A Warrior Walks Barsoom
by Jim Adams
Art by Paul PriviteraThere is one surety that I can assert. I am immortal. Yet, I remember no childhood. I was born in my memory upon a frozen sod among the stark sentinel trees during the Battle of the Bulge as the Allies reeled from the Nazi counter offensive. I recalled not who I was, nor where I came from, nor what I was doing in the frigid hell in which I found myself, before my awakening.
I was covered in a gory sheen of congealing, chilled blood, and I knew not whether it was mine, or that of my fallen comrades; for I found myself sole survivor of a salvo of aerial bombardment. I shivered mightily in the sub-zero temperatures; my uniform having been shredded from my body, and hung in tatters upon my bloody form. I was wounded in many places, but not mortally. I staggered to my feet, surveying the grisly scene wrought about me. As the German guns thundered not far distant, my eyes took in the death and destruction surrounding me. The smell of smoke, blood, and offal is not a memory easily forgotten, but I had no fear of the situation I found myself in. It was as if I had been there before, or in places of such ilk many times before.
I gathered to me a weapon and ammunition, and the pack that lay by me as I awoke. I survived the battle, killing many a German soldier, bloodying as best I could the last great fiery flower of Nazi military thrust against the Allies. But many more engagements were left to be waged, so on I fought through the great conflict until its final cessation. However, World War II was not the last, not do I believe it to be the first war in which I was involved.
I am a warrior. It is my sole vocation. The martial mentality courses out from my heart, and runs rampant in my veins. I am a master of weapons of all forms, and a multitude of differing styles and techniques of fighting. I understand tactics and strategy as few in history ever have.
How I came by much of this knowledge remains a mystery to me. Over the intervening years since my awakening upon that arboreal den of death, I have only added to my martial wisdom. I am intimately acquainted with the workings of explosives, and all manner of methods of destruction including those of mass destruction. I have trained with the finest military special operations forces in the world, as well as increasing my knowledge of the ancient deadly arts.
In addition, I speak many languages fluently, and easily pick up others. It is a useful skill for a wandering soldier of fortune. Over the years I have insinuated myself into a number of cultures, living among high society, as well as primitive indigenous tribes. My services were rendered to all strata of humanity. Everyone needs a bit of killing done now and again.
Now here is the great contradiction in my character.
It may seem at odds with my other collected and inherent wisdom, but I have an avocation that I much enjoy. Music also seems to come to me with great ease. I play numerous instruments, and have a fine singing voice, if I do say so myself. I can even make money at it, when in between soldiering gigs.
The source of all of this knowledge and more that resides in my skull is a mystery to me. I do not know why I have it, or where I learned it, or what it means. I do not know any loved ones or friends, nor have I met anyone who knew me before. I am a mystery to all, and to me most of all.
I do not know how old I am, nor from whence I hail. Even my name is not certain, but I am now known as Finn Saxon. My appellation was simply the name on my dog tags.
As to this Finn, he is an enigma as well. There are no records of him before he enlisted in the service at the start of the great conflagration. It was as if he did not exist before. At the rank of Captain, he had many medals to his credit before that fateful day in the Arden Forest, and he would earn many more.
From that day I was a stranger to who I had previously been. This Finn Saxon, though I was he, has continued to be a blank slate. A tablature I have had to rewrite in the long years following my amnesia.
As a warrior, I am quite fit for soldiery, but conversely I have long had an aversion to authority, and have often chosen my own lonely path. Thus, a mercenary life suited me, going wherever there was a conflict in which I could ply my considerable skills, and I do so sing a slaying lay of most potent fury.
For abiding in me is a dark thirst for blood. I unabashedly admit to thrilling in the raging symphony of battle and death. Granted, this may indeed mean that I am twisted and bent to my core by my own unique psychopathy, however, cannot a man take satisfaction in his elite expertise in his chosen vocation? I am sell sword, a hired gun, a master mercenary, and there is no boast, but a certain amount of pride when I assert that there is no man of Earth more dangerous than I.
Again, I do not brag. I only state fact. Few there are that can stand against me and live. Simply put, death dealing is my gift and curse.
