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Princesses of Mars

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
This is a "what if" exercise. Specifically, "what if the main character of a famous pulp science fiction novel had been female instead of male". It started out as a simple copy/replace of names and gender pronouns, but has slowly morphed into a subtle rewrite of the original novel.

I hope you enjoy it.
 
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TheCorsair

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
Princesses of Mars

by
Edgar Rice Burroughs


Revised and expanded

by

The Corsair​
 
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TheCorsair

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
CONTENTS

Forward Number One
Forward Number Two
I On the Arizona Hills
II The Escape of the Dead
III My Advent on Mars
IV A Prisoner
V I Elude My Watch Dog
VI A Fight That Won Friends
VII Child-Raising on Mars
VIII A Fair Captive from the Sky
IX I Learn the Language
X Champion and Chief
XI With Dejah Thoris
XII A Prisoner with Power
XIII Love-Making on Mars
XIV A Duel to the Death
XV Sola Tells Me Her Story
XVI We Plan Escape
XVII A Costly Recapture
XVIII Chained in Warhoon
XIX Battling in the Arena
XX In the Atmosphere Factory
XXI An Air Scout for Zodanga
XXII I Find Dejah
XXIII Lost in the Sky
XXIV Tars Tarkas Finds a Friend
XXV The Looting of Zodanga
XXVI Through Carnage to Joy
XXVII From Joy to Death
XXVIII At the Arizona Cave
 
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TheCorsair

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
FOREWORD NUMBER ONE

I’ll be perfectly honest: this is not a work of fiction. Well, maybe it would be better to say it is not a work of fan-fiction that simply flips the gender of the main character of Mr. Burroughs’ most famous work. Let me explain the origin of it.

Like so many of us during 2020 and 2021, I watched a lot of streaming programs. Probably too many, really. Lockdown is, as I’m sure all of you remember, extremely boring. So, when I could finally get out and do things again, I had the mad idea to bid on an old storage bin and hope I got rich. They did it on television, right? How hard could it be.

Yes, I know, that was a terrible idea. Pretty much everything was boxes full of trash and rat droppings. And since I was the proud owner, I had the delightful privilege of having to empty it out. That was no fun whatsoever, because I hadn’t really considered the logistics of that when I bought the storage bin, and my car is an older four-door compact car. I ended up paying Home Depot a comparatively ridiculous sum of money to haul my trash away, and the local dump another comparatively ridiculous sum of money to let me unload it.

I really should have thought this whole thing through, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, as I was loading the last of the garbage into my rental pickup, I happened to notice that one of the boxes was extremely different from the others. It was an old-fashioned banker box, waterstained badly, with mouse-chewed holes on one corner. A browned, brittle label was pasted to the front, stating “All-Story Magazine Submissions” and “1911”. Intrigued, I opened it up. And then I nearly threw it away, because the first thing I saw was a long-dead mouse in a nest of shredded yellow paper. But, at the front of the box was a thick, untouched envelope. Pasted on the front of the envelope was another label:

Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess
Mr. E. R. Burroughs​

The label made me gasp, just a little. I thought I’d read all of Burroughs’ Barsoom novels, and that title didn’t look familiar at all. After a moment’s thought I dropped it into a shopping bag and tossed it in my trunk, then finished cleaning the storage unit. Then, once everything else was done, I hung the bag in my garage for a week to - hopefully - let any disease organisms die. I also carefully misted it with bleach, just enough to dampen the surface of the envelope. No need to get through COVID only to get some stupid old-time disease and die, right?

While I waited, I did a little research. “Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess” was it turned out, the working title of the story that Mr. Burroughs first expanded into “Under the Moons of Mars”, which was the title that “A Princess of Mars” was serialized under. Which was quite exciting, because maybe I’d stumbled across a copy of that first version? Which meant that, maybe, I’d actually found something worth enough money to at least recoup the expenses of that stupid storage shed.

When I finally opened it, the first thing was a letter from someone named Thomas Newell Metcalf to Mr. Burroughs. From the context of the letter, as well as from a Google search, it seems that Mr. Metcalf was the editor of multiple pulp magazines including The All-Story Magazine. Here is the text of the letter in its entirety:

Dear Sir:-

It is with considerable interest that I have read "Dejah Thoris, Martian Princess." There are many things about the story which I like, but on the other hand, there are points about which I am not so keen. Undoubtedly the story shows a great deal of imagination and ingenuity; but I am unable to judge of course, the total effect, on account of its unfinished condition. I think it is rather slow in getting under way and it seems to me that you treat too casually and vaguely Carter's leaving the earth and arriving upon Mars.

Of much greater concern is your main character, who simply is not suitable for publication as written - particularly in light of the relationship you describe between that character and the titular Dejah Thoris. Were I to permit this story to be published in its current form, it would expose this magazine and the Frank A. Munsey Company to both civil and criminal action in the city and state of New York as well as on a federal level. If it would be possible for you to amend these aspects of the story as outlined in the attached document, and if the amended story remains as ingenious as the greater parts of what I have read, I should be very glad to consider it. I hope that you will think it worth your while, and I hope that you will give me a chance to look at the revised manuscript. I am holding the present m.s. at your disposal.


