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Volume 0858
Barsoom Art by Jeff Doten
A FanFic Round-Robin Project Created by John Barnes ~ Gahor of Gathol
with Jean Elliott and Bruce Bozarth ~ Illustration by Jeff Doten
Read them all at:
Volume I   ~   Volume II   ~  Volume III

Here is a place for those who love Barsoom to write collective stories. 
An appropriate post would either be a follow-on to a current storyline, 
or the outline of a character or a place. 
Remarks might be appropriate as well but should be titled "Remark."
The intent is to embark on a serious adventure into Barsoomian space but levity has its place as well.
Those seeking high parody should either
1.  Read the "Ratnaz Files" ~ JoN's All-Gory Edition or Tangor's Fan Fiction Site
2. Start a parody page,  or
3.  Contact Elmo of "The Barsoomian Blade" and try to get another issue in the works.
Gahor of Gathol
aka John Barnes

Send all submissions or remarks to
Barsoom: Untold Stories
When I'm not dreaming up some item of jewelry for a lovely Barsoomian Maiden, or fulfilling a commission from some noble family, I enjoy scouting the ancient ruins around the border of the Ancient Dead Sea.  I take my mate with me, Lu-An the Noble, named for her staunch attention to detail and character.  She is very precise.  She also plays a Flute with extreme grace.  I take her along on my excursions because we have found that the sound of her playing soothes the temper of the Dumb Brutes who frequent the ancient sites we like, the fearsome white Apes of Barsoom.

On this occasion we were gone by flyer and it took us about a week of flying to reach the site.  I wore my war harness so as not to attract much attention and to give no one cause for jealousy or theft.  We shared driving duties as I have been so far unable to obtain the great navigation device I've heard was created by John Carter's famous son Carthoris.  Some day we will meet and I can ask him about it.

We arrived without too much fatigue and landed on one of the high towers of the city.  Taking the key to our flyer we stood at the wall looking out over what had once been an ocean full of life.  We tried to picture Fishing boats leaving the harbor for the day.  We tried to imagine what manner of warship she must have held in her docks and patrolling the sea around her.  Just gazing out over the deep below us we could almost hear the bustle of the city and we dreamed of times gone by.  When Barsoom was not a dying planet.  When we didn't need to manufacture oxygen to survive.  But survive we do.  I leaned over to Lu-An and I kissed her lightly on the cheek.  She looked back with a smile in her eyes.  "It sparks your imagination too Gahor. I can see it in your eyes.  No wonder you come up with so many amazing creations.  Your spirit must be in tune with the Jeddaks of the past.  Dreamer."  "A dreamer I am and you know it.  Thanks for accompanying me.  Let us make fast the door to this turret and draw up our furs and silks to sleep for the night. . .

Lu-An and I awoke to the cool sun rising over the rampart of the turret we had slept in.  Our flier was well stocked with food and supplies so we dug in and produced a thermos of hot brew similar to coffee, but made with a Barsoomian bean called kett.  We sipped out kett and gazed wonderingly out over the Dead Sea before us.  Off in the distance I spied what looked like an unusual formation on the ancient sea floor.  Asking Lu-An if she was up for a trek after eating, she said that she was.  We devoured sweet cakes to go with our kett and sat aboard the flier of Gathol, ready for anything.

The proturbance we had spied had distinct nautical lines about it so I was none too surprised when we reached it to find that it was indeed the ancient hulk of a freeship of old.  The ship was turned half on its side and we landed on the ground above the leaning deck.  There was a strange smell about the place that reminded me of other smells.  Something distinctly smelled like a thoat.  We entered though an open hatch and were surprised to see decorations which had not decayed with time, giving us the impression that someone had been in this boat since the time of the crew who manned her.  We walked quietly, Lu-An had her flute out in case the white apes might be near by.  But the apes do not ride thoats and they have little use for decorations.  Then I heard someone humming.

Looking into a hallway with Lu-An holding back, I thought I spied one of the green men who live in the sea bottoms.  I ventured to step in and see what he was doing as it was unusual to hear song on the lips of one of these fierce denizens of the lowlands.  What I saw was surprising.  It looked as though I was in some kind of Laboratory. And this green man was the scientist!  "Kaor!" I said and he looked up from his work.  "I am Gahor of Gathol.  I come as a Friend"  The green man eyed me suspiciously, then went back to his work.  By this time Lu-An could not control her curiosity.  She steeped out of the shadows and drew up to my side.  "What is he doing she whispered into my ear?"  "I don't know, he appears to be building something.  Unusual for a green man."  "What Tribe are you from?"  I asked him.  "I am from Thark, but now I belong to no tribe" and he looked up at me to see my reaction.  "Do you know Tars Tarkas?"  "I do."  The green men are not given over to many words when they speak.  But Still I was curious.  "How came you here?"  "That is my story and this is my place.  You are interrupting my work.  But to satisfy your next question, my name is Krull  TinKar.  I have left the tribe to pursue my work."