Of my erstwhile life before my battlefield rebirth, I only have pinprick glimpses. One such tiny window is a small library that was contained within my rucksack taken with me from the frozen charnel ground of my resurrection.
After the battle, when I lay hunkered down in a transport, absently nibbling on a Hershey Bar, I dug into my rucksack. I found at its bottom several pieces of literature. One was a bible. The others were pulp adventure magazines. Within the pages of these magazines I found the stories of two specific authors that spoke to my soul. The first was Robert E. Howard, and the second was Edgar Rice Burroughs, and being even more specific, the archetypal characters of Conan The Barbarian and John Carter Of Mars.
I seemed to already know these two mythic creations by heart. They lived and breathed within the letters of the page, and as the years have stretch long after that time, I have poured over each of their adventures many a time to find solace and escape from the reality that is my lot.
Each character is a warrior, but they could be no more different beings. In truth, I relate more to Conan, as his bearing and demeanor is much the same as my own. However, I in my heart of hearts do I far more admire John Carter. Such chivalry was long lost in the day and age in which I found myself upon Earth. Pragmatism reigned, but how I longed for such days of honor and justice to come again.
In truth, I verily wonder if any such age actually ever existed, as the world had so many other gruesome ideas to compound my grim melancholy. Humans found greater and greater ways to kill one another, and I learn and fathomed every last one, even as my soul burdened with the wisdom I garnered.
As I said, I am immortal. You may ask how I know this. Let me ask you thisÖ Can you survive multiple mortal gunshots wounds to your vitals, and heal within a day, if not sooner? I thought not.
You see, friend reader, there have always been such as I. About one person in every million souls has the gene to indefinite life. We have been called gods, angels, devils, demons, vampires, super heroes and villains. We have been historyís kings, pharaohs, monsters, and saviors. Mortals fear us, but we have learned to fear them more. Immortals, so few in number, now hide from the light of revelation.
For though immortal, we few can still die. We are not invulnerable. Though we are stronger and faster than regular mortals, and though we heal much quicker in our resilience, we still can die by many means. We can be beheaded, dismembered, suffocated, burned, blown to pieces, bled out, and on it goes.
And so we hide what we are, and well that we do, for those that do not want to kill us, want to study us, dissect us; see what makes us tick. Find that precious gene that makes us what we are. And so yes, we hide.
In actuality, I have many names and alias. Though I consider myself an American, I claim no nationality. I am a citizen of nowhere. Just a peripatetic blade and shooter for employ.
And so it was for many years.
War after war after warÖ
They say in Love and War all is fair. I donít know about Love. I was never very good at Love, but at least for me, War has two inviolate rules. Primarily, if at all possible protect women and children from harm, but secondarily, if someone, anyone, points a weapon in your direction in anger, then, my friend, all bets are off, and let the chips fall where they may.
Sadly, I have seen too many dead children, never more to dance and frolic, and grow to maturity; too many lifeless beauties after they had been brutally violated then carelessly snuffed, but such is the nature of war.
Iíve done my best to follow my first rule, but atrocities are everywhere. Some times all you can do is clean up the mess and hunt the wicked.
I survived countless engagements, but my luck, as it always does, ran out. It was the mid twenty first century, 2054 to be exact. I was in a city on the verge of destruction. It does not matter where. All war zones look alike in their infernal majesty. Smoke, fire, dust, rubble, screams, thunder, and blood mix into one colossal maelstrom. It is chaotically different every time, but just the same.
I was hunkered in a basement of a building, separated from my SpecOp unit. I was not worried. Iíd seen worse. Except, the battlefield is the realm of pandemonium, and you cannot control the fates. An aerial strike hammered the building above me like an asteroid strike, and it collapsed right atop me. Miraculously I survived, only to find a worse fate had befallen me. I was entombed me in a tiny space between two massive slabs of concrete. My comlink was dead. I was cut off from all and everything. I could move about some. I was not even truly hurt, save a bump and a scratch or two, but as I searched the length and breadth of my confines I found I was trapped with utterly no egress. It was very clear. The air would not last. I was done for, and I knew it.
