. The green warrior turned and saw a two-man flier hovering about twenty yards away at a height of 70 feet.

"That is mine. In it is all my knowledge and secrets. When I die, if I die, it will deliver itself to you to do with as you will. Is this sufficient?" asked the robed man.

"I am unsure. How will we unravel your secrets?"

Fray smiled in the shadow of his cowl. "I can't do everything for you, green man. The prize will be yours. All your man has to do is kill me. What do you have to lose?"

Gator Nel lifted his massive fist and shook it at Fray. "You will die, human. Our fighter will be Quater Dot, if he agrees. Most of our tribe believes he could kill Tars Tarkas himself in fair combat. You will die, most assuredly."

"We shall see," replied Fray, keeping his doubts about that bold claim to himself.

The duel was confirmed and the date set. Gator Nel's tribe of Tharks was a small one but it boasted one of the best fighters in Thark. This was Quater Dot, a dominating male who welcomed the chance to kill a boasting human. The duel was to take place on a vast open plain. Here the tribe gathered and awaited Fray's arrival. They formed a great circle around an open area, and in the center of this primitive fighting arena, waited Quater Dot.

Fray arrived in his flier a few minutes early. It had taken him ten years to find a downed flier, collect the parts from here and there, and transform a piece of junk into the technological marvel that he now owned. Ten long years of labor to reconstruct a war machine common to those found on his own world. He had arrived naked on Barsoom, like all arrivals, armed with only his magnificent body and advanced technological skills. This advent was ten years in the waiting. He leaped from his flier onto the mossy arena floor. He was naked, except for his long sword. His red hair blazed in the sun as he walked slowly to the center of the circle where his opponent waited.

Quater Dot was a atavism among green warriors. He stood 17-feet tall, truly a giant among giants. His intermediate set of limbs were set in a way that provided him with greater ability to go on all fours. Fray believed that the green men were once centaurian in form and function. For some reason they had selected in the past half million years to become more and more bipedal. That may be because of the domestication of the thoat. Their dependency on their great mounts changed their society and form, though it was possible, in Fray's mind, that the green men were subconsciously
trying to become more like the red men of Barsoom, who obviously dominated the planet.

But this warrior before him was a pure green Barsoomian war machine. As Fray approached Quater Dot rolled his jaw until his great tusks pointed at the human with a menacing intent. The green giant laughed and roared and mocked his much smaller opponent and glared at him with protruding eyes. Quater relied on primitive posturing, and the waving of his eight foot long sword, to intimidate his foe. He didn't talk or shout like other green men would.

As he got within the green monster's range, Fray felt a knifing of fear. Reaching out with his telepathic abilities he discovered that Quater Dot was qualitatively different from the other green men he had fought. With the others, Fray had been able to read their intentions in combat, and thus knew what they were going to do just a instant before they had done it. His own swift sword had been enough to use that moment to his successful advantage. 

But Quater Dot was different. His mind was totally immersed in his actions to the degree that thought and action happened at the same time. Fray would have no telepathic advantage here.

Gator Nel stepped out of the circle of green men and addressed Fray. "You have what you wanted, human. And when you die, we will have what we want."

With the experience of a veteran, Fray never looked at Gator Nel. It was a ploy to distract his attention from the enemy in front of him. Nothing must distract him from his opponent or he would surely die.

Quater Dot attacked as soon as Fray was in good range. His long back humped over in an arch as he down slashed at his much shorter opponent. His attack was furious and blinding. Without telepathic aid, Fray fell back on his own skills, struggling to defend himself. In the first few moments of contact, Quater Dot learned that he had no strength advantage over the human. He had tried to beat down on him from above, while keeping the shorter man too far away to strike. But Fray managed to catch the green man's blade each time it came close in a brilliant display of defense.

Quater Dot dropped to fours suddenly, lowering himself to chest on ground, and slashing accurately at Fray's feet. The human was nearly caught by this maneuver, but countered by leaping high in the air. Quater Dot pushed off the ground, as if expecting this defense, and came up with the point of his sword arching up to skewer the human as he came down. Fray beat down with his sword, twisted in mid air, but still took a wound on his left side that sprayed blood into the air. The Thark spectators roared at first blood. Their weapons clashed together in applause.

Fray scrambled on the mossy ground. Quater Dot's sword touched him again before he could raise a proper defense. And thus it went on. Quater Dot on the offensive and Fray on the defensive,. barely staying alive. Ten minutes later Fray was bleeding from a dozen wounds and the greenmen had yet to be cut.

Fray used his unearthly agility and leaping power to get behind the Thark. This was countered by those protruding eyes that caught Fray's attack and countered. Quater Dot confused the human by changing between a two legged to a four legged stance. This lengthened and shortened the green man's range and kept Fray at a disadvantage. The truth was that Fray just couldn't get past the green man's lengthy guard. The Thark was too good a swordsman to be fooled with tricks, too fast for the swift human, and had too long a reach whether up or down in stance.

