Authors: Edward P. Bradbury
Warriors of Mars
Michael Kane Book 1
Edward P. Bradbury
DEBT TO M. CLARCHET
CITY OF THIEVES
THE CAVES OF DARKNESS
OF THE ARGZOON
PIT OF THE N'AAL BEAST
JOY AND BITTER SORROW
THE Matter Transmitter is both villain and hero of this
story (began Kane), for it took me to a world where I felt more at home than I
shall ever feel here. It brought me to a wonderful girl whom I loved and who
loved me—and then took it all away again. But I had better begin nearer the
I was born, as I told you, in
Ohio—in Wynnsville—a small, pleasant town that never changed much. Its only
unusual feature was in the person of M. Clarchet, a Frenchman who had settled
there shortly after the First World War. He lived in a large place on the
outskirts of town. M. Clarchet was a cosmopolitan, a Frenchman of the old
school—short, very straight-backed, with a typically French, waxed moustache
and a rather military way of walking.
To be honest, M. Clarchet was
something of a caricature to us and seemed to illustrate everything we had
learned about the French in our dime novels and comic books. Yet I owe my life
to M. Clarchet, though I wasn't to realize it until many years after the old
gentleman had passed on, and when I found myself suddenly transported to Mars
... But again I am getting ahead of myself.
Clarchet was an enigma even to me
though, as boy and youth, I probably knew him better than anyone else. He had
been, he said, a fencing master at the Court of the Tsar of Russia before the
Revolution and had had to leave in a hurry when the Bolsheviks took over.
He had settled in Wynnsville directly
because of this experience. It had seemed to him at the time that the whole
world was in chaos and was being turned upside down. He had found a small town
that was never likely to change much—and he liked it. The way of life he led
now was radically different from the one he had been used to, and it seemed to
We first met when I had accepted a
dare by my young pals to climb the fence of his house and see if I could
observe what M. Clarchet was up to. At that time we were all convinced he was a
spy of some description! He had caught me, but instead of shooting me, as I
half-expected, he had laughed good-naturedly and sent me on my way. I liked him
Soon after that we kids had a
phase which was a sequel to seeing Ronald Colman in The Prisoner of Zenda. We
all became Ruperts and Rudolfs for a time. With long canes for swords, we
fenced one another to exhaustion—not very skilfully but with a lot of
On a sunny afternoon in early
summer, it so happened that I and another boy, Johnny Bulmer, were duelling for
the throne of Ruritania just outside M. Clarchet's house. Suddenly there came a
great shout from the house and we wheeled in astonishment.
!" The Frenchman
was plainly exasperated.
"That ees wrong, wrong, wrong!
That ees not how a gentleman fences!"
He rushed from his garden and
seized my cane, adopting a graceful fencing stance and facing a startled
Johnny, who just stood there with his mouth open.
"Now," he said to
Johnny, "you do ze same, oui?"
Johnny inelegantly copied his
"Now, you thrust—so!"
The cane darted out in a flicker of movement and stopped just short of Johnny's
Johnny copied him—and was parried
with equal swiftness. We were amazed and delighted by this time. Here was a man
who would have been a good match for Rupert of Hentzau.
After a while M. Clarchet stopped
and shook his head. "It ees no good with thees slicks—we must have real
We followed him into the house. It
was well furnished though not lavishly. In a special room at the top we found
more to make us gasp.
Here was an array of blades such
as we'd never even imagined! Now I know them to be foils and epees and sabres,
plus a collection of fine, antique weapons—claymores, scimitars, Samurai
swords, broadswords, Roman short swords—the gladius— and many, many more.
M. Clarchet waved a hand at the
fascinating display of weapons.
Zey are sweet, ze little swords,
?" He took down a small rapier and handed it to me,
handing a similar sword to Johnny. It felt really good, holding that
well-balanced sword in my hand. I flexed my wrist, not quite able to get the
balance. M. Clarchet took my hand and showed me the correct way of grasping it.
"How would you like to learn
properly?" said M. Clarchet with a wink. "I could teach you
Was it possible? We were going to
be allowed to wield these swords—taught how to sword-fight like the best. I was
amazed and delighted—until a thought struck me, and I frowned.
"Oh—we don't have any money,
sir. We couldn't pay you and our moms and pops aren't likely to— they're mean
enough as it is."
"I do not wish for payment.
The skill you acquire from me will be reward enough! Here—I will show you zee
simple parry first . . ."
And so he taught us. Not only did
we learn how to fence with the modern conventional weaponsfoils, epees and
sabres—but also with the antique and foreign weapons of all shapes, weights,
sizes and balances. He taught us the whole of his marvellous art.