Well, Iíd made a go of life while it lasted.
Iíve always been a pragmatic sort, but do not let a fool tell you that when you see death coming slowly for you that the hardy soul looks steely eyed into his grinning maw. No, a great gloom was upon me as I settle into my fate. There was nowhere to go, and nothing to do. No, I did not blubber and cry at my predicament, but none-the-less I was in a bit of a funk at my pass. How long it would take me to die I did not know. I hoped the air would run out. If there was sufficient air to last, that meant a slower death by starvation and thirst. However, I felt no current of air in my deep tomb, and the air should not last much more than an hour before I suffocated.
Something in me gave out a grim bark of laughter. I should have liked so much better to go out in a blaze of glory than this dark, ignominious death, but one cannot rule his destiny, he can only endeavor to influence it in one direction or another.
It is strange what you think when you know your time has come. Of course I wanted to escape, and go on, but I could not, and so after a sip from my canteen, and a bit of chocolate, I clicked open my IPC (Internal Personal Computer), and began to read. I did not look to any scripture, or make my peace with God. God and I had long ago come to an understanding. When I met the Almighty, I would get an explanation, and a judgment. It would be just and simple. I like simple.
No, once again I chose those adventures that had given me so much over the years. I turned to John Carter, eschewing for the time being Conan of Cimmeria in favor of the legendary Virginian. I read, devouring each word, for I knew this would be the last time. The last time for anything.
Again, Barsoom came alive. I saw in my mindís eyes the vast endless tracts of the dead Martian oceans, the ancient metropolises in their ages old abandonment, and the towering emerald hordes of the ferocious four armed Green Martians, flashing their arms and harnesses in terrible martial majesty, as they roved about upon their many legged thoats and zitidars, warring across the spans of their desolate wastes.
And there again stood the glories of the fabulous cities of the great Red Race, rising into the firmament like priceless, jeweled crowns upon the surface of Barsoom, wreathed by their enormous, swirling fleets in splendid array, as they coursed through the thin atmosphere of the dying planet, banners and standards fluttering in the breeze.
And there striding across the surface of this dwindling world like the mythic colossus came the mighty John Carter, Warlord of Mars, bright sword in hand, cocked for battle, and there ever by his side, the fruition of all Martian femininity, was the regal, most incomparable Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium!
There too was Tar Tarkas, and Kantos Kan! There was Carthoris and his gorgeous Thuvia! There was Ulysses Paxton and Vor Daj! There were all the Burroughsian characters populating his Barsoom; the fantastical world of John Carter, and all his dare-doing!
In the thin air of my tomb, they all seemed to come alive as never before. How in that moment of last breaths I wished that Barsoom were real. That it was not some figment of imagination upon the brow of a mortal, but flesh and blood. I began to see visions of Barsoom, and I knew my air was running thin, but I did not care. Barsoom; Mars; that baleful red light swinging like a cosmic thunderball through the heavens towards final extinction called to me.
There was a rushing surge, and then what I can only describe as a shifting snap, and I was suddenly separate from my body. I was moving. Moving very fast and up.
So this was death, I thought. I wondered what was next.
I looked up, and saw a light; a blazing, gleaming, reddish gem aloft upon the long night.
Then with the Speed of Thought, I was there.
I did not awake as from a sleep. I was simply there, upon Barsoom, standing naked upon the ochre moss, looking toward an ancient city, which even in its extreme age and at a distance appeared absolutely extraordinary. Yes, I was startled, but I knew exactly what world I strode, for I had seen Barsoom in vision down in my earthly tomb. I conjectured abstractly that this might be the afterlife, and that life after death might just be of oneís own making. Who is to say?
I did not pinch myself just as John Carter had not, for I knew that I was transported thither. I felt so alive; more alive than I had ever felt.
