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Volume 5677

A John Carter Adventure:
The Blood Seas of Barsoom
Continued from ERBzine 5676
by Richard Senate

A Geographic Chart of the Planet Barsoom by Larry Ivie
From the ERBzine Barsoom Atlas

4. The Flying Men
5. Matai Shan
6. The Jeddak of the West
Continued Next Week

The Flying Men
I looked down at the fortress below us and saw several small dots leaving the thing rising to meet us.  At first I took the for large birds.   More and more left the roof and windows of the structure and I could see their wings resembled more of those of bats than birds.  I didn't know what they were but I increased speed  hoping to outdistance this new threat, but when I looked toward the  cavern that lead from the sea chamber to the tunnel that joined with the surface and saw more were rising up to intercept us. 

“What are they?” asked one of the men. “I have never seen such things in all my travels.”

I could see these were no  birds or bats, but men with large wings sprouting from their shoulders.  These men wore harnesses like red men that held swords.  Most of the flying men had their swords drawn and ready for action!

They were brown in color and proportioned as thin, lanky men save for the giant bat wings they used to fly. Their faces were triangular and had a reddish color to then and the eyes seemed large and owl-like.  I noticed that they were armed with odd swords with a saw tooth edge and a curved blade rather like a scimitar unlike the standard swords employed on Mars. 

I drew my long sword as the group surrounded the ship and  looked to make a fight of it. 

“For Helium and Dejah Thoris!” I yelled to my men as we made ready to defend the ship.

“For John Carter,” they replied.

“Shall I fire of the flying creatures?” ask the gunner at the bow. Barsoom demands that a weapon only be used to counter one being used by a foe.  “We are out numbered—and I do not know if these are men!  So by all means open fire!” 

The small Radium cannon barked out a few rounds and I saw an equal number of the creatures fall to the red sea below, but they came fast and soon we were engaged in sword fights with an unequal number of the flying warriors.  The bird-like things let out a terrible high pitched cry as they engaged us.  Never have I ran away from a fight and I didn't plan to start now.  I saw that more and more were rising to join the battle.    The odd warriors were a fearless lot, I saw one of my crew seized by three and pulled from the deck, to be daggered and cast down to the sea below. 

One of the men wore an orange leather harness and upon it the metal of a Dwar, or captain.

“Throw down your weapons, John Carter,” he commanded. “Surrender, you and your invaders are my prisoner! Surrender and I shall spare your lives.”

A faint smile touched my lips, he knew who I was, knew how I would react, and set this ambush.  Their plan was a success. I have faced many monsters in my stay on Barsoom, but these flying men were different, they were  fierce warriors and worked with uncanny teamwork.

“You want my sword—creature!” I yelled. “Come and take it!”

“As you wish!” he countered and the flying men redoubled their efforts, as more joined their ranks.  I crossed swords with the dwar and he proved a good swordsman, as he kept me busy another tried to come in with his saw edged sword, I parried and used my great sword to sever a wing from the thing, it screamed with a hiss and fell to the sea below, spinning.  This set off more high trilling calls and the creatures pushed me back in a wall of flashing swords. 

The Dwar rushed me and I disarmed him, but he caused me to be distracted for a moment, the others seized me from behind, grabbing the harness I wore.  The long sword was pulled from my hand by six of the things. The things beating and blinding me with their bat like wings.   My hands were pulled behind my back and bound with leather straps. I saw that two of my men were still alive, and also captives, one of them was Thugan Kan. 

Just then the Dwar pulled me off the ship into the air and for a moment I thought I would be tossed to my doom, But several had me and flew along, taking me back to the fortress.  I looked back and saw that the other two of my crew  were being treated to the same sort of ride, two bat men with each struggling man.   I started cussing like a sailor at  the ease of my capture.  I saw that one of the winged creatures was piloting my flyer down to the fortress as well.

I could see that the odd men were covered with a downy fuzz that was brown. Their big eyes were blood red like an albino's giving them a strange look. I recalled the findings of the scientist An Thac who once claimed to have discovered this new race. I had not believed him then, I vowed to speak with him and give him a metal, if I should ever return to Helium.  Now I wondered if I would ever rescue Lee, perhaps he would need to rescue me! 

Our speed was swift and soon we landed at the grim fort.  I was  deposited on the hard stone of the courtyard. One of the flying creatures who carried me was the Dwar I had disarmed.

“That was a clever trick with the sword, Grounder,” the winged creature said. “If these were better times I would ask you to teach me the trick.  My name is Nutan.”

“I would show you—if we were not enemies,” I responded.  “Why did you attack my ship?”

