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Volume 6267

From the Rick Johnson Barsoom Fiction Series

Art by Paul Privitera
Part 2: Chapters I-III (Continued from Part 1 at ERBzine 6266)
By Rick Johnson


Vail pulled his long rifle from his shoulder and readied the weapon.  “The explosions come from that direction.” They hurried on but with as much caution as was possible.

Soon enough they reached the former camp of he whom they sought to find the dead banth being feasted upon by scavengers, two of whom were dead, their heads blown nearly away.   “What did this? And why kill scavengers? And why kill only two?” Eibhlin asked.

“Another mystery,” he cried with glee!  “But one easily solved.  See you the neck and torso of the banth?  Those which are dead ate too fast and in their haste to feed, dislodged your bullets.  Then, upon biting the meat, they crushed the glass covering to the radium powder which allowed the sun's rays to detonate the explosive.  The bullets exploded within the mouths of the beasts and….”

“Then perhaps we should leave before the other rounds are chewed free.” She turned her thoat.

“Or shat out,” he laughed.

The thought of a pile of dung filled with radium powder being expelled into the sun then detonating before it was free made her laugh as well.  “Vail Oran, you are the most enjoyable companion that I have had in a very long time.”

“As are you, Eivleen Obreen.  Come, here is the trail of the one we seek.”

The moss had sprung back with the passage of the thoat but in the darkness, some few stones had become dislodged and these were seen as reddish-brown spots among the ochre moss.  They soon faded away and the steps of their quarry became more careful, but the way was pointed.

They searched all morning, occasionally climbing a hillock and spying via binoculars or the rifle scope and shortly after noon, Vail whispered, “Found him!”  then a moment later as Eibhlin focused on the man, he continued, ”He has found that which he seeks!”

“How do you know?”

“Before, he traveled as does a banth seeking prey, back and forth in the general direction of Amhor but often changing his way to the east or west.  Now he travels to Amhor as does a rifle bullet, save those diversions necessary to avoid a large rock.   Come, let us search for that which he found.”

It took a zode or more but they found the object.  “A flier, a small scout flier half buried in the moss!”  Vail exclaimed as they approached.  “see, the moss has been disturbed here!”

Eibhlin had seen these craft but never flown in one as she saw them as being nothing more than a flat board a few inches thick with a wind-screen at the bow and a motor and propeller at the stern.  The pilot would lay flat on the board, strap himself to the thing and reach forward to the controls and hope that the headwind wouldn't blow him free or his buckles fail.  They were fast and deadly because of the radium rifle mounted in the bow but you had to fly directly at the target for the rifle was fixed and you were helpless against an enemy approaching from the side, above or below or behind.  “He took the controls,” Eibhlin noted.

Examining the wreckage, Vail added, “Not all, just the… strange, everything remains, though damaged.  But there is space here where he removed controls.  Look, a glass portal forward and another through the deck.”

“A camera?”  she asked.

“I believe so.  This man was searching for a flier and retrieved a camera.”

“How long has this flier been here?”  she asked.  In Ireland the thing would rust away within a year.  Here, with no free water or humidity, and the Martian steel being mostly immune to rust, she could not say.

“Moss grows fast down here.  Perhaps a month, probably less than a year.  But who would spy ion Amhor?  We have fought no war in decades.”  Yet another mystery.

“Then, Vail Oran,” Eibhlin stood and reached for her thoat, “Perhaps we should question your mystery man!”

“Most certainly,” he laughed.  “Why would a foreign man, spying on Amhor, visit that city?”

“How do you know he is foreign?  Maybe he was a soldier returning to Amhor after a spying mission and crashed.”

“I doubt it, Eivleen Obreen.  Were he from Amhor, he would have been searching with his back to the city as he searched moving away.  Also were he an Amhoran, the Jed would have sent an army to seek the craft.  And why wait so long?  No Eivleen Obreen, this man was spying upon Amhor and was shot down.  He escaped or was captured so was unable to recover the camera.  Now, months later, he is free to return to search.  But why go to Amhor?  Why not leave?”

“Perhaps he has a confederate in the city?  Another spy who will aid him in returning the camera to their home?”

“I do hope so!” he laughed.  “Come, the mystery awaits!” and he kicked his thoat into a trot!


People with little authority tend to abuse what little power they possessed.  Eibhlin saw that with lesser Teirna in Ireland, she saw that with the British Nobles who ruled Ireland, she saw that among the Vanthi pirates and customs agents who took bribes, she saw that on modern Earth and she was seeing that at the gates of Amhor.  If leaving the city generated suspicion and questions, trying to reenter was a nightmare.  Both were taken to a small room where their identity papers were examined by the guard, then by the superiors of the guards, then by the guards again and all the while they were questioned as to why they had left and returned to Amhor.  Then they were left alone while the guards examined and conferred that the identity papers were real and not forgeries.