I looked down upon my frame. I was of course naked. Long ago I had become immune to the embarrassment of immodesty that colors some Earthly cultures. I was proud of my physique, even with all its scars. I am not a handsome man, but there are few men as impressive in stature and presence than I. Again, I do not boast. For what is, is. As I said, before, I am of a grim and foreboding demeanor, just as described by the late Mr. Howard of Conan of Cimmeria. However, if my countenance and physicality is like unto Conan, my coloration differs somewhat.
I am what some pundits would typify as Aryan. I am in fact the exact archetype Hitlerís master race. I am in appearance a man in his thirties, and have remained so for over a hundred Earth years. Towering, powerfully built, blond, with sky blue eyes, that tend to easily lend themselves to a hard glower, but as I said, I am not handsome, but rather brutish in appearance, with heavy boned brow and jaw. My straw hued hair is close cropped, but I have a full beard, which I keep neatly trimmed. I look for all the world like a berserker Viking ready for rampage.
Upon Barsoom, I should undoubtedly be thought of as Thern, or more likely an Orovar, as I am not actually bald. My white skin is bronzed, and as intimated before crisscrossed and stippled with the scars of my profession.
I was a titan-strong man upon Earth. Upon the surface Mars I was to learn I was many fold my native strength. I knew from the annals of John Carter that my first step on Barsoom could very well prove perilous, and even with caution I was not quite prepared for the power of my musculature in the lesser gravity of Mars.
Even with my foreknowledge, my careful step shot me forward in a tripping stumble that caused me to tumble out of control as if someone had mischievously flung me out of a slingshot. Naturally, I landed unceremoniously upon my face. The soft loamy sponge of the moss on the seabed broke my fall rather nicely, but to any and all who might have been watching I would have looked very much the fool indeed.
Gingerly, I slowly regained my feet. I next experienced, I am sure, a very similar series of events as had John Carter, as I bounced around haphazardly, until I got my balance and bearings adjusted to my new environment. Soon I was walking easier, but still very carefully. I knew I could bound about like a coiled spring, but I was not sure yet of my ability to land properly. I had no desire toward further make a spectacle of myself, so as cautiously as I could I began to walk as if I were walking on a bed of light bulbs.
Looking to the ancient pile of buildings that lay on the shore of the long dry ocean, I had the overwhelming urge to explore yon city, but as I turned toward her, out of the corner of my eye I spied a sight I will never forget. For in the distance over a rise, that had surely once been a shoal in a long dead ocean, came as magnificent a procession as anyone has ever witnessed.
On came a massive horde of Martian green men. They were just as I had seen in my vision, only so much more so; so alien, and yet so primal. They came in a grand, glittering caravan, the towering green warriors astride their huge thoats, and the rest of the community riding proudly in their massive, house-sized, tri-wheeled chariots, which were drawn by the great mega-beasts known as zitidars. To a man, woman, and child, they all were bedecked with shinning gold, silver, and platinum that was set blaze by jewels, that sparkled their reflected fire in the bright Martian sun. Even their thoats and the zitidars were draped opulently thus. The sight was utter magnificence!
I readied myself. They would see me soon, and they would come for me. They would most likely try to kill me. Let them. For such action was I born. I waited.
And spot me they did, for shortly was a company of them hurtling toward me upon their gigantic and vicious thoats, moving rapidly in near silence across the intervening space. I knew that I must prove my metal in their eyes if I was to live, or my sojourn upon Barsoom would be very brief indeed.
As the green men came near they commenced to scream their savage war cries. I stood my ground, and set myself. The first one came thundering in, howling his challenge while swinging his steel spear like a club. Another was just behind him, intent on me as if he were in a race with the first warrior to reach me. To me, they both seemed to be in slow motion. The first warrior was angling his weapon as if he was trying to take me alive. It was so much better for them to bring in their prey breathing. They could then amuse themselves at my expense at their leisure. I knew their game.
But I was not such easy prey. My first leap on Barsoom surprised even me. I shot as if from a catapult well over a hundred feet in the air. The green men and thoats suddenly looked small as I looked down on them from that great height. Then I began to fall. It is a strange sensation that you feel when you are sure that you have gotten in over your head. On Earth, a fall from that height would have severely injured me, maybe even killed me, if my uncanny resilience did not heal me in time. However, again I surprised myself by landing like a great feline with relative ease. The reflexes of my Earthly muscles took the impact of the low gravity of Barsoom with fantastic simplicity.