While watching Krull TinKar work in the cold silence of his lab, we heard the sound of a whirling propeller and the soft alighting of feet onto the red sand outside.  A few moments later, in walked a white man with dark hair in the harness of Helium.  He looked at us in surprise, apparently not expecting to see guests in this scientific domicile.  "Vad Varo you are late.  I was expecting you last week."  The white man glanced at us and then deeming us harmless, perhaps recognizing the war dress of Gathol, he answered.  "I was delayed by unexpected work that needed my attention in Helium.  Where are you on your project for the Tharks."  "It is nearly complete.  The radium Lance will increase our range and the explosive pellet does far more damage than that of the radium rifle we normally use."  "The Warlord will be pleased.  He is always happy to see advances for his friends of Thark.  Any word from Tars Tarkas?"  "He is expecting completion in the next month.  Could you come over here and help me adjust this tubing...?"  At this point, Gahor and Lu-An decided to take their leave.  "We must be going, we will continue our archeological work in the dead city above us.  Thank you for your hospitality.  Come Lu-An, let us go.

As Gathor and Lu-An were climbing aboard their twin seated flier, Vad Varo ran out to see them.  "Kaor! Forgive me.  I almost forgot my manners.  You shall stay for Lunch.  Don't mind Krull, he is a bit on the taciturn side.  But he means well.  Anyone who is good in the eyes of Tars Tarkas is a Friend in my book."  Gahor climbed down from the flier and took the hand of Lu-An helping her down.  "We've been invited to Lunch"  "Yes, what fine manners these Tharks have."

Inside the hull of the ancient craft, they saw things which caught their eyes.  Jewelry handing from pegs on the walls which resembled nothing they had ever before seen.  Some of it was jeweled. Some of it was golden, all of it must have been found somewhere deep in the hold of Krull's house.  As they moved towards the presumed kitchen, they saw the more familiar trappings of the Tharks.  Animal Skins, trophies of the Hunt and so forth.  Krull bid them to sit on the silk pillows while he warmed the kett over a radium burner.  Its smell wafted into the room and filled everyone with delight.   "So how long have you been here Krull?" Gahor ventured to ask.  Krull was cooking some kind of lizard egg and had for them some hard toast to munch on.  "I've been working on this project for almost a year now and it is nearly complete.  But I found my home some 5 years back and after killing a few wild beasts, I took it for my own.  The radium lance pleases Tars.  I hope it is as effective against flying ships as I hope.  I have little chance to test such things and anyway it is not quite ready.  I practice on rocks and enjoy the explosive nature of my new charge.  But what of you, you have come a long way from Gathol, what brings you here, and your lovely companion?"

"Her name is Lu-An and we have been together for some years.  Both of us are native to Gathol and in the royal circles of the Nobility.  I am a royal Jewler to the Jed and do other commission work.  Lu-An works with fabric, coming up with new patterns for a custom shop in town frequented by the style conscious.  We like to get our inspiration from the past.  So we come to these old cities looking for clues in old artwork that we might refabricate or change with our own inclusions."

"So you are artists?"  This was Vad Varo.  "Me I am a soldier and sometime inventor.  Perhaps you have heard my tale and the tale of my Princess."  Lu-An spoke up.  "I have heard of some thing you had to do with Ras Thavis, but little more than that.  Perhaps you will tell it sometime."  The eggs were served and the kett refilled.   Gathor thought that the Thark, in social conversation had impeccable manners.  He was surprised by this, but accounted for it by his apparent friendship with Vad Varo and possibly others.  Still he could be curt when he had a mind to.  Gahor got up and looked around the ship while the others continued in conversation.  He had never before found such a relic.  It was in fine shape for as old as it must have been.  The outside was covered in moss which made it hard to distinguish from a large rock formation.  Gahor looked at some of the finds upon the wall.  These were pieces of another age.   When Sailors plied the seas and trade flourished between one red city and another.  How it beckoned to him this ancient past.  That he was of a royal line was one thing but he had never been one for the modern navy.  Still he read all he could of ancient history.   Some day, he would find a library still in tact.  What a treasure that would be.  He returned the necklace to its place and paused at the thermos to refill his cup before sitting back down among the others.

"Well Krull, we have much lost time to make up for.  Your prototype is nearly done.  Shall we test it this afternoon?"  In response the Thark just stared with his ivory tusks looking white and cold.  Gahol completed sipping his kett and put it down.  "We thank you for your hospitality, Krull.  May we visit you again?"  Another cold looking stare.  Krull got up and returned to his workbench.  Vad Varo followed.  Gahor and Lu-An showed themselves out.
~Gahor of Gathol

"Where is he?" Hexan Tel growled. At his back rode five of the most wanted men in Helium. "That damn jeweler is here somewhere!"

The six men mounted on desert thoats descended the ridge, continuing toward the ancient city on the horizon. Crossing the table land in one zode, they arrived at the city's outskirts in late afternoon. Transversing the cluttered roadways between crumbling towers, the riders worked their way downslope to where the quays were once washed by the waters of the vanished Throxeus.

Rounding the shoulder of a mass of tumbled concrete Hexan Tell raised his hand in warning. In the distance was the glitter of sunlight on a flier. Fading back into the shadows, the men dismounted, some with smiles on their faces.