As time wore on so did Fray. His strenght was leaving with his blood. There seemed no way to win. Then one way came to him.

He set the Thark up with a series of defensive parries designed to bait his opponent to thrust. When the Thark finally did, Fray didn't parry, he gambled, and took the blade in the meaty part of his left breast, just under the collar bone. The sword passed through, tearing flesh and muscle, but hitting no vital organs, as Fray virtually impaled himself on its length to get closer to his foe. With a lightning swift motion, Fray severed Quater Dot's swordhand and leaped back at nearly the same time. He landed in a crouch and rocketed forward immediately to attack with his sword. Quater Dot
smashed down with a fist, deflecting the human's attack, but not before Fray's sword sliced into his abdomen. Quater Dot twisted and fell away from Fray who also hit the ground on a roll.

Still skewered by his foe's longsword, Fray's mind reeled from the agony of his wound. He telepathically shut down his own pain centers and forced his mind to clear. Up on his knees he realized he couldn't remove the sword by himself. Instead he looked around for the green warrior. Quater Dot was pushing himself up. He had no mental techniques to control his pain. He simply ignored it in a primeval effort to rise and destroy his enemy. He got up on four legs and used his last hand to cup his internal organs back in his belly. His eyes jerked spasmodically until he located Fray. His jaw lowered and his tusks pointed at the human. Every muscle in his body tensed as he poised to attack.

Quater Dot charged, more fury than fight, and ran himself into Fray's sword. Fray went down under 500 lb. of green warrior, showered by green man blood.

The Thark crowd was motionless. Soundless. Rarely had they seen such a magnificent battle. They were further stunned when Fray wriggled out from Quater Dot's body. He lifted to his feet and beckoned to Gator Nel.

The green man walked over to him slowly. Quater Dot's weight had made his wound worse. The red-headed man was swaying and close to fainting from lack of blood.

"Pull the sword out," he demanded of Gator Nel.

Gator Nel paused. If he should kill the human the booty might be his. If not the technology of this man will be lost to his people. The man had fought fairly against their champion, yet Gator Nel had no loyalty to this man. 

"Pull the sword out, Gator Nel," asked Fray.

Gator Nel put his large hand on Quater Dot's sword. Roughly, he withdrew it from Fray's rigid body. Then he dropped it on the ground in front of the human. Immediately Fray's flier landed smoothly next to him. It opened up and Fray put a foot on the ramp.

"Quater Dot was the ultimate green warrior. And he died as such. There is more to life than that, Gator Nel. Try to learn something from what happened today."

"I learned I am a fool," Gator Nel growled.

"I don't think so," said Fray. "And neither do you."

Fray entered his craft and the door closed behind him. It rose and flew away. Gator Nel looked at the puddle of red blood where the human had stood. He understood the human. His message was to create, not destroy. Create relationships, technologies, sciences, and other things to improve the lives of his people. Gator Nel turned and looked at his brethren. Already they were returning to their lives. So many will die in violence, with nothing to show for it. Gator Nel would think about what he might do to show a difference from his life.


Copyright 1997, Rod Hunsicker 
E-mail the author at 

Duelists of Thark
John R. Fultz 

Amid the towering ruins of the ancient city a tribe of green-skinned Tharks had gathered, shouting and jeering at the two combatants whose swift blades danced and sang in their midst. 

It had been thousands of years since the roar of such an excited throng had filled the dusty air of the crumbled metropolis. Its once-mighty spires and sky-reaching towers had fallen ages ago to the scarlet ground of Barsoom, and many of the great slabs which once composed its palaces and temples had been reduced to fine sand. The original inhabitants of the city, whose name was lost somewhere in the depths of the red planet's long history, had
cheered such warlike contests as this one in their grand arena. Now, however, it was the wide central plaza where the mass of nomadic Tharks found themselves entertained by the dueling of their two mightiest warriors. 

Before the great pile of corroded masonry which once had been the palace of a mighty Jeddak, the two green warriors fought like whirling emerald demons laced with gleaming steal. Each bore four long-bladed swords, one in each fist, and the eight blades clashed and struck in furious patterns of offense and defense, slashing, countering, parrying, swiping, and lunging. The red eyes of the warriors were narrowed in concentration, their protruding tusks grit in silent determination. The winner of the duel would gain both honor and the fine prize which had started the confrontation; the loser would receive only the black oblivion of death. 