“Why did you enter our realm?” he countered.  “Save your breath for the Jed—Zab Than. It is he who will judge you.”

“Does he hold my Grandson?” I boldly asked him. “Why did he attack Helium? He must be mad to provoke the mightiest nation on Barsoom?”

“Zab Than is anything but mad.” smiled the odd winged man. “This way, John Carter.”

At that he lead us and the two survivors into an ornate doorway into the dim fort.  The walls were over seven feet thick and built to withstand the most powerful cannons.

“We have many 'guests' here at the citadel of Doraxus,” Nutan continued his narrative. “We have recently acquired the princess Fandora as well as Ro-Bert Lee Carter.”

“I have no idea who Fandora is,” I told him. “But if Lee has been harmed in any way I will see to it that this sea truly runs red with blood.”

“I think we could be friends, John Carter,” the Dwar said with a laugh. 

“I do not befriend kidnappers nor people who injure my family,” I told him.

“You have a point, John Carter,” he said smugly. “But I didn't order the attack nor did my people take part in the assault—did you see any flying men in the attack on your palace?” 

I didn't answer him as we went deeper into the citadel. I could see works of art on the walls and fancy lighting fixtures on ceiling .  The place began to take on the atmosphere of a residence rather than a military establishment.   The Hall went though three rooms,  resembling break rooms—with weapons on the wall.   I could have made a jump for it but I was curious about these people and their ruler. 

Beyond these chambers was a larger room, with maps on the walls, model flyers and an ornate desk. This was no thrown room, but a working space. Behind the deck sat a thin man with a long nose.  He wore a simple harness and his only symbol of office, a band around his  forehead set with a single red jewel.  He looked up with a smile at me.

“You have exceeded my expectations Nutan!” he started. “I shall need to give you a bonus for capturing the Warlord of Barsoom.”

“Let my bonus go to the  families of those lost in the attack, eight fell to the people of Helium.”

“I will make it so,” the ruler said, the smile gone from his face. 

“I demand to know why my grandson was taken and for what purpose?” I yelled at him.
“Why did you attack my palace?  Why did you try to have me killed and assault my son and his wife?” 

“All in due time, John Carter.” he said grimly. “Have you ever thought my actions were  to prevent a war?”

“I do not believe you!”  I shouted back.

“I did not organize the attack on your palace.  That was the work of another.   You do not know  the things that happen in Tubax. I believe you would understand if you knew the condition of things in the underground sea and the territories controlled by the so called Jeddak of the West.”

“Who rules here?” I asked.

“I do—for now, but The Jeddak of the West ,Kulan Tith, is about to attack us. His Skeel Legion is as bloodthirsty as they come.” 

“So you wish to start a war and have him so involved in a war with Helium so that he can not attack you,” I demanded. “A cold hardhearted plan.  There are members in Helium who would like to eliminate Tubax from the face of Barsoom.”

“That would be all right with me,” the Jed smiled.  “Be seated and I will tell you of things as they stand in Tubax.”

“Let me tell you this, Jed of the Bloodseas, We have long suspected that Tubax was behind raids upon our trade ships and stations,” I started. “We were trying to work out a new treaty with Tubax and getting no where—we found the ambassador from that land arrogant and hardheaded.”

“I know of whom you speak, John Carter, he is a man with no honor.” 

“So, I take it a civil war is going on in Tubax?”

“You are right.  The peoples of Tubax are a proud and ancient race—but too much change has happened too fast. People have promised much and given little.  They have stirred up ancient hates and waged war upon the small peoples of this territory—even those of the hidden sea.”

“You speak for these groups?” I asked him.

“I am one of many voices, but perhaps the greatest one.  The tactic of our enemies is to seize loved ones and hold them as hostages.  He invited us to a dinner and festival to celebrate the renewal of Isis. At the end of the party, he seized my wife and daughter.”

“How did you escape?” I asked.

“I had been called away by a loyal subject or I would have been killed or captured,” he said regret marked his features.  “If only I had been able to save my family. Now, if I resist the invasion of the Blood  Seas they will be killed before my eyes.”

“What of my Grandson?” I demanded.  “Why do you hold him?”

“I had agents in the military of Tubax.  After the attack on your palace—the one that took the lives of the most fanatic of our enemies, my men seized the flyer and brought it to my fortress. I assure you Ro-bert has been well treated.  It has been hard, he listens not to reason but seeks revenge. He has wounded several guards so far.  He have him with Princess Fandora now.”

“Let me see him. If what you say is true you will have no greater ally on all of Barsoom.”

“Come with me, John Carter, he's not far away,” said the Jed as he stood up and led me out of the small chamber and down a wide a hall.  “He has proven a most difficult prisoner.”