Whenever we could, Johnny and I
attended M. Clarchet's special Sword Room. He seemed grateful to us, in his
way, for the opportunity to pass on his skill, just as we were to him for
giving us the chance to learn. By the time we were around fifteen we were both
pretty good, and I think I probably had the edge on Johnny, though I say it
Johnny's parents moved to Chicago
about that time so I became M. Clarchet's only pupil. When I wasn't studying
physics at high school and later at university, I was to be found at M.
Clarchet's, learning all I could. And at last the day came when he cried with
joy. I had beaten him in a long and complicated duel!
"You are zee best, Mike!
Better zan any I have known!"
It was the highest praise I have
ever received. At university I went in for fencing, of course, and was picked
for the American team in the Olympics. But it was a crucial time in my studies
and I had to drop out at the last moment.
That was how I learned to fence,
anyway. I thought of it in my more depressed moments as rather a purposeless
sport—archaic and only indirectly useful, in that it gave me excellently sharp
reactions, strengthened my muscles and so on. It was useful in the Army, too,
for the physical discipline essential in Army training was already built in to
I was lucky. I did well in my
studies and survived my military service, part of which was spent fighting the
Communist guerrillas in the jungles of
By the time I was thirty, I was known as a bright boy in the world of physics.
I joined the Chicago Special Research Institute, and because of my ideas on
matter transmission was appointed Director of the department responsible for
developing the machine.
I remember we were working late on
it, enlarging its capacity so that it could take a man.
The neon lights in the lab ceiling
illuminated the shining steel and plastic cabinet, the great 'translator cone'
directed down at it, and all the other equipment and instruments that filled
the place almost to capacity. There were five of us workingthree technicians
and Doctor Logon, my chief assistant.
I checked all the instruments
while Logan and the men worked on the equipment. Soon all the gauges were
reading what they should
and we were ready.
I turned to Doctor Logan and
looked at him. He said nothing as he looked back at me. Then we shook hands.
That was all.
I climbed into the machine. They
had tried to talk me out of it earlier but had given up by this time.
reached for the phone and contacted the team handling the 'receiver'. This was
situated in a lab on the other side of the building.
told the team we were ready and checked with them. They were ready, too.
walked to the main switch. Through the little glass panel in the cabinet I saw
him switch it on gravely.
My body began to tingle
pleasantly. That was all at first. It is difficult to describe the weird
sensation I experienced as soon as the transmitter began to work. It was
literally true that every atom of my body was being torn apart—and it felt like
it. I began to get light-headed; then came the sensation of frightful pressures
building up inside me, followed by the feeling that I was exploding outwards.
Everything went green and I felt
as though I was spreading gently in all directions. Then came a riot of colors
blossoming around me—reds, yellows, purples, blues.
There was an increasing sense of
weightlessness—masslessness even. I felt I was streaming through blackness and
my mind began to blank out altogether. I felt I was hurtling over vast
distances, beyond time and space—covering an incredible area of the universe in
every direction in a few seconds.
Then I knew nothing more!
I came to my senses—if senses they
were—under a lemon-colored sun blazing down on me from out of a deep blue,
near-purple sky. It was a color more intense than any I had ever seen before.
Had my experience enabled me to see color with greater sharpness?
But when I looked around I
realized that it was more than intensity which had changed. I was lying in a
field of gently swaying, sweet-smelling ferns. But they were ferns unlike any I
had ever seen!
These ferns were an impossible
shade of crimson!
I rubbed my eyes. Had the
transmitter—or rather the receiver—gone wrong and put me together slightly
mixed up, with my color sense in a muddle?
I got up and looked across the sea
of crimson ferns.
My whole sight must somehow have
Cropping at the ferns, with a line
of yellowish, hills in the background, was a beast as large as an elephant and
of roughly the same proportions as a horse. Yet here the similarly to any beast
I knew ended. This creature was a mottled shade of mauve and light green. It
had three long, white horns curling from its flat, almost catlike head. It had
twin, somewhat reptilian, tails spreading to the ground behind it, and it had
one huge eye covering at least half the area of its face. This was a faceted
eye that shone and glinted in the sunlight. The beast looked rather curiously
at me and lifted its head, then began to move towards me.
With, I suspect, a wild yell, I
ran. I felt convinced I was experiencing some sort of nightmare or paranoiac
delusion as a result of a fault in the transmitter or receiver.