Zar Logus pressed his momentary advantage, slipping his two lower blades beneath Tak Nul's defenses and drawing, at last, the first blood of the duel. Their fellow tribesmen guffawed and cheered him on, pleased with this development in the fight. Tak Nul seemed shocked that he had been the first to be wounded. An anger clouded his eyes as he struck with a four-pronged diamond pattern at Zar Logus' chest. Only the jewelled metal of Zar Logus' war harness saved him from the bite of the one blade he could not parry. Zar Logus grinned that terrible, mirthless grin of the green men, for he
knew that Tak Nul's anger had gotten the best of him; a great swordsman he was, but his temper had always been a weakness. It was a weakness which would cost him his very life, thought Zar Logus, as well as the prize. 

Zar Logus feinted, slashing with two left-hand blades and lunging inward with the swords in his right fists; Tak Nul blocked the slashes, and the first lunging blade from the right, but not the fourth of Zar Logus' blades, which changed its course in mid-swing and swung downward. Tak Nul's lower left hand was sliced from its arm, dark ichor pouring in a fountain from its stub as his sword fell to the sand. The crowd went wild. 

Zar Logus took a moment for a practised flourish of his weapons in a figure-eight pattern meant to insinuate inferiority in one's opponent. Tak Nul did not scream, but lunged forward with his three remaining blades, maddened by the pain of his bleeding wrist. Zar Logus sidestepped, avoiding all three swords, and brought two of his own down to remove another hand and an entire arm from his doomed opponent. 

This time a scream of rage erupted from Tak Nul's fanged mouth. His tribesmen screamed and laughed at the hysterical sight of their finest swordsman cut nearly to ribbons by such a young warrior. The Thark sense of humor was a grim thing, indeed. 

Rising with only one of his four arms left, Tak Nul swept his blade toward Zar Logus' head. Two blades blocked his swing, and his last remaining arm left his body with the silvery gleam of a Zar Logus' single blade. The Tharks jumped and hollered with mirth and excitement at this final turn of events. They had now a new champion in their midst. 

Falling to his knees, Tak Nul raised his eyes to meet those of his conqueror, in the final request for death which was the right of the mortally wounded. Zar Logus turned to the crowd, brandishing his crimson-dripping blades and basking in the glory which was now his by right of this duel. His beaten opponent spilled his lifeblood freely upon the crimson sand, armless and stripped of honor, wishing only to die. Zar Logus turned, and towered above his bloody opponent. 

"You have fought well, Tak Nul," he said. "But not well enough!" 

And a sweep of a single blade took off the head of Tak Nul. 

The tribe gathered around Zar Logus, praising and saluting him for his most entertaining victory. Now the harness and blades of the dead Thark were his, as well as Tak Nul's thoats and women. But these things mattered not to Zar Logus, for now he would lay claim undisputed to that fair prize which had engendered the slaying of his fellow Thark. 

Stalking forward to the sqat base of a crumbled pillar at the edge of the plaza, Zar Logus surveyed with relish his prize. Tied to the massive rock was the delicate, copper-skinned form of the dark-haired maiden who had been captured that morning in the wastes. Twelve red warriors had guarded her, this soft-skinned female whose arms were draped in gold and gems, whose head was decorated with the ornate crown of some far kingdom. Her guards had fallen easily beneath the might of two-hundred Thark warriors, and she had been carried on the back of a thoat until the tribe set camp in
these deserted ruins. And now she belonged to Zar Logus, to do with as he pleased. 

This bright-eyed, two-armed divinity would make him a good slave. She would serve all his needs, and teach him the ways of red-skinned lovemaking. Zar Logus lifted the girl free of the jutting stone, and threw her over his shoulder, turning to carry her away to some dark, secluded part of the ruins for the night. The girl cried and beat at his back with impotent little fists. Zar Logus laughed. Then his chest exploded as his body fell forward, the stunned princess rolling free onto the hard ground. 

Above, obscuring the rising golden spheres of Thuria and Cluros, Barsoom's twin moons, the vast triangular bulk of a Ptarthian warship filled the sky. Vella Ansari, Princess of Ptarth, laughed then, lying next to the dead body of Zar Logus, as a hundred smaller fliers descended upon the ruined city, the keen-eyed warriors of Ptarth leaning over their railings firing deadly radium rifles into the mass of running Tharks. 

Soon the fliers reached the ground, and the steely ringing of swordplay filled the ancient streets again. 


T’zan and the Invisible Men

First it was the smell of cheap cigars that hung in the jungle air. It made everything seem stale and musty like a waterhole that had gone dry on one overly hot afternoon. A herd of elephants came down and stomped around in frustration, making pot holes in the mud, but they left after a few minutes of angry trumpeting and soon it was quiet again.

T’zan wandered toward the water because he was thirsty. His throat was dry, and the noises Tantor made reminded him that he had not seen his friends in a long time. But when the jungle Lord arrived at the waterhole, all he found was plowed-up ground fast- drying under a merciless sun.