Their leader narrowed his eyes, his hand on the hilt of his radium pistol. "It appears, my friends, we have found our quarry. Kohas, you and Tevid to the left. You two, right. Jek-Dal, you're with me. Keep your eyes open--and remember, we do not want to kill Gahor or his wife. We need them alive. As far as anyone else..."

Kohas kissed the length of steel in his hand. "We know what to do in THAT regard, Hexan Tel!"

As silently as possible the men worked their way though the rubble and shadows.

The flier was unoccupied. Hexan Tel scowled. "Spread out. Find him!"

Kohas descended the slope and was the one who saw activity on the dead sea bottom. "There!"

The six made their way to the ancient ship and gathered for a rush--and were met with a burst from a strange weapon that killed two of their company. But in that same moment they were in control of the situation.

"Vad Varo!" Hexan Tel laughed. "An unexpected prize!" Then he looked upon the Thark in a pool of blood, dead from a shot from a radium pistol. "Consorting with Tharks should be a crime."

"That is not John Carter's thoughts," Vad Varo replied.

Hexan Tel's response was a fist that sent the prince to the ground. "You will speak when spoken to!" Hexan Tel waited to see what the Jasoomian might say, then laughed when the man said nothing. "I see you are an educated man and do not require too much education. Now," Hexan Tel turned his eyes to Gahor and his wife. "You have led me a merry chase, Gahor of Gathol."

Gahor, with his arm about Lu-An's slender waist, replied: "I do not know you."

"Of course, you would not. I am merely a great admirer of your creations, you might call me a collector of your artistry."

Gahor paled. In recent days a number of his patrons had been murdered and his art works had been taken from their residences. "You?"

Hexan Tel laughed, though his eyes were hard and the smile was insincere. "I care not so much for your art, brother of Gahan, but for your explorations of archeology. I know what you seek, and you will tell me where it is or," and Hexan Tel, with a keen blade in one hand, stroked the cheek of Lu-An with a promise.

"Leave her alone," Gahor said.

"That depends on you, mastersmith. Tevid--bind them.

Hexan Tel sheathed his weapon and watched the Barsoomian sunset.

Suggest that we go to third person for the narrative. Otherwise there are too many "I's" and difficulty of producing a truly ERB multiple viewpoint of concurring Sub-plots.  ~ Tangor
~ Bruce "Tangor" Bozarth

Gahor's thoughts were mostly for his princess, but he could hardly be blamed for thinking of his work as well.  His reputation had spread in recent years and he was glad for that.  But this rash of murders and thefts had left him baffled.  There was Krull TinKar dead on the ground before him.  These men were ruthless indeed.  Gahor was no slouch with a blade but they were outnumbered.  He drew his long sword from its scabbard and felt cold steel against his neck.  Lu-An was trying to get behind him but she was in the grip of one of the ruffians.

"Who are you?" queried Gahor.

Vad Varo spoke up.  He was still grieving for the loss of Krull.  But he knew these men well.   "This is Hexan Tel and his band of ruffians.  They are wanted in Helium for a variety of crimes.  I know John Carter would love to get his hands on any one of these men and see that justice is meted out."

"I have a history you know, it seems"  stated Hexan.  "But you will be history if you resist.  Put away your blade Vad Varo.  And Gahor, don't make me laugh.  Your hands are better put to use polishing your gem work."  Lu-An let out a stifled scream as her hands were pulled behind her back and bound with strong rope by one man as another held a blade to her neck.  There were four men left.  Two were binding Lu-An. One had a radium pistol pointed at Vad Varo and Hexan Tel faced Gahor with a sword drawn and a pistol in his other hand.  Vad Varo relented.

While Hexan Tel led his party away on thoats another thoat emerged from the ancient wreck.  It was the thoat of Krull TinKar.  It looked down at its dead master and whimpered much like a dog.  They had known each other many years.  Now the thoat knew there would be no one to look after him.  He missed the Thark.  He determined to head for the Dead sea bottoms which were the home to Krull's tribe.  Perhaps someone would recognize him and send help.  If nothing else, there would be those there who knew him and even a thoat needs company.  He set off into the desert. 
The party marched back to the city, desolate save for the mute denizens, the great white apes of Barsoom.  Lu-An and Gahor had been placed together on the back of a thoat and Vad Varo rode the other one that had been the steed of the fallen villains.   They talked in quiet whispers.  "What do you think they want with us Gahor?" asked Lu-An.

"I don't know. Something to do with my art.  But they asked about the archeology.  I have no idea what they are talking about.  Perhaps they will enlighten us."

"Hey!  You there!  No Talking!"  It was one of Hexan Tel's men.

"What do you want with us?" asked Lu-An.

"You will need to take that up with Hexan when we get to our destination."

The party was headed back to the city which Gahor and Lu-An had been about to explore.  What they wanted from there it was hard to say, but Gahor had a hunch it had to do with old technology from the late Empire that had its Capitol housed in the city they were near.