We progressed perhaps a hundred yards to a fancy doorway.  The ruler unlocked the panel  and opened the thick door, as it opened a vase flew out and smashed onto the stone wall!

“Let me out!” came a young voice. “I am a prince of Helium.”

I stepped in and saw Lee, armed with another vase, ready to throw.  The angry look on his face vanished as he saw me. It melted to a smile. He put down the vase and rushed to me saying only one word.


“I'm here to take you home,” I told him as he embraced me. 

“I knew you'd come for me! How is my mother? She fought like a savage green man.”

“She was badly hurt, but she will live,” I told him as we embraced.   I noticed that we were not alone in the room—there was a young woman, more a girl than an adult. She had beautiful raven hair and was dressed as a princess.  She had a haughty look to her and wasn't impressed with our reunion.

“May I introduce you to Princess Fandora of Tubax,” added the Jed, dryly. 

“My father will have you all skinned alive for treating me as a common prisoner!” she yelled.

“We have not mistreated you, Fandora,” answered the Jed. “Holding you prevents his attack on the hidden sea, and any misdeeds he might inflict on my family.”

“Has this woman caused you any harm?” I asked Lee.

“No, she is just worried that's all, Grandpa,” he said.

“Zab Than, can you free my men. We can take the flyer and  return to the battleship—maybe we can help in your war.”

“We were surprised that you were upon us so swiftly,” answered the Jed.  “For a moment we thought it was a trick by Kulan Tith.   I wish you had surrendered and saved bloodshed.”

“Men of Helium do not surrender,” I told him. 

“I will have your men released.  There is a man here who spoke for you, who would like to meet with you.  He's a Thern.”

“Seventh Cycle?” I asked and the Jed nodded. The Therns of this cult have gotten it into their heads that I am some sort of God and that my mate, Dejah Thoris, is a re-incarnation of the goddess Isis herself.  The last part I might agree with them.   I have tried to tell them I am as human as they but they will hear none of it.   Still, they might be helpful here as they have been in the past. 

“There are many Seventh Cycle Therns in the Hidden Sea, and an equal number of Tenth Cycle as well,” the ruler said. The Tenth Cycle hate my guts and most  want to stick a dagger between my ribs if they thought they could do it. 

“I will meet with him,” I said steeling myself to the fawning and scrapping  common when a Seventh Cycle meets their God.

“He will be impressed to learn I managed to capture the great Warlord of Barsoom.”

“You should be proud of your flying men, few have crossed swords with me and won the day,” I told him.

Matai Shani
The Jed turned to a guard and gave him a hand sign. The man left to return in a moment with another man. From his blond hair, really a wig, and pale skin, I could see he was a Thern.  When he saw me his eyes grew large and I noticed sweat on his brow.  As he approached he fell on the floor in veneration. 

“Rise Thern,” I ordered him. “I give you permission to address me as a man. Rise off the floor!” 

The thin man, most Therns are rather thin owning to their restricted diet, remained on the floor.

“John Carter,” said Zab Than, “let me introduce  Matai Shani.”

“Rise Matai Shani!” I said as the man got up, still impressed. Lee was watching in amazement, even Fandora was stunned.

“I am honored to be in your presence, Sire,” said the Thern, his eyes so low I thought that his  wig might fall to the floor. 

“Would that Dejah Thoris was with me,” I answered. At this his eyes grew large. 

“How may I serve you?” he added. “The temple of the Seventh Cycle in the Hidden Sea is small, but dedicated.”

“I know of your dedication and value it,” I told him. A bit of flattery might work wonders on these true believers. I tried to tell them I wasn't a God or a fitting object of worship but they never believed me seeing such things as proof of my divine humility.  They also saw my incomparable mate Dejah Thoris as a direct incarnation of the Goddess Isis –I must admit I might be willing to believe that one. 

Zab Than seemed a bit amused by this display. 

“Matai Shani, What do you know of the kidnapping of John Carter's grandson?” he asked.

“We have many followers in Tubax,” he said, “We know that it was a direct order of the Jeddak of the west to seize your family to hold. They falsely believed it would keep back the navy of Helium.  They foolishly believed they could slay you and sent their best spider man assassin to do the deed—as if any mortal could best you.”

I just shook my head. 

“We are limited in what we could do,” continued the Thern, “In Tubax the Tenth Cycle rules and they have put a death sentence on any who follow the true message of the Seventh Cycle.”

Just then a vase smashed into the back of Matai Shani's head and broke into pieces. 

“Heretic! “ cried Fandora, “You should have your tongue cut out for speaking such lies.”