T’zan looked around awhile, poking at steaming piles of elephant dung with his bare feet, then he noticed something strange lying in the reeds. Upon closer inspection he discovered the item that seemed out of place was in fact a human hand severed clean from its owner as though it had been struck by a single blow from an extremely powerful blade. And the strangest thing of all, the thumb and two fingers clutched a reed almost as if the hand was attempting to write the name of its separator in the mud.

T’zan bent forward to touch the hand, then finally raised the grisly trophy to his sensitive nostrils as he murmured, “The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, nor all they Tears wash out a Word of it.” 

Dark clouds hung over the land, and the heavy sky took on the mournful glow of twilight even though it was just past noon. A tiny sun shrunk into a pale, murky disk, high and far away, and the once familiar jungle became caged by harsh shadow lines that divided each tree from the next as though iron bars had been dropped all along the jungle trail.

T’zan shook his giant frame like a lion, and then he turned away and made his painful way through the circular paths toward his home. All along the journey T’zan seemed to feel the presence of invisible men lurking behind the twisted, blackened boles of the forest. And no matter how quickly he turned his head, the flitting wraiths were always able to slink out of his sight before he could focus on their fleeting movements.

Just as T’zan reached the spacious veranda of his jungle dwelling he heard a strange flapping in the air behind him, and he wheeled around as quick as Sheeta, the leopard, only to face, once again, the blankness of dark, green leaves; yet he thought he heard the scuttling away of some tiny thing that scratched through the underbrush like a lizard.

“Who’s there?” the man spoke into the fading light. 

There was no answer.

“Curiouser and curiouser,” T’zan half whispered to himself, as he took tentative steps toward the tall grass that pulled itself back into place blade by blade.

“Something is happening here,” thought T’zan, And then he spied a piece of paper on the ground.

“Ah-ha!” cried the crafty warrior as he sprang forward and clutched the fluttering clue. “Now we shall see what is going on!”

As pieces of paper go, it was not much to speak of, for it was but the size of a small magazine, and yet it was much more than this as T’zan found out as he unfolded it, layer upon layer, until it extended nearly three feet stretched between his outspread arms. And yet there was not a single letter printed upon any of the tiny squares.

“This cannot be!” cried T’zan as he twisted the ribbed strip around and around again. He held it up to the dim light of the pale sun that now seemed to be but a pin point in the sky; yet nothing was revealed. 

“Bother!” said he of the bronze complexion, and he sat on the ground like a tired bear.

All around him the invisible men snickered and danced in glee.

Finally the day ended. Tiny panels folded in upon one another like the layers of a screen. Grey elephants lay flat upon pale green grass next to the flattened brown of the waterhole. The comic book was rolled up like the dim sun, and the first stars began to twinkle on the horizon as the boy shoved it into his back pocket and began his steps toward the supper table, Mother, and home.


The Mucker Revisited
with Henry Knibbs

Once a guy named E-R-B
Scribbling upon a Mucker's spree
Heaved a brute into a literary sea
     to measure how far he could go.

From Chicago's seedy West Side backs
This crooked tale turns and tracks
From Malaysian shores to outlaw shacks
     in Villa's Mexico.

Billy Byrne was a rank product of the street - -
Nasty master of rob and cheat
Who throttled the weakling and effete
     with fingers around the throat.

One drink in a wild, Frisco saloon
Shanghaied him on the rusty "Halfmoon,"
Followed by a blasted, raging typhoon
     that sunk the pirate's boat.

Ah, but in between the storm and strife
A girl came to change his life.
That Barbara Harding will become his wife
     'tis assumed by the story's end.

But first, vivid episodes multiply
With head-hunting samurai
While Billy's transformed into a nice guy
     fabulous to comprehend.

For you see, Billy Byrne was so base
To kick a downed man in the face - -
Barely a member of the human race
     made soft by a pretty dame.

A Fugitive hobo enters Part II,
Plot thickened in historical stew - -
Many yarns stuck together with romantic glue
     of twines and tacks in the game.

Friend-bo Bridge quotes Henry Knibbs
In purple splotches and fancy dribs;
"Out There Somewhere" spouts natural ad-libs
     in an opera that's totally grand.

They save a farmer's wife, who's Cold Blood
Might have made Capote proud
That E-R-B was thus endowed
     to take such a modern stand.

Finally a Western tale seals the score 
In a tour de force of pulp and gore;
"The Mucker" is some of the better lore
     in the canon of ERB.

Plates by J. Allen St. John so rare
Flesh-out Billy and Barb quite fair
With buds of roses in their hair
     and kisses of pure fantasy.

(I send this poem for completists out there ~ Not because I value these lines threadbare, 
'Tis only another thing to share ~ Before I slip society.)

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