The green men were stunned. Slower this time, they approached, though still with weapons at ready, and of a fearsome collective countenance. They circled me and leveled their lances. One warrior, the one that had just previously tried to lay me low, raised his lance, and moved his thoat forward, and addressed me.
This was the first time I had ever heard the Barsoomian tongue spoke. Save for the few words mentioned in Burroughsí texts, I knew nothing of their ubiquitous language. Then I heard words I knew.
They were accented, but they were plain to be heard. These green men knew of him. Well, of course they did. The man was Jeddak of Jeddaks, the Warlord of Barsoom after all.
The warrior dismounted his thoat, and disarmed, then approached me at a measured pace. His demeanor did not appear threatening, but the other warriors kept their lances leveled at me. He came to stand a few paces from me, and then he unclasped an armlet from his upper arm, and extended it to me. I knew this gesture. It was the same one Tar Tarkas had afforded John Carter, and so I ceremoniously took his offering.
The only word I could recall was the greeting Kaor, so I intoned the greeting in as grave a tone as I could muster, knowing that the Green race favored and respected formality and stoicism.
The first green man cocked his head at me in a curious manner, and stared me down rather sternly. I thought to speak again, but the very same fierce warrior who had been racing after the first to brain me, who was now positioned behind and to side, grated something to the warrior standing before me in a tone that was seemingly belligerent, then he turned his malevolent glare on me. I glared right back at him, daring him to the fray.
The first warrior barked something at the second. The second snorted something in return, shaking his head. Suddenly, from behind him he drew a short ten-foot javelin, and loosed it at me with blinding speed. I heard the first warrior snarl something at the second in what I thought was anger, but I was not sure. I was bit preoccupied at that moment.
As fast as his attack was, my Earthy reflexes were far faster. I shifted to the side, and plucked the javelin out of the air, then wheeled in a fluid motion, and sent it right back to his owner. The point of the javelin hit him in his nostril slit, and punching deep into his brain, exiting out the back of his skull, precipitating him off the back of his thoat. He was dead before he hit the ground.
None of the green men moved. Finally, the first warrior who addressed me simply nodded, and motioned his cadre to escort me toward the approaching caravan. He rearmed and remounted, then led the company back toward the cavalcade. With lances still leveled at me, they urged me in a line to meet the caravan. Two warriors behind me dismounted, and threw the body of the fallen warrior over the back of his thoat, and soon followed the rest of the company.
I was on foot, and as I studiously watched them they equally kept a very wary eye on me, but I could tell their attitude had shifted. There was grudging respect in their expressions now. At least I thought that was what it was. Green men with their gleaming tusks, huge eyes with burning red irises, and swiveling and twitching cup-like ears did not express emotion quite the same as we humans. In the years to come I was to learn their expression very well indeed.
As we connected with the caravan, I was in for a pleasant surprise. It would be the first time I saw members of the other races of Mars. There was one of each, and they were all female, and as luck or fate would have it, they were all, almost to an impossible and unbelievable degree, gorgeous.
Imagine if you will the most radiant starlet you can conceive, combine her with the perfect body and features of your favorite super model, then add the grace of world renown prima ballerina, and the sensuality of a preeminent courtesan in the greatest flower of her youth charms and erotic powers, then top it all off with the comportment of an imperial princess, then amp it up by and order of magnitude of ten. Then times her by four of very appealing and differing colorations, and you still would not even touch the quartet bevy before me.
To say I was awestruck would be a colossal understatement, but the ladies may not have gathered deduced my internal reaction by my brittle countenance, as I am notoriously undemonstrative.
Stating such might underscore why Iíve never been good at love. That is not to say that I have not had my share of experiences with women. I have. Iím just not very successful at maintaining a prolonged relationship. Many liaisons to be sure, but not of a permanent sort of affair. Earth women say Iím too distant, too hard, too like a man. That does not stop many from being interested in me initially, but it never holds. I guess Iím just not lucky in love.