"You will find out soon enough, Gahor"  said Hexan Tel.  They were winding along the streets of the city by now.  They approached a large archway that led into what looked like it had once been a palace or a government building.  The doors were still good after all this time.  Hexan dismounted and shoved the door with a mighty thrust.  It moved with a screech but fell to easily enough.

"I might have guessed you were after ancient secrets, Hexan."  said Gahor.  "I wish my brother were here to show you the way to Issus!"

"Ha! Looking for your brother may be the next thing on my list! But for now I have some decoding work for you.  Down below this chamber you will lead us to the Archives of Tuxar.  I know you can read the ancient texts and if you want to see your wife alive, you will translate and assist me in my little archeology project."

The party descended several ramps before it ran into a dead end.  "I think you have the combination of working on of these correctly, Gahor."

Gahor looked at the blank wall. He was sure that it held a secret opening.  He had seen many of these in the past.  He looked at the wall to the left.  There it was, the notch that he sought.  "If you will unbind me,  I will open the door."

"Tell us what to do, do you think we are that dumb?"

"Put my dagger in my hands then."

"Do as he says, Tevid!"

Hexan Tel is an annoying fellow, thought Gahor.  Well here was the knife.  Gahor slid it into the slot.  It went to the hilt but no door appeared.  He twisted it a quarter turn to the right then a full 180 degrees back.  The door slid to one side."

"Very Good Gahor.  Already you prove your usefulness."

Gahor smiled and wondered to himself how quickly he could cut his bonds and free Lu-An.  Vad Varo looked expectantly.  Not fast enough.  He pulled the blade from the wall with his hands bound behind him and Tevid took the blade from him, returning it to its sheath.

The party walked into the vault.

~ Gahor of Gathol
Hexan Tel expected the interior to be dark, but was surprised to find a row of radium blubs glowing near the ceiling. It was not a large chamber and there was only one object in the room, which rested on a pedestal of ersite. A circle of platinum with a single gem of extraordinary beauty mounted on it. The assassin and thief stepped forward with unconcealed eagerness.

"Do you know what this is, Gahor of Gathol?" Hexan Tel picked up the bauble and gazed upon it. "You had no idea that your explorations of the ancient cities to find designs to copy for you art would have meaning, would reveal the secret power of the Orovars, that which made them the masters of Barsoom for nearly a million years. I shall demonstrate."

So saying, Hexan Tel placed the band of rare metal upon his head. Almost the instant the gem touched his forehead it began to glow. There also seemed to be a change in Hexan Tel, almost as if a power surged through his tall, handsome, though cruel body. He sway for a heartbeat, then suddenly laughed, shaking a fist of triumph in the air.

"The crown of Har-Ban-Kar is mine!" Hexan Tel smashed his fist onto the pedestal and the stone burst into a thousand fragments. "I am now immortal, stronger than any man who ever lived, and have powers
undreamed of!"

Vad Varo narrowed his eyes. "Powers such as?"

Hexan Tel turned to face the Jasoomian. "A small demonstration? As you wish."

From the gem leapt a bolt of light that burned and melted the concrete wall beside Vad Varo's head. Molten globs of stone rolled down the wall as Vad Varo jumped aside.

Gahor kept his expression blank, though a riot of emotions surged through his breast. "The Master Ray of Barsoom. So, it was not a fable. Now that you have it. Let us go."

"Tevid. Your knife, put it on the floor." Hexan Tul moved to the chamber's exit. "Leave the men, but bring the girl, she might be amusing for a while."

Gahor leapt to his wife's defense, but stopped short of running himself through on Tevid's longsword. "I will find you!" the Gatholian shouted just before the stone slab passed between him and Hexan Tel to seal them into the room!

Vad Varo picked up the knife, cut himself and Gahor free, then looked around. "What next?"

A scurry of sound caused both men to turn around to face what danger? "I wish you had not asked that, my friend!"

~ Bruce "Tangor" Bozarth

Through a hole in the back of the chamber came 3 white apes of Barsoom.  Both men drew their swords and pistols.  Vad Varo hit the shoulder of one of the apes with an explosive pellet and the beast screamed with rage.  Gahor did the same to another.  now it was hand to hand for the beasts were upon them.  Vad Varo stepped aside and plunged his long blade into the back of the advancing foe and at the same time tripped him up with his foot as the beast stumbled.

Gahor faced his opponent head on and the beast struck him a glancing blow on the head.  Quickly he recovered shrugging off the pain and squeezed the tip of the long sword into the heart of the beast hovering over him.  The other charged him and knocked him to the ground.  Gahor raised his pistol and fired a direct shot into the large face of the white creature.

Vad Varo was now on top of the fallen ape and he plunged his sword again directly under the left shoulder blade.  He heard it grown as the life bled out of him.

Gahors foe was all bloody in the face and could not see.  He was flailing around for any opponent.  Gahor fired again, this time hitting the heart.

"You're not a bad shot Gahor."

"We are taught much in the art of fighting in the royal circles of of Gathol."  He paused and looked around the room.  In the shadows at the far end of the room he spied the hole which had given the apes ingress to the vault and he said  "I think we have a way out.  Good of Hexan to leave us our weapons.   I suppose he expected us to remain here to ponder his fate.  But I would rather weave a bit of it.  Come let us go!"