I heard the beast thundering on
behind me, giving out a strange mooing sound, and increased my pace as best I
could. I found I could run very easily indeed and seemed to be lighter than
Then to one side of me I heard
musical laughter, at once merry and sympathetic. A lilting voice called
something in what was to me a strange, unearthly language, trilling and
melodic. In fact, the sound of the language was so beautiful that it did not
seem to need words.
I slowed my pace and looked
towards the source of the voice.
It was a girl—the most wonderful
girl I have ever seen in my life.
Her hair was long, free and
golden. Her face was oval, her white skin clear and fresh. She was naked, apart
from a wispy cloak which curled round her shoulders and a broad, leather belt
around her waist. The belt held a short sword and a holster from which jutted
the butt of a pistol of some kind. She was tall and her figure was exquisite.
Somehow her nakedness was not obvious and I accepted it at once. She, too, was
totally unselfconscious about it. I stopped still, not caring about the beast
behind me so long as I could have a few seconds' glimpse of her.
Again she threw back her head and
laughed that merry laugh.
Suddenly I felt something wet
tickling my neck. Thinking it must be an insect of some sort, I put up my hand.
But it was too large for an insect. I turned.
That strange mauve and green
beast, that monster with the fly-like, Cyclops eye, two tails and three horns,
was gently licking me!
Was it tasting
me? I wondered vaguely, still concentrating on the girl. Judging by the way she
was laughing, I thought not.
Wherever I was—in dream or lost
world—I knew that I had fled in panic from a tame, friendly, domestic animal. I
blushed and then joined in the girl's laughter.
After a moment I said: "If
it's not a rude question, I wonder, ma'am, if you could tell me where I
She wrinkled her perfect brow when
she heard me and shook her head slowly.
I tried again in French but
without any luck.
Then in German—again no success.
Spanish was equally ineffective at producing communication between us. My Latin
and Greek were limited, but I tried those, too. I am something of a linguist,
picking up foreign tongues quickly. I tried to remember the little Sioux and
Apache I had learned during a brief study of the Red Indians at college. But
She spoke a few more words in her
language which seemed to me, when I listened very carefully, to have certain
faint similarities to classical Sanskrit.
"We are both, it seems, at a
loss," I remarked, standing there with the beast still licking me
She stretched out a hand for me to
take. My heart pounded and I could hardly make myself move.
"Phoresha," she said. She seemed to want me to go somewhere with her,
and pointed towards the distant hills.
I shrugged, took her hand and went
along with her.
So that was how, hand in hand with
its loveliest resident, I came to Varnal, City of the Green Mists—most splendid
of the splendid Martian cities.
Oh, how many thousands upon
thousands of years ago!
VARNAL is more real to me, even in my memories, than ever
can be. It lies in a
gentle valley in the hills, which the Martians term the Calling Hills. Green
and golden, they are covered with slender trees and, when the wind passes
through them, they sound like sweet, distant, calling voices as one walks past.
The valley itself is wide and
shallow and contains a fairly large, hot lake. The city is built around the
lake, from which rises a greenish steam, a delicate green that sends tendrils
curling around the spires of Varnal. Most of Varnal's graceful buildings are
tall and white, though some are built of the unique blue marble which is mined
close by. Others have traceries of gold in them, making them glitter in the
sunlight. The city is walled by the same blue marble, which also has golden
traceries in it. From its towers fly pennants, gay and multicolored, and its
terraces are crowded with its handsome inhabitants, the plainest of whom would
be a sought-after beau or belle in Wynnsville, Ohio—or, indeed, Chicago or any
other great city of our world.
When I first came upon the city of
, led by that wonderful girl,
I gasped in awed admiration. She seemed to accept my gasp as the compliment it
was and she smiled proudly, saying something in her then incomprehensible
I decided that I could not be
dreaming, for my own imagination was simply not capable of creating such a
vision of splendor and loveliness.
But where was I? I did not know
then. How had I got there? That I still cannot answer fully.
I puzzled over the second
question. Evidently the matter transmitter had had a fault. Instead of sending
to the receiver on the other side of the lab building it
had sent me hurtling through space—perhaps through time, too—to another world.
It could not be Earth—not, at least, the Earth of my own age. Somehow I could
not believe it was any Earth, of the past or the future. Yet it could not be
the only other obvious planet in our solar system—Mars—for Mars was a dead,
arid planet of red dust and lichen. Yet the size of the Sun and the fact that
gravity was less here than on Earth seemed to indicate Mars.
It was in a daze of speculation
that I allowed the girl to lead me through the golden gates of the city,
through its tree-lined streets, towards a palace of shining white stone.