Eibhlin fumed and then snapped, “Why are you so calm?  Our quarry is long gone and we have lost him.”

Vail laughed and replied, “you cannot rush these people so we relax and allow them their way.  BUT, we have learned one more thing, the man we seek has excellent forged papers or is a Noble of Amhor.”

“Why think that?” she asked, marveling at her companion's demeanor.

Vail was enjoying this too much, “Because he is NOT in the room next to us!”

She gasped, “They passed him through without a thought.

“Exactly, now we convince the guard to tell us who he is.”


Vail explained, “The gate guard is a low position that pays what it is worth, so the guard may easily be bribed.  But, did he bribe the guard or was his metal of such power that the guard dared not delay him?”

“I know,” she laughed, “You love a mystery.”

Shortly after they were released, their identity papers returned and bade to ‘move along’.  Vail sought out the guard that seemed the most abusive and, with the exchange of a small bag of the oval coins common on Barsoom, they entered the main road of Amhor.

“Our quarry is a minor noble of the House of Phor which is related to the House of Phor Tak of Jahar.  50 years ago Jahar sought to conquer Barsoom and their greatest scientist, Phor Tak, developed terrible weapons for this end.  Phor Tak, however, fell afoul of the Jeddak and was forced to flee, he to some citadel in the Great Desert, his family to Amhor where they sought refuge.  Although they have lived here since, the House of Phor has always sought to return to Jahar.”  Vail was a fountain of information.

“So this man is taking photos of Amhor for what reason?”

“Perhaps to enable conquest of Amhor?  At one time, there were three great nations that controlled much of Barsoom; Ptarth, Zodanga and Jahar.  Helium allied herself with Ptarth and destroyed both Jahar and Zodanga, the latter now being a subject of Helium.  Jahar was allowed by Helium to remain free under the rule of Sonoma Tora, a minor Noble of Helium who was taken by and married to the former Jeddak, Tul Axtar who was killed by Tan Hadron.  Sonoma Tora rules Jahar but listens to Helium.  The House of Phor may wish to return and replace Sonoma Tora with their own Jeddak.”

“So how does Amhor fit into this mystery?  Amhor is one city with a few smaller subject Jeds.  Plus Jahar is half the planet away with the Toonoolian Marshes between.  I see no geographic or economic value to trouble with the two.”

“That we shall learn.  Come, Eivleen Obreen,” he led her on.  “Let us visit the House of Phor for I suddenly find myself with a lack of pi and would hire myself to that house.”

It took little time to find the ‘palace of Phor’ which could only be called a palace by strict definition of being the home of a noble.  Though large and walled, it was near the city walls which meant that it was in the poorer part of town and guarded by what Eibhlin thought were ‘inexpensive ruffians’ who openly stared at the couple even as they passed them through.

“Even my home was cleaner than is this, and we had been burned by the British,” Eibhlin commented.

“Which would make them desperate to hire me,” Vail laughed.

When they reached the main chamber, they saw a woman on a raised dais with a younger man at her side, though ‘young’ on Barsoom simply meant in good shape with no wrinkles.  Either could have been from 40 to 400 easily as Martians achieved their adulthood at 40 and then ceased to age until near 900.  Like all Red Women, the Noble was beautiful, had small breasts and long wavy ebony hair that fell to her waist.  She also had eyes that looked as if they had never seen anything pleasant.  Both visitors lay their long-swords at her feet as was custom and bowed, Eibhlin curtsying as being from Earth, she had never learned the male custom.  Red Men found her curtsey to be curious and entertaining.

Vail began, “Lady of the House of Phor, I am Vail Oran of Amhor, a simple than in need of employment in this time of peace.  I am a good swordsman as well as competent with the rifle, and I play an excellent game of Jetan.”

“And your companion?”  the man standing by the Lady asked.  Neither of them had taken their eyes from Eibhlin.  “She wears the metal of Ptarth, does she wish to ‘fight’ for the House of Phor?”  He almost laughed as he said ‘fight.

Since the question was aimed at Vail, Eibhlin remained silent.

“No great Lord,” Vail explained.  “The Princess Obreen is but a friend who accompanies me here.  It is I and I alone who seek employment.”

“Your choice in friend is unusual.” The lord replied.  “Still, I suppose that we must give you a chance.”  He motioned to a guard who approached.

Eibhlin and Vail moved to a far wall as the guard, an ugly specimen who looked as if he had forgotten to bathe that day, or week, approached and bowed.  (They will make you leave, when it is dark, can you climb the wall and seek me in secrecy?”