Very truly yours
Thomas Newell Metcalf (sig)

The “attached document” was not in the envelope. Instead, there were nearly a hundred type-written pages that presented a version of Mr. Burrough’s famous story that neither I nor anyone else since Mr. Metcalf have ever seen. After reading it, I contacted the offices of Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. to see if I could verify that this document actually was an unknown first draft of A Princess of Mars. They never replied to me, and so I have no way of knowing if this genuine.

Genuine or not, it’s interesting and different enough that I wanted it to get out into the world. Everything you read is transcribed directly from the typewritten document, except in one or two cases where I clearly state that I’ve added or modified something for clarity.. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did, and if anyone out there has any knowledge about this alleged first draft, I would love to hear from you.

The Corsair
 
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TheCorsair

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
FORWARD NUMBER TWO

To the Reader of this Work:

In submitting Joan Carter's strange manuscript to you in book form, I believe that a few words relative to this remarkable personality will be of interest.

My first recollection of her is of the few months she spent at my father's home in Virginia, just prior to the opening of the civil war. I was then a child of but five years, yet I well remember the tall, dark, smooth-skinned, athletic woman whom I called Aunt Jo.

She seemed always to be laughing; and she entered into the sports of the children with the same hearty good fellowship she displayed toward those pastimes in which the men and women of her own age indulged; or she would sit for an hour at a time entertaining my old grandmother with stories of her strange, wild life in all parts of the world. We all loved her, and our slaves fairly worshiped the ground she trod.

She was a splendid specimen of womanhood, standing a good two inches over six feet, broad of shoulder and hip, with the carriage of a trained fighting man. Her features were regular and clear cut, her hair black and cut shorter than the fashion for women of the day, while her eyes were of a steel gray,reflecting a strong and loyal character, filled with fire and initiative. Her manners were perfect, although more akin to a typical southern gentleman of the highest type than the southern lady she appeared

Her horsemanship, especially after hounds, was a marvel and delight even in that country of magnificent horsemen. I have often heard my father caution her against her wild recklessness, but she would only laugh, and say that the tumble that killed her would be from the back of a horse yet unfoaled.

When the war broke out she left us, nor did I see her again for some fifteen or sixteen years. When she returned it was without warning, and I was much surprised to note that she had not aged apparently a moment, nor had she changed in any other outward way. She was, when others were with her, the same genial, happy woman we had known of old, but when she thought herself alone I have seen her sit for hours gazing off into space, her face set in a look of wistful longing and hopeless misery; and at night she would sit thus looking up into the heavens, at what I did not know until I read her manuscript years afterward.

She told us that she had been prospecting and mining in Arizona part of the time since the wa, a tale that created some degree of scandal. She must have been very successful, however, as evidenced by the unlimited amount of money with which she was supplied. As to the details of her life during these years she was very reticent, in fact she would not talk of them at all.

She remained with us for about a year and then went to New York, where she purchased a little place on the Hudson, where I visited her once a year on the occasions of my trips to the New York market--my father and I owning and operating a string of general stores throughout Virginia at that time. Aunt Jo had a small but beautiful cottage, situated on a bluff overlooking the river, and during one of my last visits, in the winter of 1885, I observed she was much occupied in writing, I presume now, upon this manuscript.

She told me at this time that if anything should happen to her she wished me to take charge of her estate, and she gave me a key to a compartment in the safe which stood in her study, telling me I would find her will there and some personal instructions which she had me pledge myself to carry out with absolute fidelity.

After I had retired for the night I have seen her from my window standing in the moonlight on the brink of the bluff overlooking the Hudson with her arms stretched out to the heavens as though in appeal. I thought at the time that she was praying, although I never understood
that she was in the strict sense of the term a religious woman.

Several months after I had returned home from my last visit, the first of March, 1886, I think, I received a telegram from her asking me to come to her at once. I had always been her favorite among the younger generation of Carters and so I hastened to comply with her demand.

I arrived at the little station, about a mile from his grounds, on the morning of March 4, 1886, and when I asked the livery man to drive me out to Aunt Jo's he replied that if I was a friend of hers he had some very bad news for me; she had been found dead shortly after daylight that very morning by the watchman attached to an adjoining property.

For some reason this news did not surprise me, but I hurried out to her place as quickly as possible, so that I could take charge of the body and of her affairs.

I found the watchman who had discovered her, together with the local police chief and several townspeople, assembled in her little study. The watchman related the few details connected with the finding of the body, which he said had been still warm when he came upon it. It lay, he said, stretched full length in the snow with the arms outstretched above the head toward the edge of the bluff, and when he showed me the spot it flashed upon me that it was the identical one where I had seen her on those other nights, with her arms raised in supplication to the skies.