My first glance at these females, and I knew they were captives, as they were chained to the chariot in which they were being held. They looked at me with eyes which held a hopelessness that stung my soul. I guess Iím a sucker for a pretty face, but then who isnít?
The white girl, whom I took to be Thern or an Orovar, tried to signal me, but I had no idea what her gestures meant, as I looked at her in consternation. There was a red girl, and she was everything I had imagined the flower of the red race to be, though much redder than the copper hue that I fully expected. In a way, she almost looked delectably devilish. Though, to me, Dejah Thoris, could have been no lovelier, but then they all were so gorgeous I did not know which one to look at first. The blond was white as marble, and had hair like sunlight, with a face like a Valkyrie. The First Born girl was an ebony, inky black, but her gorgeous features were clear and strikingly angular. The yellow girl was the color of a ripe lemon, her exotic features heart shaped and supple.
Not one of them was more beautiful than the other in my eyes, just different. As to the matter of their apparel, well, there was not much of it. In the reading of Barsoom, I always assumed that Martians ran around sans clothes, save for the harness that suspended their weapons and necessities. In truth, it never seemed practical to me. I mean who wants to fight a battle with his jewels swinging in the breeze? Thatís a very good way to become a eunuch fast. Do you follow? Thus, I wondered what prompted Burroughs to write their description in such a way. Was it for titillation? Since, the books rarely touch on anything remotely sexual except in a guardedly peripheral manner, I tended to think not.
After looking at the females, and the green men and women, I tend now to think that it had more to do with perception. John Carter came from a puritanical age where the showing of skin in public was much frowned upon, referring to naked as ďWithout TrousersĒ, or some such thing. If this were the etymological vernacular that Burroughs intended, then I do believe he would have thought them naked.
However, in the world I inhabited each soul had strategically placed accouterments. Males wore what amounted to a leather codpiece to cover their loins, where as the females wore what consisted of very tiny, very finely wrought g-strings that barely covered their intimate areas. Their comely breasts were supported by a curving lattice-like shelf, which often left their nipples exposed, but not always. These minuscule articles appeared more as accenting jewelry than functional clothing, as they were adorned and threaded opulently with fine chains of precious metal, and set with even more precious gems, some of the like of which I have never beheld on Earth.
However, in later times, in the cities of the other races, I was to find that females often draped themselves in fine diaphanous silks, and luxuriant furs as the situation warranted.
Upon the breastbone of each soul, was worn an insignia. This told of the personís rank, family or house affiliation, and national citizenship. The pendant-like insignia was very much a proclamation of who and what that person was upon the expanse of Barsoom.
In addition to this, there was a harness that warriors hung their battle panoply upon. Women just as certainly, if not disarmed as were these females before me, would customarily be armed with a dagger or two, and even a dainty pistol. Everyone on Mars was armed, and most often right to their teeth.
Lastly, Barsoomian females (and many times males, during ceremonial functions) literally dripped with precious metals and jewels. No, they did not wear traditional clothes, but they were never entirely naked. That is not to say that there was such a thing as modesty. At the baths in every great metropolis, it was common to see everyone unclothed and no one thought a thing about the matter. As well, when bedding down, it was customary to shed all of oneís attire and repose naked into slumber. Males and females, often as the sudden night passed across Barsoom, would sit in the comfort of communal chambers naked and converse until the call for bed drew each soul to their respective silks or furs. True Martian modesty extended in another direction entirely. Proper comportment and civil manners were the watchwords of polite society. If these social rules and norms were not strictly adhered to, bloodshed could and would rapidly ensue.
I, however, standing there among the towering green horde, was stark naked, but as I said, it is how one behaves that bears on whether or not his honor and dignity is infringed upon. I, so far, had accounted myself well in the eyes of the green horde. As to my continued status, only time would tell.
One cannot fathom how impressive the green race appeared unless you have seen them in the flesh. I am a very tall man on earth at 6 foot 10 inches, and just a little. I tip the scale at 305 lbs, and there was little fat upon my hardened frame. Yes, I am imposing, but I felt myself a runty pygmy beside these huge green fellows, as the warriors were well over twice my height. Even the females towered like young vibrant trees over me.