People, men and women dressed—if dressed is the word—similarly to the girl,
glanced in polite curiosity at my white lab coat and grey pants which I was
We mounted the steps of the palace
and entered a great hall, hung with banners of many colors, on which were
embroidered strange emblems, mythical beasts and words traced out in a peculiar
script which also reminded me of Sanskrit.
Five galleries rose around the
hall and in the centre a fountain played. The few simply-dressed people who
stood conversing in the hall waved cheerfully to the girl and gave me that same
look of polite curiosity I had received in the streets.
We walked through the hall,
through another doorway and up a spiral staircase of white marble. Here she
paused on the landing and opened a door that at first looked like metal but on
closer observation proved to be wood of incredible hardness and polish.
The room in which I found myself
was quite small. It was barely furnished, with a few rugs of brightly dyed
animal skins scattered about and a series of cupboards around the walls.
The girl went to one of these
cupboards, opened it and took out two metal circlets in which were set radiant
gems of a kind completely unknown to me. She placed one of these on her head
and indicated that I should imitate her with the second. I took the circlet and
fitted it over my own head.
Suddenly a voice spoke inside my
skull. I was astonished for a second, until I realized that here was some kind
of telepathic communicator which we physicists had only speculated about.
said the voice, and I could see the girl's lips move, framing those lovely,
alien syllables. "From where do you come?"
"I come from
," I said, more to test the
device than to convey information which I guessed would be meaningless to her.
She frowned. "Soft sounds and
very pleasant, but I do not know that place. Where in Vashu is that?"
Is this city in a land called Vashu?"
"No—Vashu is the whole
planet. This city is called Varnal, capital of the nation of the Karnala, my
"Do you have astronomy?"
I asked. "Do you study the stars?"
"We do. Why do you ask?"
"Which planet is this in
relation to the sun?"
"It is the fourth from the
It is Mars!" I cried.
"I do not follow you."
"I am sorry. Somehow I have
arrived here from the third planet, which we call Earth. That is where
"But there are no men on
Negalu, the third planet.
Only steamy jungles and monstrous
"How do you know so much
about the planet?"
"Our ethercraft have visited
it and brought back pictures."
"You have space-ships—but
..." I was at a loss. This was too incredible for me to accept all at
once. I questioned her more closely and soon learned that the Earth her people
knew was not the Earth I bad left. It seemed to be an Earth that had existed
millions of years ago, during the Age of Reptiles. Somehow both space and time
had been crossed. That matter transmitter had more to it than we'd guessed!
Another thing puzzled me. The
people did not appear to have a great deal of technology visible in the
city—yet they had space-ships.
"How could this be?" I
"We did not build the
ethercraft. They were a gift from the Sheev—as were these mind-crowns. We have
a science of our own but it cannot compare to the great wisdom and knowledge of
"Who are the Sheev?"
"They are very great and few
of them still live. They are remote and of an older race than any on Vashu. Our
philosophers speculate on their origin, but we know little about them."
I let that go for the time being
and decided it was about the moment to introduce myself.
"I am called Michael
Kane," I said.
"I am Shizala, Bradhinaka of
the Kanala, and ruler in the absence of the Bradhi."
I learned that the Bradhi was
about the equivalent of our 'kang', although the title did not suggest that the
man who held it possessed absolute power.
Perhaps Guide would be a better
one—or Protector? Bradhinaka meant, roughly, Princess—daughter of the King.
"And where is the
Bradhi?" I asked.
I saw her face become sad and she
glanced at the ground.
"My father disappeared two
years ago—on a punitive expedition against the Argzoon. He must have been
killed or, if he was captured, killed himself. It is better to die than become
a prisoner of the Blue Giants."
I expressed my sympathy and did
not feel the time right to ask what the Argzoon or Blue Giants were. She was
evidently deeply moved by the memory of the loss of her father, but showed
great self-control in refusing to burden someone else with her grief.
I felt immediately like trying to
offer her some comfort. But, considering I knew nothing of the moral code and
customs of her
might perhaps have been
She touched her circlet. "We
only need to wear these for the time being. The Sheev have given us another
machine which should be able to teach you our spoken language."
We conversed a little longer and I
learned much of Mars—or Vashu, as I was already beginning to think of it.
There were many nations on Mars,
some friendly towards the Kanala, some not. They all spoke recognizable
versions of the same root language. This is supposedly true of Earth—that our
language was originally a common one; but in our case the changes have been
extreme. This was not the case, I learned, on Vashu.