There were no marks of violence on the body, and with the aid of a local physician the coroner's jury quickly reached a decision of death from heart failure. Left alone in the study, I opened the safe and withdrew the contents of the drawer in which she had told me I would find my instructions. They were in part peculiar indeed, but I have followed them to each last detail as faithfully as I was able.

She directed that I remove her body to Virginia without embalming, and that she be laid in an open coffin within a tomb which she previously had had constructed and which, as I later learned, was well ventilated. The instructions impressed upon me that I must personally see that this was carried out just as she directed, even in secrecy if necessary.

Her property was left in such a way that I was to receive the entire income for twenty-five years, when the principal was to become mine. Her further instructions related to this manuscript which I was to retain sealed and unread, just as I found it, for eleven years; nor was I to divulge its contents until twenty-one years after her death.

This text is presented just as she wrote it, with only light edits for clarity. I struggled with this, as certain sections present my Aunt Jo in a shocking light. I believe, however, that tampering with the narrative would be a greater insult to her memory.

As a final note, there is a strange feature about the tomb where her body still lies. The massive door is equipped with a single, huge gold-plated spring lock which can be opened only from the inside.

Yours very sincerely,

Edgar Rice Burroughs.
 
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TheCorsair

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
CHAPTER I

ON THE ARIZONA HILLS​


I am a very old woman; how old I do not know. Possibly I am a hundred, possibly more; but I cannot tell because I have never aged as other women, nor do I remember any childhood. So far as I can recollect I have always been a woman, a woman of about thirty. I appear today as I did whenI first laid eyes on Jamestown as a femme sole in theThird Supply, and yet I feel that I cannot go on living forever; that some day I shall die the real death from which there is no resurrection. I do not know why I should fear death, I who have died twice and am still alive; but yet I have the same horror of it as you who have never died, and it is because of this terror of death, I believe, that I am so convinced of my mortality.

And because of this conviction I have determined to write down the story of the interesting periods of my life and of my death. I cannot explain the phenomena; I can only set down here in the words of an ordinary adventuress a chronicle of the strange events that befell me during the ten years that my dead body lay undiscovered in an Arizona cave.

I have never told this story, nor shall mortal man see this manuscript until after I have passed over for eternity. I know that the average human mind will not believe what it cannot grasp, and so I do not purpose being pilloried by the public, the pulpit, and the press, and held up as a colossal liar when I am but telling the simple truths which some day science will substantiate. Possibly the suggestions which I gained upon Mars, and the knowledge which I can set down in this chronicle, will aid in an earlier understanding of the mysteries of our sister planet; mysteries to you, but no longer mysteries to me.

My name, or at least the name I remember, is Joan Morgan Carter. My story begins at the close of the Civil War, when I found myself possessed of several hundred thousand dollars (Confederate) for my service as an independent scout of the cavalry arm of an army which no longer existed - General Lee having been good enough to accept my services to the the Confederacy, although as unwilling as any other man to grant a commission to a member of the “fairer sex”.. Masterless, penniless, and with my only means of livelihood (fighting), gone, I determined to work my way to the southwest and attempt to retrieve my fallen fortunes in a search for gold.

I spent nearly a year prospecting in company with a Confederate cavalry officer I had become acquainted with during the War, Captain James K. Powell of Richmond. We were extremely fortunate, for late in the winter of 1865, after many hardships and privations, we located the most remarkable gold-bearing quartz vein that our wildest dreams had ever pictured. Powell, who was a mining engineer by education, stated that we had uncovered over a million dollars worth of ore in a trifle over three months. Our equipment was crude in the extreme, utterly unsuited to the labor required to mine and smelt our fortune, and so we decided that one of us must return to civilization, purchase the necessary machinery and return with a sufficient force of men properly to work the mine.

Powell was quite familiar with the country, as well as with the mechanical requirements of mining, and so we determined that it would be best for him to make the trip. It was agreed that I was to hold down our claim against the remote possibility of its being jumped by some wandering prospector. So on March 3, 1866, Powell and I packed his provisions on two of our burros, and bidding me good-bye he mounted his horse, and started down the mountainside toward the valley, across which led the first stage of his journey.

The morning of Powell's departure was, like nearly all Arizona mornings, clear and beautiful; I could see him and his little pack animals picking their way down the mountainside toward the valley, and all during the morning I would catch occasional glimpses of them as they topped a hog back or came out upon a level plateau. My last sight of Powell was about three in the afternoon as he entered the shadows of the range on the opposite side of the valley.

Some half hour later I happened to glance casually across the valley and was much surprised to note three little dots in about the same place I had last seen my friend and his two pack animals. I am not given to needless worrying, but the more I tried to convince myself that all was well with Powell, and that the dots I had seen on his trail were antelope or wild horses, the less I was able to assure myself.