This horde in which I found myself with was indeed savage, but there was a dignity to them that I immediately found appealing. The richness and artistry of their regalia, et al their harnesses, weapons and chariots spoke of level of sophistication far beyond the mere barbaric nomads that one would expect to roam the dead sea wastes.
The males were frightening in there appearance; as ferocious a collection of creatures I never before beheld, but the females, though being quite fearsome in bearing as well, had a certain beauty to them that was entirely feminine. Carter never described green females in their entirety, except to say something of their height and coloration, and that they were as capable warriors as the males in their own way.
It was verily true that green females had a slightly lighter hue than the males, and somewhat more delicate structure. Their height is several feet shorter than the males, and their dramatically curved tusks curl much more ornamentally back toward the sides of their faces. They have two sets of breasts, which are rarely over abundant. Green females are invariably svelte and lithe, and have far more agility than their male counterparts. As the males are of a patented martial bearing, the females move with a feline grace that is, if anything, more predatory than the males.
Both sexes are entirely hairless, their skin was smooth and unblemished save for the ubiquitous scars that told the histories of each green warriors battles. Of their six limbs, the two sets of arms were set equidistant interval from the placement of the hips. The lower set of arms were slightly longer than the upper set, and could be used as a second set of leg to run as a quadruped, but this was rare for a green man to use this form of locomotion as it was considered undignified. However, if a member of the green race chose to gallop in such a manner, he or she could move at an astonishing rate of speed.
Be that as it may, the green Martian much preferred to race at the top of their nearly wild thoats than use this other less than becoming gait.
It had always puzzled me as I read the annals of Barsoom, as to why the Green men were so different from the other intelligent races of Mars. The Red, White, Black, and Yellow races, appeared with very minor exceptions, just as the humans of Earth. It would be some time before I received a satisfactory explanation of this state of perceived convergent adaptive evolution.
All of the hominid-esque races appeared hairless below the chin. Upon a closer inspection, you would discover that these races all had nearly imperceptible body hair, but it was so very fine as to almost be invisible. Females of all these colors had lustrous heads of hair, and the charming accents of eyebrows and eyelashes, but nothing more. Thern females, differing from the Thern males, all had hair upon their pates.
With the exception of the Yellows, beards were never mentioned in the Burroughsian texts, but this is not to say that males did not have facial hair. All full-grown males could grow facial hair, and often did in different configurations, though the Reds lacked the fullness of beard that typified the Black and Yellows. Almost all Yellows had full bushy beards owing to the fact that they abode in an artic environment, but some few would shave or fancifully trim their beards if they happened to reside in the warmer climes for long. The Whites, both Thern and Orovars, had beards but Therns rarely let them grow out. Culturally they believed it was beneath them.
As I was to learn later, the color of each race is not entirely uniform, but subject to a range of color values within each raceís pigmentation. Generally, females tended to be lighter than males but this was not always the case, very like the races on Earth.
The red man could and would often be a deep brick red, but the hue could lighten to a rosy or copper color in females. Yellows were much the same in their color variation, though all of them were quite vibrant. Blacks tended to go from dark to darker to darkest, while Whites went from the color of snow through a fair pink to tan.
I do not mean to belabor this description, but these concerns have always been of interest to me as I read and reread the beloved adventures, and some might find them of interest now.
One particular note, all Martians, with a very few notable exceptions, are excessively clean. All the quadrelimbed races had an affinity for baths within their cities and communities, while the green race cleaned with oils and natural detergents harvested from certain useful plants.
Now granted, the Greens have certain peculiar scent to them, however, it is not unpleasant, but only markedly different than the scents of all the other races. A rather strong oily musk unique to the green race pervades their places of abode.
As we neared the city, I was led cautiously, encircled by an armed cadre of hard-eyed warriors. I was not threatened, but as I said earlier, they kept a very wary watch upon me at all times. If I had decided to suddenly leap away, their deadly looking pistols would have surely leaped into hand, and I would have been made target practice for their renowned marksmanship.