They walked to the far end of the room where the wall had crumbled with age, or force, who could tell.  Having dispatched 3 apes they were leery that they should meet more so the moved stealthily though the hall hardly making a noise on the pavement  avoiding large rocks as they went.

With some luck they were able to find their way to the surface and were thankful that no more apes had heard the sounds of the scuffle.  "It is a bit of a walk to Krull's house, Gahor, but we had best be quick about it.  I fear  this new menace and what may come of it."

"If I had any idea that we were leading him directly to his prize I might have done something else."

"You had little choice, Gahor, with your princess in their control."

"Still I fear for Barsoom.  Such power should not be wielded by the unscrupulous, and Hexan is far from scrupulous."

"I know. But there may be a chance to stop him before he begins.  Let us make haste."

As they walked quickly to the old Thark's ancient dwelling, Gahor's thoughts were on Lu-An.  What will he do with her he wondered.  Why had he allowed them both to live.  Perhaps there are more secrets he wishes to learn from us.  I should not have been so foolish.  Had I any idea that device really existed, I might have used more caution.  But it is behind us.  And now we must take quick and deliberate action.

They arrived at the house of Krull to find, happily that Vad Varo's flier was still there and unharmed.  Vad Varo picked up the Lance from the ground.  He went into the house and collected some supplies.  Gahor was tempted to take the jewelry from the walls but he felt so bad at the loss of Lu-An that his heart wasn't in it at all.  Well, he would take one as a gift for her when he should see her next.

"Now where shall we go?  To John Carter to warn him?  Or to the Tharks with the delivery of Krull's new weapon."

"Or to Gathol" mused Gahor.  "Where do you think they will go?"

"With power like that they may go straight to Helium to challenge the Warlord."

"I think you are right.  Helium is our best choice.  They were riding thoats so their travel may be slow.  Yours is a swift flier.  If we leave at once we may be in time to make warnings as needed."

"Plus, I think we can learn more about these people by talking to the authorities in Helium.  I believe they are all wanted men.

"Let us be off!"  The two climbed aboard Vad Varo's flier and secured the packages that Vad Varo had picked up. Putting the gravitation beam in gear they started the whirling engine and they were off at top speed.

~~ Gahor of Gathol
They arrived in Helium several days later and were able to gain an audience with the Warlord in fairly short order.  It helped that Vad Varo was his personal friend and only other Jasoomian on the planet, plus Gahor's brother was married to Tara of Helium, daughter of the Warlord and the incomparable Dejah Thoris.

"What brings you to my Council room gentlemen, and how is it that you have come to know each other?"  spoke the Warlord.

"We are on a mission of rescue, but also one bearing news."  This was Gahor.  "Have you ever heard of the Orovars who ruled Barsoom for many generations?"  I had been studying them as a part of the research for my art.  They had a very high culture, advanced military and trade flourished under their rule.  They also had some advanced technology which has been lost through the ages.  I had thought that tales of the Crown of Har Ban Kar were elaborate fairy tales meant to inspire fear in those who might threaten the realm.  But allow me to continue with the story which brings us here."

"Hexan Tel, has captured my princess Lu-An.  He has also used me as an unwitting tool to aid him in the recovery of this 'Crown of Har Ban Kar'.  I was able to do some research on it in the libraries of Helium while we were awaiting an audience.  Here is what it is reputed to do.  1.  Extend the life of the wearer indefinitely.  2. Give the wearer great strength like unto that of a Great White Ape.  3 It may shoot out great beams of light up to 5 times in a day.  These beams are so powerful as to turn solid rock into molten lava.  We saw Hexan Tul use this power.  Also he smashed a stone tablet to bits.  He also took my fair Lu-An with him along with someone named Tevid and two others."

"All are wanted men in Helium your lordship" inserted Vad Varo.  "We have no idea what they will choose to do next. But knowing they have many  ties here in Helium, we thought it best to warn you and your men of what was coming.  We last saw them riding thoats, but they may have a yacht hidden away.  Something large enough to carry 6 thoats and 5 people.  Hopefully we are in advance of them, but I do not doubt but that they will strike as soon as they arrive.

"You probably already know that Hexan is an Assassin.  I would guess that he is in the guild.  If he does not head it already, I would guess that he soon will."

Gahor spoke:  "Do you know were the guild hall is located?  I must seek my Princess and that would be the most logical place to commence a search"

John Carter said that he would put Gahor in touch with the proper authorities to direct him onto such a quest.

~~ Gahor of Gathol

The padwar assigned to the task of providing information to Gahor was well acquitted with the Guild and the hall it resided in.  Many times they had visited via underground tunnel complexes which interwove beneath the city of Helium.  He had fought them in hand to hand on various occasions and was pleased with the new assignment from the Warlord.  "My name it Ta and I will take you to the dungeons of the Guild of assassins.   You will need your weapons as the tunnels are not without dangers of their own."

So down they went, Ta and Gahor.  Vad Varo had decided to remain and continue work on the radium lance that Krull was perfecting.  He had been given an armory room in which to hopefully complete the project.