Since we had entered the territory we had not seen a hostile Indian, and we had, therefore, become careless in the extreme, and were wont to ridicule the stories we had heard of the great numbers of these vicious marauders that were supposed to haunt the trails, taking their toll in lives and torture of every white party which fell into their merciless clutches.

Powell, I knew, was well armed and, further, an experienced Indian fighter; but I too had lived and fought for years among the Sioux in the North, and I knew that his chances were small against a party of cunning trailing Apaches. Finally I could endure the suspense no longer, and, arming myself with my two Colt revolvers and a carbine, strapped two belts of cartridges about me and catching my saddle horse, started down the trail taken by Powell in the morning.

As soon as I reached comparatively level ground I urged my mount into a canter and continued this, where the going permitted, until, close upon dusk, I discovered the point where other tracks joined those of Powell. They were the tracks of unshod ponies, three of them, and the ponies had been galloping.

I followed rapidly until, darkness shutting down, I was forced to await the rising of the moon, and given an opportunity to speculate on the question of the wisdom of my chase. Possibly I had conjured up impossible dangers, like some nervous old housewife, and when I should catch up with Powell would get a good laugh for my pains. However, I am not prone to sensitiveness, and the following of a sense of duty, wherever it may lead, has always been a kind of geas with me throughout my life. This has proven most inconvenient upon occasion, but it may also account for the honors bestowed upon me by three republics and the decorations and friendships of an old and powerful emperor and several lesser kings.

About nine o'clock the moon was sufficiently bright for me to proceed on my way and I had no difficulty in following the trail at a fast walk, and in some places at a brisk trot until, about midnight, I reached the water hole where Powell had expected to camp. I came upon the spot unexpectedly, finding it entirely deserted, with no signs of having been recently occupied as a camp.

I was interested to note that the tracks of the pursuing horsemen, for such I was now convinced they must be, continued after Powell with only a brief stop at the hole for water; and always at the same rate of speed as his. I was positive now that the trailers were Apaches and that they wished to capture Powell alive for the fiendish pleasure of the torture, so I urged my horse onward at a most dangerous pace, hoping against hope that I would catch up with the red rascals before they attacked him.

Further speculation was suddenly cut short by the faint report of two shots far ahead of me. I knew that Powell would need me now if ever, and I instantly urged my horse to his topmost speed up the narrow and difficult mountain trail.

I had forged ahead for perhaps a mile or more without hearing further sounds, when the trail suddenly debouched onto a small, open plateau near the summit of the pass. I had passed through a narrow, overhanging gorge just before entering suddenly upon this table land, and the sight which met my eyes filled me with consternation and dismay.

The little stretch of level land was white with Indian tepees, and there were probably half a thousand red warriors clustered around some object near the center of the camp. Their attention was so wholly riveted to this point of interest that they did not notice me, and I easily could have turned back into the dark recesses of the gorge and made my escape with perfect safety.

Whether I thought or acted first I do not know, but within an instant from the moment the scene broke upon my view I had whipped out my revolvers and was charging down upon the entire army of warriors, shooting rapidly, and whooping at the top of my lungs. Singlehanded, I could not have pursued better tactics, for the red men, convinced by sudden surprise that not less than a regiment of regulars was upon them, turned and fled in every direction for their bows, arrows, and rifles.

The view which their hurried routing disclosed filled me with apprehension and with rage. Under the clear rays of the Arizona moon lay Powell, his body fairly bristling with the hostile arrows of the braves. That he was already dead I could not but be convinced, and yet I would have saved his body from mutilation at the hands of the Apaches as quickly as I would have saved the man himself from death.

Riding close to him I reached down from the saddle, and grasping his cartridge belt drew him up across the withers of my mount. A backward glance convinced me that to return by the way I had come would be more hazardous than to continue across the plateau, so, putting spurs to my poor beast, I made a dash for the opening to the pass which I could distinguish on the far side of the table land.

The Indians had by this time discovered that I was alone and I was pursued with imprecations, arrows, and rifle balls. The fact that it is difficult to aim anything but imprecations accurately by moonlight, that they were upset by the sudden and unexpected manner of my advent,
and that I was a rather rapidly moving target saved me from the various deadly projectiles of the enemy and permitted me to reach the shadows of the surrounding peaks before an orderly pursuit could be organized.

My horse was traveling practically unguided as I knew that I had probably less knowledge of the exact location of the trail to the pass than he, and thus it happened that he entered a defile which led to the summit of the range and not to the pass which I had hoped would carry me to the valley and to safety. It is probable, however, that to this fact I owe my life and the remarkable experiences and adventures which befell me during the following ten years.

My first knowledge that I was on the wrong trail came when I heard the yells of the pursuing savages suddenly grow fainter and fainter far off to my left. I knew then that they had passed to the left of the jagged rock formation at the edge of the plateau, to the right of which my horse had borne me and the body of Powell.