“Easily” she whispered, touching him to fix his mental imprint.  “Good luck.”

Vail and the guard drew steel and faced off, both knowing this was to first blood only as no one wished to kill or injure a valuable employee over a simple test.  In Ireland Eibhlin, being a woman, was untrained in battle so had to learn the blade as a martial Art when she was a slave to the Demons.  Brount, a warrior-monk who was a passenger on the Demon ship had taught her the blade, but her training was different from what she now watched.  Although the styles were vastly different, Brount taught her to fight with quick slashes to vital arteries followed by a dismemberment to finish her opponent, the Martians fought more to stab and thrust and only occasionally slashing for the Barsoomian Long sword was very light and not suited to dismemberment.  Only the strength of an Earthman could decapitate a Martian.  Thus she watched what resembled an Earthly Fencing match with a long curved blade.

The fight went quickly, neither man wishing to take a cut so defense was the order as each tested the other.  Eibhlin had spent enough years on Mars to have learned the style though being young, very young, she survived her battles mainly by virtue of her superior strength and speed and her unnatural vitality.  Still she could see that Vail was an excellent fighter whose skill was honed on the battlefield while his opponent was more aggressive who seemed to have learned in a butcher's shop.  The end was easy to see to even Eibhlin’s untrained eye and it was clear to her and to the Nobles who was the better.  Finally Vail won with a quick deflection-and-thrust that barely touched the guard, yet still drew a drop of blood.

“Enough!”  the woman suddenly cried as both backed off, their blades touching the floor.  “Return to your duties, Vail Oran will go with my son to negotiate terms.  You, Eivleen Obreen, must have duties to your own Lord and I would not keep you.”

Obviously dismissed, Eibhlin curtseyed and left, waving at Vail as she left.


Having no duties, Eibhlin left and found an alley that appeared to be deserted in the approaching dark.  Between the shadows and the night, she was so glad that Vad Varo had changed Amhorian fashion to eliminate the typical nudity of other nations.  She waited until the street traffic faded for even Amhor had a curfew.  Then she removed her weapons and donned a black silk jumpsuit over which she donned her weapons and moved through the shadows to the compound, her mind-shield preventing discovery by the Martian telepathy for the Red Man was unable to read or even perceive the thoughts of anyone of Earth.

Red Men are poor climbers, be it a hill or a wall, and for a person engineered to climb about a starship in zero gravity, the wall was of no concern and she was soon on top, searching for a guard or guard dog for though rare, occasionally a Red Noble would have calots in their compound.  The thin air of Mars carried little noise but Eibhlin was certain that she was alone, the guards probably gambling inside where it was warm, so she dropped to the ochre grass and moved forward seeking the mind of her friend.

Climbing the wall to the building, for the Red Men so loved ornamentation, she soon found her friend and listening with hears and mind, determined that he was alone and entered the conveniently open window.  “You were expecting me?” she asked.

“Of course.” He replied.  “I determined that with your anatomical differences, you would have no difficulty climbing either wall and you made certain to touch my mind before you left so I excused myself with the pretense of solitary prayer and waited for your arrival.  The household is small and the guards lax and these would conquer Amhor?”

He led her about the house, they hiding when sighting another, and eventually reached the floor where the Nobles lived.  Eibhlin could never get used to those curved ramps the Martians used instead of stairs, and nearly tripped a number of times.

Finding the apartments of the Lady of the house, they searched and upon sighting the longsword of his new employer, Vail quietly drew it and sniffed the blade.  “Clean.”

Eibhlin sniffed the opening to the sheathe and handed it to her companion who sniffed and smiled, “Banth blood!  None other smells like that.  He cleaned his blade but forgot the sheathe.  He is the one we seek.  Now for the film!”

“Rather, now you die!”


At the door was Phor Vallas, the son of the Lady who stood there with drawn revolver.  Eibhlin glanced at the radium bulbs that lit the chamber, wondering if they were bright enough to detonate the shells for she could easily survive a normal bullet though she feared for her friend.

“Why?” she asked, cautions for a man who could kill a banth with lance and sword was not someone she wished to face.

“You are trespassers and spies, need I any other reason?”  Crime was almost unknown on Barsoom so anyone found in your chamber was either an assassin or a spy.

“No,” Vail interrupted.  “Why spy on Amhor?  Do you intend to bring in a force to conquer the city?  I must stop you if so.”

Vallas laughed at that, almost lowering his weapon.  “You think that this is about Amhor?  Foolish man!  Amhor is but a tool. It is Ras Thavas we want!”

“Why?” Eibhlin asked. “Is she ill?  Ras Thavas will heal her without spying.”