Deep below the city, it was a labyrinth of tunnels.  Gahor tried to follow as best as he could, but soon he realized that he was lost and could not return without the help of his fellow.

The tunnels were a mix of good construction and rough hewn rock.  Occasionally they found a natural cavern but this was rare.  In the caverns there was water and there were rats.   Ta had brought a radium torch.   They saw what looked like glaring green eyes looking back at them from the distance.  A fierce banth, no doubt, thought Gahor.  They quietly passed him by.

Near the quarter of the city where the Guild house was built, they heard some scuffles of feet and slight clink of metal against metal.  "A party approaches, be quiet."

"Never in my life!"  they overheard the talking.  "Well if Del Gar Na does not step down, I for one will give my allegiance to Hexan Tel.  What a feat of bravery!  What a coup de gras."  Ta and Gahor were remaining perfectly still.  "I sense something"

"What is it"  replied his companion.

"More of a scent than anything else."


"No that she-devil is in the cave at this hour.  She doesn't feed until much later at night.  Smells almost human.  Like richman's cologne.  Let us pause."

Ta an Gahor drew their blades as silently as they could.  On a signal from Ta, the two jumped into the corridor near them and lunged at the two hidden assassins.  Swords were blazing steel.  In a whirlwind of circular motion Gahor advanced on his quarry and in a moment when the eyes of his opponent showed fear, he plunged the sword into his heart.  Ta was fighting for his life. He was bleeding from a number of nicks but his opponent had a fine gash across his forehead.  The two were so interlocked it was hard to determine how to go about helping his friend.  Plus it was very close quarters.

"Run Gahor, save yourself!"  Gahor would not think of abandoning his comrade and so he looked for an opening to cast his blade into.  At last he found one and as the Assassin opened his left side to plunge with his right sword hand, Gahor sank his blade into his heart.  The sword fell short of its mark.  Ta was bloody, but still able to walk.

"You saved my life, Gahor.  How can I repay you?"

"Help me find my princess and that is payment enough."

~~ Gahor of Gathol

Escape for Lu-An was all that Gahor could think about right now.  He followed the lead of Ta of Helium and slowly they descended to the level of the dungeon beneath the Guild.  Unknown to the guild, Helium had installed tiny lens shafts into the mortar of the walls of most of the cells which allowed a fisheye view of the contents of the room.  Carefully, quietly, they moved from cell to cell, some occupied, others empty until at last they found one with a woman in it, chained to the wall of the cell.  "This one has a door, Gahor.  Look to see if it is she."

Poor Lu-An was sitting on the floor her arms in chains waiting to see what would happen next.  She was calm, cool -- her normal self.  Gahor's heart jumped for joy at the sight of her.  He stepped back to allow Ta to open the secret latch to the hidden door.  As he did so, Lu-An looked up.  Questioningly she looked to the door for perhaps some unknown danger.  But saw none.  As he entered the dim light, Gahor's smiling face became apparent and she smiled in return.

"My Chieftain!"  she whispered.

"My Princess"  he whispered back.

"You are here but what of my chains?"

Gahor looked at Ta hopefully.

"You will have to take a chance."

Gahor pulled his radium pistol out of its holster and aimed the barrel at one of the locks.  "Whmph!"  sounded the pistol and the lock fell open.  Quietly they waited.  "Whumph!!"  went the second lock falling off of a dainty arm and the fetters fell to the ground leaving her free.  "Quickly now, they may pursue us."

Gahor, Ta and Lu-An quickly moved to the opening from which they had come in, just in time to see a Guard poke his head through the bars.  Knowing that capture was imminent, Gahor lifted his pistol in time to beat the guard to the draw.  "Pfhoomp"  when the gun and the assassin lay face down in a puddle of blood.

The three quickened their pace knowing that pursuit could not be far behind and trying their best to use the little slice of time that fate had favored them with as they moved through the intertwining tunnels.

~~ Gahor of Gathol

Hexan Tel was returning from a job.  in one hand he held a half dozen necklaces each with jewels more lovely than the first.  "That was easier than taking candy from a baby"  he said aloud.  "Nothing can stop me now.  I will take over the guild and make Helium pay me homage for the safety of their families.  I will be rich beyond compare.  Even John Carter will fall to my sword in combat owing to my tremendous strength."  He stopped.  Something wasn't quite right in the room.  He was passing through the cavern of the Banth.  "Well, a perfect opportunity to test my strength."  He had used one of the beams to get into the house he just left, another on the way out.  Now he aimed at the distant wall where he saw eyes gleaming.  A flash of light spit out from the jewel on his forehead and the beast screamed in agony as it cut through his very flesh.  "Quite handy"  said Hexan Tel to himself.  As he was walking along he stopped short.  There in front of him about 10 paces was Gahor!

Not waiting to ask questions, Gahor fired his pistol, but Hexan's great speed and quick reflexes allowed him to dodge the bullet just in time.  Gahor fired another, it grazed the crown that Hexan wore, knocking it off his head.  Ta trained his pistol on the object while Lu-An stood quietly in the background.