I drew rein on a little level promontory overlooking the trail below and to my left, and saw the party of pursuing savages disappearing around the point of a neighboring peak. I knew the Indians would soon discover that they were on the wrong trail and that the search for me would be renewed in the right direction as soon as they located my tracks.

I had gone but a short distance further when what seemed to be an excellent trail opened up around the face of a high cliff. The trailwas level and quite broad and led upward and in the general direction I wished to go. The cliff arose for several hundred feet on my right, and on my left was an equal and nearly perpendicular drop to the bottom of a rocky ravine.

I had followed this trail for perhaps a hundred yards when a sharp turn to the right brought me to the mouth of a large cave. The opening was about four feet in height and three to four feet wide, and at this opening the trail ended.

It was now morning, and, with the customary lack of dawn which is a startling characteristic of Arizona, it had become daylight almost without warning.

Dismounting, I laid Powell upon the ground, but the most painstaking examination failed to reveal the faintest spark of life. Unwilling or unable to accept the fact of his death, I forced water from my canteen between his lips, bathed his face and rubbed his hands, working over him continuously for the better part of an hour. I was very fond of Powell; he was thoroughly a man in every respect; a polished southern gentleman; a staunch and true friend in whom I had found quite convivial companionship; and it was with a feeling of grief deeper than I had anticipated that I finally gave up my crude endeavors at resuscitation.

Leaving Powell's body where it lay on the ledge I crept into the cave to reconnoiter. I found a large chamber, possibly a hundred feet in diameter and thirty or forty feet in height; a smooth and well-worn floor, and many other evidences that the cave had, at some remote period, been inhabited. The back of the cave was so lost in dense shadow that I could not distinguish whether there were openings into other apartments or not.

As I was continuing my examination I commenced to feel a pleasant drowsiness creeping over me which I attributed to the fatigue of my long and strenuous ride, and the reaction from the excitement of the fight and the pursuit. I felt comparatively safe in my present location as I knew that I could defend the trail to the cave against an army.

I soon became so drowsy that I could scarcely resist the strong desire to throw myself on the floor of the cave for a few moments' rest, but I knew that this would never do, as it would mean probable violation and certain death at the hands of my red friends, who might be upon me at any moment. With an effort I started toward the opening of the cave only to reel drunkenly against a side wall, and from there slip prone upon the floor.
 
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TheCorsair

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
CHAPTER II

THE ESCAPE OF THE DEAD​


A sense of delicious dreaminess overcame me, my muscles relaxed, and I was on the point of giving way to my desire to sleep when the sound of approaching horses reached my ears. I attempted to spring to my feet but was horrified to discover that my muscles refused to respond to my will. I was now thoroughly awake, but as unable to move a muscle as though turned to stone. It was then, for the first time, that I noticed a slight vapor filling the cave. It was extremely tenuous and only noticeable against the opening which led to daylight. There also came to my nostrils a faintly pungent odor, and I could only assume that I had been overcome by some poisonous gas, but why I should retain my mental faculties and yet be unable to move I could not fathom.

I lay facing the opening of the cave and where I could see the short stretch of trail which lay between the cave and the turn of the cliff around which the trail led. The noise of the approaching horses had ceased, and I judged the Indians were creeping stealthily upon me along the little ledge which led to my living tomb. I remember that I hoped they would make short work of me as I did not particularly relish the thought of the innumerable things they might do to me if the spirit prompted them.

I had not long to wait before a stealthy sound apprised me of their nearness, and then a paint-streaked face was thrust cautiously around the shoulder of the cliff, and savage eyes looked into mine. That he could see me in the dim light of the cave I was sure for the early morning sun was falling full upon me through the opening.

The fellow, instead of approaching, merely stood and stared; his eyes bulging and his jaw dropped. And then another savage face appeared, and a third and fourth and fifth, craning their necks over the shoulders of their fellows whom they could not pass upon the narrow ledge. Each face was the picture of awe and fear, but for what reason I did not know, nor did I learn until ten years later. That there were still others behind those who regarded me was apparent from the fact that the leaders passed back whispered word to those behind them.

Suddenly a low but distinct moaning sound issued from the recesses of the cave behind me, and, as it reached the ears of the Indians, they turned and fled in terror, panic-stricken. So frantic were their efforts to escape from the unseen thing behind me that one of the braves was hurled headlong from the cliff to the rocks below. Their wild cries echoed in the canyon for a short time, and then all was still once more.

The sound which had frightened them was not repeated, but it had been sufficient as it was to start me speculating on the possible horror which lurked in the shadows at my back. Fear is a relative term and so I can only measure my feelings at that time by what I had experienced in previous positions of danger and by those that I have passed through since; but I can say without shame that if the sensations I endured during the next few minutes were fear, then may God help the coward, for cowardice is of a surety its own punishment.