“Spying?  This isn't spying.”

“Your flier in the seabed!  You sought it and took a camera!”

“I took photographs of the Toonoolian Marsh!  Years ago, Ras Thavas was driven from his Tower and created an army of unbeatable Hormads to reclaim his home.  Those where the pictures I took but was damaged by rifle fire and barely reached the seabed!  The Hormads still live and I want them.”

“An army of the unkillable!  You think to ask Vad Varo to intercede with Ras Thavas for that army to conquer Jahar!”  Vail announced.

Vallas holstered his weapon and laughed again.  “Almost.  Sonoma Tora hires panthans to kill the savages of U-Gor.  This is breaking the economy of Jahar and the people groan under the weight of  ‘national security’.  I want the hormads to enter U-Gor and destroy the savages!  Being unkillable, they can easily do so with few losses.  Plus aside from the pittance I will pay Ras Thavas for their use, they are virtually free of charge.”

“Then,” Vail exclaimed, “when it becomes known that it was you who destroyed the savages, the people will overthrow Sanoma Tora and place you upon the throne.  Of course, it is so simple.”

“And with Sonoma Tora gone, Jahar becomes free of the yoke of Helium, U-Gor is recolonized and rebuilt and Jahar returns to the glory of her past!”

“Glory to reconquer you mean,’ Eibhlin stated, ready to attack the Prince.

“You foolish woman.  You wear a man's harness, carry a man's weapons and think a man's thoughts.  It isn't like that!  Tul Axter was a madman!  He sought to conquer the world.  I have no such ambitions.  My mother and I simply want to return home.  The House of Phor was a Noble house for a hundred thousand years.  The dirt of Jahar runs in our veins!  WE helped build the waterways that saved Barsoom.  What care I for Helium or Ptarth or the rest of those nations that are younger than my family name!”

Vail interrupted, “Will you swear upon your House and family that you mean no harm to Amhor!”

Eibhlim added, “Nor Ptarth or Helium?”

The Prince snorted, “Gladly.  We only want to go home and the only way we can is to be invited and for that we must become great again.  Even John Carter cannot argue with my methods.  I destroy the savages of U-Gor and remove the Hormads as a potential threat which makes Helium and Ptarth happy.  I remove Sonoma Tora and rebuild U-Gor which makes the people of Jahar happy.  We sign a treaty with Helium that trades our freedom with our military aid and everyone wins!”

“Amazing, every mystery solved!  I do wish that you had waited long enough for me to learn this by myself.  But all questions are answered.  My Lord, I applaud your goal.”  Vail bowed to the Prince who acknowledged the respect.

Later, as she returned to the office of her Ptarthan employers, she thought, “Finally an adventure where no one tried to kill me.  I can get used to this.”   A part of her even wondered if dating Vail Oran would be cheating on Kara.


EIBHLIN INGHEAN UI BHRIAN  (41-42) Eivleen Obreen:  Irish Princess trapped on Mars.  Abducted by alien Demons, she was changed by them to be a useful tech-slave.

"I am Vail Oran, a common warrior: One of Eibhlin's few friends on Mars.

Aonghus O’Brien of Innis and Mairayd Ui Neill of Belfast:  Eibhlin’s parents in 18th century Ireland.  Both are dead.

Brount:  a wandering alien Warrior Monk and Eibhlin’s teacher aboard her Demon Starship.

Jetan: Martian chess, played with 20 pieces per side.

Kara: Eibhlin’s Vanthi lover and co-pilot, now on Earth 20th century

Mairayd: Eibhlin's mother

Mairayd: The name of Eibhlin’s Starship, a Vanthi Merchant Raider.

Odwar Farren Koff and his daughter Para Far: Eibhlin’s superior in Ptarth

Phor Tak: A scientist of Jahar, inventor of the invisible paint, the disintegrator ray, and the Flying Death.  –FMM

Phor Vallas: An exiled noble of Jahar.

PI:  Money.  Barsoomian money is oval and of a uniform diameter(s), their value determined by thickness.  "How high does your pi reach/stack" is a common phrase for "How much will you pay me?"

Ras Thavas: The Mastermind of Mars and Barsoom’s greatest Surgeon.

Ulyssius Paxton: An American aviator who died in France during WWI.  He reanimated in Toonool and became Prince of Amhor.

Timeline- very casual.
1887-1897- Fall of Iss
1925-  fall of Jahar & death of Phor Tak
50 B-years after the fall of Jahar-  today
+70 B-years after the death of Iss- today



Previous Appearances of Eibhlin (EV-leen) on Barsoom
A PANTHAN ON MARS by Rick Johnson
THE BATTLE AT U-GOR by Rick Johnson

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