The Thern shook his head, only  bit dazed  by the unexpected attack. 

“I pray to Issus that you come to accept the truth of the Seventh Cycle,” he said 

“I take it she is Tenth Cycle,” I whispered to the Jed.

“Most of the royal family and nobility are,” he answered. 

She went to grab another vase but  the Jed stopped her.

“We must be  friendly to our guests,” he informed her.

“Heretic, Usurper!” She cried her eyes flashing with anger. “Wait until my father comes here and sets me free—even with your new allies you can't stop him!”

“I will pray for you, Princess,” smiled the Thern. His sanctimonious tone seemed to make the girl even madder!

“I will take our warship and enter Tubax,” I said, “ I am sure he will make no overt act against a battle cruiser of the navy of Helium—knowing that the fleet is  following.”

“I would advise against such a rash act—you will be captured and held,” said Zab Than.  “I put nothing beyond this madman.”

“Listen not to this creature!” cried Fandora, “He is the fiend –my father is a good and honest man. A wise ruler beloved by his people.”

In my mind a plan was forming, a plan that was as mad as anything I have ever imagined, but one that was so bold it might just work.

“Zab Than, I have a request of you.”  I asked.

“Name it, John Carter.”

“May I have Fandora to return to her father?” I believed such a good will gesture would perhaps avoid a war.

“You would take the only thing that holds the tyrant back?”   He said, shocked. 

“Yes I would.”  I assured him, “but I don't think he will do anything—and before he can act—The fleet of Helium will hover over his walls. He dare not act then.”

“I trust you, Warlord of Barsoom, as I trust no other,”  The ruler answered. “Return Fandora with my blessings.”

“Thank you, You will not have cause to regret this action.”

“Fandora,” The Jed ordered, “pack your things, you will leave this Haad.”

The girl just stuck her nose in the air and without a word went to gather her few things. I saw Lee, he was shaking his head.  He must have thought I had lost my mind.

“It will be all right.” I said to him. “I will send you back  on a swift ship—back to your mother as I vowed.”

I could see a look of worry cross his face.  If I knew then what was to come I never would have entered Tubax— I would have just blown that hateful city off the Map.

The Jeddak of the West
With the release of my men we were given back our ship, with a silent and pouting  Fandora, and Lee we bid good bye to Zab Than and took off. Before I left I asked if I could have the Dwar of the flying men come with me.   Two of the the strange creatures  came, and were shocked at the speed of the craft as we made our way though the dim caverns back were our airship was waiting. 

The crew were awed by the strange flying men-- Kantos Kan greeted me.

“I was worried when you were late but I see you have recovered Lee. Shall we return to Helium now?”

“No,” I told him, “We sail for Tubax.” 

“What of Lee?” he asked.

“I will send him home with Thugan Kan—on a swift flyer. He will be safe there.”

“Can't I stay with you, Grandpa?” the boy asked. 

“Sire, I would rather be at your side?” answered Thurgan with a low bow.

“No, Lee must be safe,” I told him. “Take your flyer –it should hold the both of you. You will be back in Helium.  Tell your grandfather to send all units to Tubax.”

“I don't want to leave you?” said Lee.
“Don't you want to go back to your mother and father?” I asked him.  “Your grand mother is worried sick over you.  All Helium is waiting for your return.”

“I will leave at once for Helium,” said Thurgan. “Come Lee, we have many Haads to travel.”

I knew the flyer was a fast one and they would be safe in a few hours.   They mounted the small craft, Lee, sitting behind Thurgan.   The silent motor turned the prop and they took off heading towards the twin cities. 

“Now, Captain, let us make our way to Tubax, Proceed slowly, I wish the Jeddak of the West to have time to look us over.”   The battleship started to make its way over the mountains. It wasn't long before we were spotted by an old style patrol boat and followed. They made no attempt to contact us—only followed at a respectable distance. I could only imagine the wireless waves were hot with our approach. 

The single patrol boat was joined by another and another until it looked like more of a parade than any sort of attack.  I made sure Fandora was on deck and seen.  Once I saw a Tubax officer in an orange turban, wave at her.  She waved back.   Maybe the presence of the princess was holding them back.  I got impression that they didn't seem to mind our approach.  A strange chill went down my spine—the feeling I have had before falling into a trap.  But, the fire power of the battleship was more than a match for what the Jeddak had in his over-aged fleet.

It wasn't long before the mountain city of Tubax fell into view.  It was set atop a tall mountain, with lofty walls, towers, domes and landing stages.  It would be a hard city to take—but not with the fleet of Helium.   At last an orange colored patrol boat, a more modern craft, approached under a flag of truce.   A single officer was on the bow of the craft, flew up and addressed me.