To be held paralyzed, with one's back toward some horrible and unknown danger from the very sound of which the ferocious Apache warriors turn in wild stampede, as a flock of sheep would madly flee from a pack of wolves, seems to me the last word in fearsome predicaments for a woman who had ever been used to fighting for her life with all the energy of a powerful physique.

Several times I thought I heard faint sounds behind me as of cautious movement, but eventually even these ceased, and I was left to the contemplation of my position without interruption. I could but vaguely conjecture the cause of my paralysis, and my only hope lay in that it might pass as suddenly as it had fallen upon me.

Late in the afternoon my horse, which had been standing with dragging rein before the cave, started slowly down the trail, evidently in search of food and water, and I was left alone with my mysterious unknown companion and the dead body of my friend, which lay just within my range of vision upon the ledge where I had placed it in the early morning.

From then until possibly midnight all was silence, the silence of the dead; then, suddenly, the awful moan of the morning broke upon my startled ears, and there came again from the black shadows the sound of a moving thing, and a faint rustling as of dead leaves. The shock to my already overstrained nervous system was terrible in the extreme, and with a superhuman effort I strove to break my awful bonds. It was an effort of the mind, of the will, of the nerves; not muscular, for I could not move even so much as my little finger, but none the less mighty for all that. And then something gave, there was a momentary feeling of nausea, a sharp click as of the snapping of a steel wire, and I stood with my back against the wall of the cave facing my unknown foe.

And then the moonlight flooded the cave, and there before me lay my own body as it had been lying all these hours, with the eyes staring toward the open ledge and the hands resting limply upon the ground. I looked first at my lifeless clay there upon the floor of the cave and then down at myself in utter bewilderment; for there I lay clothed, and yet here I stood but naked as at the minute of my birth.

The transition had been so sudden and so unexpected that it left me for a moment forgetful of aught else than my strange metamorphosis. My first thought was, is this then death! Have I indeed passed over forever into that other life! But I could not well believe this, as I could feel my heart pounding against my ribs from the exertion of my efforts to release myself from the anesthesia which had held me. My breath was coming in quick, short gasps, cold sweat stood out from every pore of my body, and the ancient experiment of pinching revealed the fact that I was anything other than a wraith.

Again was I suddenly recalled to my immediate surroundings by a repetition of the weird moan from the depths of the cave. Naked and unarmed as I was, I had no desire to face the unseen thing which menaced me.

My revolvers were strapped to my lifeless body which, for some unfathomable reason, I could not bring myself to touch. My carbine was in its boot, strapped to my saddle, and as my horse had wandered off I was left without means of defense. My only alternative seemed to lie in flight and my decision was crystallized by a recurrence of the rustling sound from the thing which now seemed, in the darkness of the cave and to my distorted imagination, to be creeping stealthily upon me.

Unable to resist any longer the temptation to escape this horrible place I leaped quickly through the opening into the starlight of a clear Arizona night. The crisp, fresh mountain air outside the cave acted as an immediate tonic and I felt new life and new courage coursing through me. Pausing upon the brink of the ledge I upbraided myself for what now seemed to me wholly unwarranted apprehension. I reasoned with myself that I had lain helpless for many hours within the cave, yet nothing had molested me, and my better judgment, when permitted the direction of clear and logical reasoning, convinced me that the noises I had heard must have resulted from purely natural and harmless causes; probably the conformation of the cave was such that a slight breeze had caused the sounds I heard.

I decided to investigate, but first I lifted my head to fill my lungs with the pure, invigorating night air of the mountains. As I did so I saw stretching far below me the beautiful vista of rocky gorge, and level, cacti-studded flat, wrought by the moonlight into a miracle of soft splendor and wondrous enchantment.

Few western wonders are more inspiring than the beauties of an Arizona moonlit landscape; the silvered mountains in the distance, the strange lights and shadows upon hog back and arroyo, and the grotesque details of the stiff, yet beautiful cacti form a picture at once enchanting and
inspiring; as though one were catching for the first time a glimpse of some dead and forgotten world, so different is it from the aspect of any other spot upon our earth.

As I stood thus meditating, I turned my gaze from the landscape to the heavens where the myriad stars formed a gorgeous and fitting canopy for the wonders of the earthly scene. My attention was quickly riveted by a large red star close to the distant horizon. As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination--it was Mars, the gleaming wandering star of Tiwaz, my guiding star for long ages. As a fighting woman it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment for me, and as I gazed at it on that far-gone night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it, to draw me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron.

My longing was beyond the power of opposition; I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my people and felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of space. There was an instant of extreme cold and utter darkness.
 
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TheCorsair

TheCorsair

Pontifexplosion
Joined
Dec 17, 2013
CHAPTER III

MY ADVENT ON MARS​


I opened my eyes upon a strange and weird landscape. I knew that I was on Mars; not once did I question either my sanity or my wakefulness. I was not asleep, no need for pinching here; my inner consciousness told me as plainly that I was upon Mars as your conscious mind tells you that you are upon Earth. You do not question the fact; neither did I.