"It is just you and me Hexan, as it out to be.  Gahor threw down his gun and launched into the attack with his long sword.   A sheet of metal preceded him as he drew blood on Hexan's face and the fight was on.

"You never can defeat me you good for nothing jeweler!  You don't know the first thing about swordplay!"  Hexan reached for his gun but Gahor caught his hand with the tip of his sword leaving a good mark.

"Try it again if you wish."  Hexan Lunged at Gahor knocking him to the ground, and rolling with him.  Both men dropped swords and drew daggers.   The crown was right beneath them as they fought.  Both men were of about equal strength.  But Gahor was fighting for all he believed in and Lu-An watched hopefully on.  Hexan finally managed a pin of Gahor and as he was choking the life out of him with his forearm pressing against his neck, Gahor exerted a mountain of strength and plunged his dagger into the villain's side.   "That was for killing my patrons!"   They rolled about again.  Hexan was weakening but still strong.  This time Gahor pinned him down holding both hands down to the ground.   Hexan kicked up at Gahor, but he was bleeding profusely now.  Gahor rolled off from the punch and got to his feet.  Hexan was dying, but he saw one last chance.  The Crown was right beneath him.  he picked it up and put it on.  At the same instant Gahor lunged at his throat with his knife hand and buried it to the hilt.

As a last gasp of fury, Hexan set off a bolt of light unlike any that Gahor had seen thus far.  It hit the ceiling of the cavern and rocks began falling from above.  "Run my friends" shouted Gahor.  "Seek shelter."  As the others left the room, Gahor ripped the Crown of Har-Ban-Car from the head of the dead Hexan and ran with all speed to the exit his friends sought.  Boulders pummeled down upon him as he moved, taking bruises and bumps until at last he blacked out.

~~ Gahor of Gathol

Gahor of Gathol awoke lying on a comfortable bed covered with silks and furs.  "Where are we?"  he asked.   Lu-An had been watching over him nonstop for 2 days.  "You are in the palace of the Jeddak.  You strength slowly returns to you.  You did well, you got rid of Hexan Tel, that scoundrel who has been killing our patrons and making our works unpopular."

"Yes, yes, I'm starting to remember now.  The cavern. The cave.  I remember killing Hexan Tel and grabbing the Crown.  That was it.  Where is the crown?"

"It sits safely guarded on this side table here.  You were last in possession of it and it was partly owning to you that anyone recovered it."

"Yes and a bit of a surprise to me too.  It would be nice to take it back to Gathol, but really it belongs to Tardos Mors and here it shall stay.  I have only one request.  That I be permitted to make a copy of it.  It has nice lines, a clean style and intricate bas relief on the crown itself."

One of the people in the room now was  Tara of Helium, Gahor's sister in law.  "I am happy to see you are recovering from your knock on the head."

"Where is Gahan?"

"He is in the service right now aboard a ship on patrol.  Near Gathol, if I remember correctly."

"Well, he serves you well.  I like it when you both come to Gathol to visit my family. Nothing like those Jetan matches we get into."

"Nothing like them at all"  and she laughed at the thought of it remembering how the brothers had nearly come to swords over a match last year.

In stepped Tardos Mors.   "So he wants to make a copy of it?  Just like him I must admit.  But, my son, I'd like you to make two copies and give one to me, keep the other for yourself.  It is often useful to keep the real crown under wraps.  By the way, thank you for your heroism in defeating Hexan Tel."  He smiled and left the room.

Lu-An brought in some cool drinks and they all sat around and talked the afternoon away.

After recovering from his wounds as part of a cavern collapsed upon him, Gahor enjoyed the company of his sister-in-law Tara of Helium and her family, along with that of his ever loving wife.  John Carter dropped by occasionally to see how things were going and even played Gahor in an game of Jetan.  He won of course, but it was a good fight.  And it was quite gentlemanly, with none of the loud outbursts which characterized the games between brother and brother (Gahan).

So it was with lightened spirits but somewhat heavy hearts that Gahor and Lu-An set off from Helium with the Crown of Har-Ban-Car carefully stored in a locked box.  Gahor intended to take it to his shop in Gathol to make copies: one for himself, and one for Tardos Mors.  He was glad that this rash of killing of his patrons was over, but he still wondered about the fate of all the objects de art which had been in their possession but was stolen by Hexan Tel and his men.  He hoped that with the death of Hexan, all of this was over.

Helium had outfitted them with one of the fastest 2 seated fliers in the force and so they sped along quite rapidly towards distant Gathol, almost half a world away.   Gahor was one of the few citizens of Gathol who did not purchase a slave to perform his mandatory time in the mines, 1 hour/ day.  He had a slave for backup, but being a jeweler, he liked to visit the mines in order to find choice items for his own personal use.  He didn't  mind the relative darkness and he found the work relaxing in its way.

Once home he found that Gahan was off duty and visiting family and putting his household in order.  Gahor related his experiences to Gahan who was proud of his brother's work.   Neither had time for Jetan so they put that off for another day.