“Welcome John Carter, Warlord of Mars,” he said with a sweeping hand motion. “Welcome to the ancient city of Tubax.  Our Jeddak awaits you in the grand palace.  We wish to thank you for returning our Princess Fandora. Follow us to the palace landing stage, if you please.”

“This looks well,” I said to the captain with a mocking tone in my voice.

“I don't trust them, sire.”

“I do not as well. Use the wireless, and find out if Lee is back in Helium.”

He left for the radio room. In  a few moments he returned.  He had a worried look on his face.

“Lee and Thurgan, have not arrived,” he said. “Maybe they had a malfunction of the new motor—or were somehow overcome...”

We were flying over the walls now, they were lined with sullen people. They were not a friendly population —a few shook their fists at us.   The feeling of a trap returned and for a second I thought of ordering the ship to turn and head for Helium.   I saw the heavy guns on the walls aimed at us---any false move could be a disaster. 

“In for a penny, in for a pound,” a mused.

“What is a penny?” asked one of the gunners.

“Just an old Earth saying. We must see this through, Follow the gunboat in—but be ready for anything.”  The gunner just nodded his head but there was a look of worry on his face.

We passed over the city and in the very center, with a wide court with fountains. Before it, stood the ornate palace of the so called Jeddak of the West.   It was gaudy in the styles of the ancients.    We were directed to the landing stage where a large docking crew were waiting. I noticed there were armed warriors in the crew.  The gunboat that lead us in and the officer, smirking, waited for us as the gangplank was lowered and the battleship tied down.

I went down and met him,  captain Kantos Kan, following behind.  With me was Fandora. 

“Welcome highness, Fandora,” bowed the officer with respect. “We welcome your savior John Carter, the Warlord of Barsoom, Prince of Helium. Let me escort you to our great and powerful leader!”

“I wish to speak with him about the relations between our two states,” I told him.

The officer just smiled and lead the way down a ramp into the palace below.

I noticed we were followed by seven armed guards, as a sort of escort.  It sent a chill down my spine because they were smiling in an evil sort of way.   Two levels down we followed a tall arched hall that lead into a great chamber. There was a raised dais on which sat a rather portly man wearing an ornate harness filled with orange gems, and on his head a sort of orange silk cap, popular in this land.    As we approached I had a chance to look over the ruler.

Kulan Tith  had a weak chin and a long nose, there was something of a rodent about his eyes, he was hunched over on his thrown and his long fingers curled around the arms of his seat. He was smirking—as if he was remembering a joke. I feared the joke was on me.

“Welcome, John Carter,” he started. I noticed he didn't use my titles—not that I held it against him.  “Thank you for returning my beloved daughter to us.  I do not know how you got the savage Zab Than of the Blood Seas to give her up.” 

I gave him a low bow and told him I wished to act as a go between and bring peace to this war ravaged land. 

“I think not,” he said as Fandora was escorted out of the room.  “Now that they have no hostage I plan to invade the inner sea and end this rebellion.  It seems I have a new hostage as well—You, John Carter!”

“I came as a friend, and now you treat me as an enemy?” I countered. “Know you that the mighty Grand Fleet of Helium is flying this way as I speak.  No force on Barsoom can resist them.” 

“I think not—the Heliumetic fleet  has returned home. You are quite alone. As we speak a full Ulan of my best palace guards are storming your battleship—I will imprison the crew and add that fine ship to my air navy.”

I drew my long sword as did the captain to face down the whole room of armed men.

“Many men have tried to make me prisoner—few have been successful,” I said.

“So this is how a God acts?” mocked the Jeddak of the West.  “We are on to your tricks, so called  Warlord of Barsoom.   The Holy Hekkador of the Tenth Cycle has told us the truth. You or nothing but  heretic Thern who grew hair—you are not from Sasoom, that place you call Earth,  Your a fraud—who plans to use his so called divinity to rule all of Barsoom.”

I was planning to jump to the thrown and seize that rat by the neck when a heard a scream that sent a chill down my spine. It was the cry of a boy.  I turned and saw Lee, bound with leather straps, held by Thurgan Kan.  He held a short sword at Lee's neck.  I saw he was wearing an orange turban of Tubax! 

“Toss down your sword, John Carter or your grandson dies!” Yelled Kulan Tith.


ERBzine 5676: Part I
Intro and Chapters 1-3
ERBzine 5677: Part II
Chapters 4-6
ERBzine 5678: Part III
Chapters 7-9
ERBzine 5679: Part IV
Chapters 10-12

A story of the inner world in nine chapters
 by Richard Senate
along with Richard's photo and bio

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