I found myself lying prone upon a bed of yellowish, mosslike vegetation which stretched around me in all directions for interminable miles. I seemed to be lying in a deep, circular basin, along the outer verge of which I could distinguish the irregularities of low hills.

It was midday, the sun was shining full upon me and the heat of it was rather intense upon my naked body, yet no greater than would have been true under similar conditions on an Arizona desert. Here and there were slight outcroppings of quartz-bearing rock which glistened in the sunlight; and a little to my left, perhaps a hundred yards, appeared a low, walled enclosure about four feet in height. No water, and no other vegetation than the moss was in evidence, and as I was somewhat thirsty I determined to do a little exploring.

Springing to my feet I received my first Martian surprise, for the effort, which on Earth would have brought me standing upright, carried me into the Martian air to the height of about three yards. I alighted softly upon the ground, however, without appreciable shock or jar. Now commenced a series of evolutions which even then seemed ludicrous in the extreme. I found that I must learn to walk all over again, as the muscular exertion which carried me easily and safely upon Earth played strange antics with me upon Mars.

Instead of progressing in a sane and dignified manner, my attempts to walk resulted in a variety of hops which took me clear of the ground a couple of feet at each step and landed me sprawling upon my face or back at the end of each second or third hop. My muscles, perfectly attuned and accustomed to the force of gravity on Earth, played the mischief with me in attempting for the first time to cope with the lesser gravitation and lower air pressure on Mars.

I was determined, however, to explore the low structure which was the only evidence of habitation in sight, and so I hit upon the unique plan of reverting to first principles in locomotion, creeping. I did fairly well at this and in a few moments had reached the low, encircling wall of the enclosure.

There appeared to be no doors or windows upon the side nearest me, but as the wall was but about four feet high I cautiously gained my feet and peered over the top upon the strangest sight it had ever been given me to see.

The roof of the enclosure was of solid glass about four or five inches in thickness, and beneath this were several hundred large eggs, perfectly round and snowy white. The eggs were nearly uniform in size being about two and one-half feet in diameter.

Five or six had already hatched and the grotesque caricatures which sat blinking in the sunlight were enough to cause me to doubt my sanity. They seemed mostly head, with little scrawny bodies, long necks and six legs, or so I first thought. As I watched, however, two of the creatures heaved up their bodies to use only four of their limbs as legs, utilizing the uppermost pair to examine an egg. A third struggled onto its hind legs and, with a little effort at balancing, began using the upper pairs of limbs to explore the wall of the enclosure. Their eyes were set at the extreme sides of their heads a trifle above the center and protruded in such a manner that they could be directed either forward or back and also independently of each other, thus permitting this queer animal to look in any direction, or in two directions at once, without the necessity of turning the head. The ears, which were slightly above the eyes and closer together, were small, cup-shaped antennae, protruding not more than an inch from the skull. Their noses were but longitudinal slits in the center of their faces, midway between their mouths and ears.

There was no hair on their bodies, which were of a very light yellowish-green color. The iris of the eyes is blood red, as in albinos, while the pupil is dark. The eyeball itself is very white, as are the teeth. These latter add a most ferocious appearance to an otherwise fearsome and terrible countenance, as the lower tusks curve upward to sharp points which end about where the eyes of earthly human beings are located. The whiteness of the teeth is not that of ivory, but of the snowiest and most gleaming of china. Against the dark background of their olive skins their tusks stand out in a most striking manner, making these weapons present a singularly formidable appearance.

As I watched another of the snowy eggs split and crack, equally fascinated and repelled by the emergence of one of these creatures, I heard the ringing sound of metal on metal behind me. The little sound caused me to turn, and there upon me, not ten feet from my breast, was the point of a spear some forty feet long, tipped with gleaming metal, and held low at the side of a mounted replica of the little devils I had been observing. The man himself, for such I may call him, was fully fifteen feet in height and, on Earth, would have weighed some four hundred pounds. He sat his mount as we sit a horse, grasping the animal's barrel with his lower limbs, while the hands of his two right arms held his immense spear low at the side of his mount; his two left arms were outstretched laterally to help preserve his balance, the thing he rode having neither bridle or reins of any description for guidance.

And his mount! How can earthly words describe it! It towered ten feet at the shoulder; had four legs on either side; a broad flat tail, larger at the tip than at the root, and which it held straight out behind while running; a gaping mouth which split its head from its snout to its long, massive neck. Like its master, it was entirely devoid of hair, but was of a dark slate color and exceeding smooth and glossy. Its belly was white, and its legs shaded from the slate of its shoulders and hips to a vivid yellow at the feet. The feet themselves were heavily padded and nailless, which, in common with a multiplicity of legs, is a characteristic feature of the fauna of Mars. The highest type of man and one other animal, the only mammal existing on Mars, alone have well-formed nails, and if hoofed animals exist I have never seen nor heard of them.