I was no fool. I had been in similar situations in the past. It behooved me to bide my time, and see what transpired in my newly unfurled future. As we reached the city outskirts, a green female accosted me gravely, by handing me the armaments and regalia of the warrior I killed. I would have been baffled by this occurrence, if not for my foreknowledge of what John Carter similarly experienced. I had won my spurs in a way.
I knew this did not deliver me from danger. Not by any stretch. This was Barsoom, and death could come for me in a myriad ways at anytime, but I knew that the great green horde now looked at me with different eyes, for on Mars nothing is so respected and revered as a strong fighting man, save among the red men it be a virtuous woman, and those goddesses are worshiped inviolate.
The city we entered was astonishing! There was evidence of great antiquity, but its glory was still more magnificent then any ten combined cities on Earth. There in the broad boulevards and pleasingly curved avenues of that abandon ruin was a merging of form and function that was truly transcendent.
Every structure was not only constructed, but carved and shaped as if the stones of which they were built had been quarried fluid, given some form of animus, and then instructed to form the shapes and forms of animals, plants, and people in all manner of activities. Life long lost was frozen for all time until the slow erosion of Barsoom finally wore down the indescribable height of art that was achieved by the ancient Martians. When the cities were finally ground to the dust of the eons what beauty would be lost to eternity, and even as I stared in wonder about me, I mused wistfully upon what it must have been like at this civilizationís apex, when life and vigor infused these now long-deserted streets. When strong men and beautiful women, and laughing children with bright shining eyes filled the voided heart of this dead metropolis.
Even in my wonder, a melancholy was upon me. It is ever thus. I am of a brooding and ominous nature, my callous sense of humor grim and forbidding. I often wish that my thoughts did not stray to such dark and morbid corners, but alas it is my temperament. I see destruction as inevitable. In the death of the old rises creation anew. It is always thus. Even when a world dies, all its constituent material is eventually returned to stardust, and the cycle of the universe revolves eternal, but the endless dance of this far seeing realization does not mean that my heart does not mourn the loss of what once was.
I looked to the multihued beauties in the chariot. I would help them if I could. Not because they were beautiful, but because that is also a facet of my constitution. I may not have been able to affect any outcome, but I would make the attempt when the time arose. That is all any man can do. He can act as his conscience dictates, and accept the consequences of his actions. That is the nature of real men and women.
These gorgeous women were stony faced and rigid, knowing their dire circumstance. Surely they were fearful, but they countenances were strangely resolute in their hopelessness. They would face what came upon them with a stoic dignity. It was this that showed me the true beauty of Barsoomian females. For though almost invariably were the women of Mars all gifted with uncanny physical sensuality and pulchritude, it was the demure grace, a vibrant integrity with which these daughters of Mars strode their world that made them so noble, though they truly be lofty Jeddara and Princesses in divine royal courts and palaces, or but mere slaves sold as playthings to cruel and heartless masters.
This was, as John Carter readily discovered, the true treasure of Barsoom.
The God of War hatched death unending upon the surface of this world, but created its offset in the eyes, form, and hearts of its females. It was their love and constancy that kept this world from the brink of extinction. It was for them and the life they brought forth into this harsh world, that the men of this planet fought to maintain balance, for otherwise death would have held its sway, as all honor and courage and love would have vanished forever, and Barsoomís hate and fury and bloodlust would have spiraled out of control down into the abyss of nothingness.
The Women of Barsoom were this worldís hope for all future tomorrows.
As I looked upon these lovely creatures, this mighty epiphany burst upon the breadth of my soul, and yet still I sorrowed. Nothing lasts forever; at least not in this life.
Many times since have I reflected on this moment of realization when the burden of my sorrows weighed heavy upon me. As long years stretch out the reasons for existing become more and more obscured. It was at that moment I found purpose in my vocation. Beyond being solely a warrior, I was also, and more importantly a protector of the weak and innocent. I find it strange that it took my dim mind more than a century to realized that simple truth.
Art by Paul Privitera
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