Gahor saw to it that his wife was back in her fabric shop and busy working on new designs before he set about on his new project.  He carefully unlocked the box which contained the priceless crown, opened the silk bag which protected it and.... it was gone!!!

In its place he found a note which read:  "You have much making up to do.  The pain to your clientele is not over.  Good luck.  --Tevid"

There was a sudden knock at the door and a servant went to open it.

"A messenger from Helium to see you sir."

Gahor looked up from his reverie.  Then a smile flashed to his face.  It was Ta who had guided him to the dungeons of the Assassin's guild.

"Ta!  What a pleasure it is to see you.  How have you been, what brings you to Gathol, so far from your home?

"This little crown."  He pulled a crown from the pouch strapped to his side.  "We found this on a criminal trying to sneak it out of the Palace.  It is  good that the palace guard is ever vigilant for assassins and spies."

"Tevid no doubt."

"Tevid was his name.  How did you know?"

"He left me this!"  Gahor handed him the note from the box were he had put it.

"Hmm, sounds like it is good that we caught this calot."

"Very good indeed and quite a relief for me.  My clients have suffered enough'

"Don't worry he will not escape and he will be seen to justice."

"Good.  Now I can get back to my work.  Please, have a seat, rest yourself.  You will be our guest at the royal banquet table tonight."

"Thank you.  I must return tomorrow, but I can spend the night.  It was a long flight here from Helium and I appreciate your hospitality."

Gahor asked Ta if he would accompany him to the jewel mines to help him find some precious stones for his new project.

The two of them departed on a royal yacht and this gave Gahor a chance to show off his beloved Gathol to his companion.   They cruised around the city taking in spires and domes that lurked seemingly around every corner.  Then they flew by the hall of the Jeweler's Guild.  It was a glittering building in that it had countless semiprecious stones embedded in the outer walls.  This gave the building a spectacular splendor in the sunlight with many colors of the rainbow reflecting back.   "That is one of our prize works, Ta.  The Guild of Jewelers.  What do you think?"

"It is magnificent!  Never in all my life...  By Issus."

"It took many long years to construct it and many more to cover the walls, but to a jeweler there is nothing finer in all the world.

"We of Helium say that about the Twin Towers."

"Yes, those are magnificent as well.  Well I guess we should be off to the mines."

They stopped at the mines, and spent several hours, part of which was a full tour of the facilities and part of which was a search for a particular vein of jewels.  At last Gahor had found it.  "This is the exact stone that was used in the construction of that crown.  I hope there is enough here for two crowns.  There may be but there is not much more than that."

He called to one of the workers to bring him his tools and soon Gahor was busy chiseling out the lovely jewel that he had found.  When he was finished they both cleaned up and set back aboard the flier.  "If you stay long enough, I can make the crown and you can take both of them back with you."

"That would be at least a week surely.  I don't know if I should stay so long as that."

"Very well, you leave tomorrow."

That evening, Ta dined with Gahan, Gahor and Gahors bride Lu-An.   The dinner was relaxed, hopeful.  Everyone begged Ta to stay for another day or week or however long it would take Gahor to finish the crown facsimiles, but he desisted.   Said he was expected back at the post.  It was finally agreed that Gahan would return the Crown himself, along with one of the fakes upon his return to Helium, after his current tour of the area was wrapped up and he was allowed some shore leave.

The meal was well prepared as you would expect for Barsoomian royalty.  The plates were of crystal and the goblets were platinum studded with garnets in a floral design.

After they had eaten, the guests were invited to dance in the parlor, which was quite large.  There was a 7 piece band and since there were a number of the local nobility at the dinner, the dancing was elegant and refined.  Many of these guests were friends and clients of either Gahor, Lu-An or both.  But all loved Gahan the Jed and were happy to be in his company.

When news of the death of Hexan Tell was given to the guests they all applauded.  His thefts and killings had caused quite a stir among the friends of the Jeweler and his wife.  "Let us hope we can put this whole nasty business behind us."  Quoted one of the richest nobles of the realm.

"Here here!" was the resounding answer to that.

Gahan asked Ta to relate his portion of the tale.  This involved assisting in the freeing of Lu-An and then bringing the Crown of Har-Ban-Car back to Gahor after Tevid, who was still on the loose had somehow managed to steal it from the very palace of John Carter, where Gahor and his wife had been guests, during Gahor's recovery after the fight with Hexan Tell.

Well the nobles showed all sorts of delight in Ta after that and he danced with a large number of the Nobles ladies in attendance.  After that he might have come close to changing his mind about the timing of his return to Helium, but in his heart he knew that duty must prevail.

The next morning, Gahan, Gahor and Lu-An were all on the landing deck bidding farewell and safe journey to Ta.  They watched him depart until his flyer was out of sight.

"What a great friend and respectable Padwar" said Lu-An.

"If I have my way he will be promoted in the ranks."  Said Gahan.  "He deserves no less.  And I wouldn't mind having him assigned to one of my Utans."

"I think, to judge from last night,"  said Gahor "many of the noble ladies would second you on that recommendation."

They all had a chuckle over that and retired inside for a lengthy breakfast.

~~ Gahor of Gathol ~~

Continued in Volume II
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