Behind this first charging demon trailed nineteen others, similar in all respects, but, as I learned later, bearing individual characteristics peculiar to themselves; precisely as no two of us are identical although we are all cast in a similar mold. This picture, or rather materialized nightmare, which I have described at length, made but one terrible and swift impression on me as I turned to meet it.

Unarmed and naked as I was, the first law of nature manifested itself in the only possible solution of my immediate problem, and that was to get out of the vicinity of the point of the charging spear. Consequently I gave a very earthly and at the same time superhuman leap to reach the top of the incubator, for such I had determined it must be. My effort was crowned with a success which appalled me no less than it seemed to surprise the Martian warriors, for it carried me fully thirty feet into the air and landed me a hundred feet from my pursuers and on the opposite side of the enclosure.

I alighted upon the soft moss easily and without mishap, and turning saw my enemies lined up along the further wall. Some were surveying me with expressions which I afterward discovered marked extreme astonishment, and the others were evidently satisfying themselves that I had not molested their young. They were conversing together in low tones, and gesticulating and pointing toward me. Their discovery that I had not harmed the little Martians, and that I was unarmed, must have caused them to look upon me with less ferocity; but, as I was to learn later, the thing which weighed most in my favor was my exhibition of hurdling.

While the Martians are immense, their bones are very large and they are muscled only in proportion to the gravitation which they must overcome. The result is that they are infinitely less agile and less powerful, in proportion to their weight, than an Earth man, and I doubt that were one of them suddenly to be transported to Earth he could lift his own weight from the ground; in fact, I am convinced that he could not do so. My feat then was as marvelous upon Mars as it would have been upon Earth, and from desiring to annihilate me they suddenly looked upon me as a wonderful discovery to be captured and exhibited among their fellows.

The respite my unexpected agility had given me permitted me to formulate plans for the immediate future and to note more closely the appearance of the warriors, for I could not disassociate these people in my mind from those other warriors who, only the day before, had been pursuing me. I noted that each was armed with several other weapons in addition to the huge spear which I have described. The weapon which caused me to decide against an attempt at escape by flight was what was evidently a rifle of some description.

These rifles were of a white metal stocked with wood, which I learned later was a very light and intensely hard growth much prized on Mars, and entirely unknown to us denizens of Earth. The metal of the barrel is an alloy composed principally of aluminum and steel which they have learned to temper to a hardness far exceeding that of the steel with which we are familiar. The weight of these rifles is comparatively little, and with the small caliber explosive projectiles they use and the great length of the barrel, they are deadly in the extreme and at ranges which would be unthinkable on Earth. The theoretic effective range of this rifle is three hundred miles, but the best they can do in actual service when equipped with their wireless finders and sighters is but a trifle over two hundred miles.

The Martians, after conversing for a short time, turned and rode away in the direction from which they had come, leaving one of their number alone by the enclosure. When they had covered perhaps two hundred yards they halted, and turning their mounts toward us sat watching the warrior by the enclosure. He was the one whose spear had so nearly transfixed me, and was evidently the leader of the band, as I had noted that they seemed to have moved to their present position at his direction. When his force had come to a halt he dismounted, threw down his spear and small arms, and came around the end of the incubator toward me, entirely unarmed and as naked as I, except for the ornaments strapped upon his head, limbs, and breast.

When he was within about fifty feet of me he unclasped an enormous metal armlet, and holding it toward me in the open palm of his hand, addressed me in a clear, resonant voice, but in a language, it is needless to say, I could not understand. He then stopped as though waiting for my reply, pricking up his antennae-like ears and cocking his strange-looking eyes still further toward me. As the silence became painful I concluded to hazard a little conversation on my own part, as I had guessed that he was making overtures of peace. The throwing down of his weapons and the withdrawing of his troop before his advance toward me would have signified a peaceful mission anywhere on Earth, so why not, then, on Mars!

Placing my hand over my heart I bowed low to the Martian and explained to him that while I did not understand his language, his actions spoke for the peace and friendship that at the present moment were most dear to my heart. Of course I might have been a babbling brook for all the intelligence my speech carried to him, but he understood the action with which I immediately followed my words. Stretching my hand toward him, I advanced and took the armlet from his open palm, clasping it about my arm above the elbow; smiled at him and stood waiting. His wide mouth spread into an answering smile, and locking one of his intermediary arms in mine we turned and walked back toward his mount. At the same time he motioned his followers to advance. They started toward us on a wild run, but were checked by a signal from him. Evidently he feared that were I to be really frightened again I might jump entirely out of the landscape.

He exchanged a few words with his men, motioned to me that I would ride behind one of them, and then mounted his own animal. The fellow designated reached down two or three hands and lifted me up behind him on the glossy back of his mount, where I hung on as best I could by the belts and straps which held the Martian's weapons and ornaments. The entire cavalcade then turned and galloped away toward the range of hills in the distance.
 
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