Mars's seas still existed, Shizala
told me, though apparently they were not
Earth's. Varnal, capital of the Karnala
one of a number of countries, with rather hazily defined borders, which existed
on a large land-mass bigger, but in roughly the same geographical position,
than the whole of the American continent.
in two main ways. Most ordinary travel relied on the dahara, a riding and
carriage beast of great strength and endurance. But many nations had a few
aircraft. As far as I could make out, these relied on atomics—which none of the
Vashu peoples understood. These had not been gifts of the Sheev, I learned, but
must once have belonged to the Sheev. They were incredibly ancient by all
accounts and could not be replaced when destroyed. Thus they were only used in
emergencies. There were also ships incorporating some sort of atomic engine,
and sailing ships of various kinds. These plied the few rivers of Vashu—rivers
which were shrinking with almost every year that passed.
For arms, the Vashu warriors
relied primarily on the sword. They had guns—Shizala showed me hers. It was a
long-barreled, finely made weapon with a comfortable grip. I could not quite
see what it fired or on what principle it worked, but as Shizala tried to
explain haltingly I concluded that it was some sort of laser gun. What an
incredible amount of power, I thought, was packed into its chambers, for we
scientists had always argued that a laser hand-gun was out of the question,
since the power required to produce the laser ray—tightly focused light which
could cut through steel—relied on a very big generator. Wonderingly, I handed
the gun back to her. These guns, not gifts of the Sheev but probably looted
from their now lost or completely ruined cities by Shizala's remote ancestors,
were also used infrequently, since once the charge was finally expended it
could not be replaced. Their akashasard—or ethercraft—apparently numbered five
in all. Three of these belonged to the Karnala and one each to friendly,
neighbouring nations—the Iridala and the Walavala. Although there were pilots
who could operate them, none of the folk of Vashu had any idea how they worked.
Other benefits which a few chosen
nations had received from the mysterious Sheev included a longevity serum
which, once taken, did not need to be taken again. Everyone was allowed to use
it and it gave up to two thousand years of life! Because of this very few
children were born, so the population of Vashu remained comparatively small. No
bad thing, I reflected. I could have listened to Shizala for hours, but at
length she stopped my questions with a smile.
"First we must eat. The
evening meal will be served soon. Come."
I followed Shizala as she led me
from the little room and down into the main hall, which was now furnished with
several large tables at which sat men and women of Kanala, all handsome and
beautiful and chatting gaily.
They all rose politely, though not
servilely, as Shizala took her place at the head of one of the tables. She
indicated the chair on her left and I sat down. The food looked strange but
smelled good. Opposite me, on Shizala's right, sat a dark-haired young man,
superbly muscled. He wore a simple gold bangle on his right wrist and he put
his arm on the table in such a way as to show it off.
Evidently he was proud of it for
he wanted me to see it. I guessed it to be a decoration of some kind and
thought no more of it.
Shizala introduced the man as
Bradhinak—or Prince Telem Fas Ogdai. The name did not sound like a Karnala name,
and it soon transpired that Bradhinak Telem Fas Ogdai was from the city of
, a friendly nation some two thousand miles to the
south. He was, so it seemed, a witty talker though, of course, I could not
understand what he said. Only a person wearing a circlet could communicate with
On my left was a pleasant-faced
young man with long, almost white, fair hair. He seemed to be making a special
effort to make me feel at home, offering food and drink, asking polite
questions through Shizala, who translated for us. This was Darnad, Shizala's
younger brother. Apparently the succession to the throne of Varnal was
determined by sex and not by age.
Darnad was apparently chief
Pukan-Nara of Varnal. A Pukan, I learned, was a warrior, and a Pukan-Nara a
warrior leader. The chief PukanNara was elected by popular vote—by civilians
and warriors alike. I assumed from this that Darnad's position was therefore no
honorary one, and that he had earned it through prowess and intelligence.
Though he was personable and charming, the people of Varnal did not judge a man
merely on his appearance but on his merit and record.
I was already beginning to pick up
a few words of the Vashu tongue by the time the meal was over, and we adjourned
into an ante-room to drink a beverage called basu, a sweetish drink I found
quite palatable but which, frankly, did not at that time seem as good to me as
good, old-fashioned coffee. Later I was to discover that basu grew on one and
then I preferred it to coffee. Like coffee, it is a mild stimulant.
In spite of the basu, I began to
feel quite sleepy and, always alert to her guests' needs, Shizala sensed this.
"I have had a room prepared
for you," she telepathed. "Perhaps you would like to retire
I admitted that the day's
surprising experiences had taken a lot out of me. A servant was called and
Shizala went with us up the stairs to the second floor of the palace. A dim
bulb burned in the room, giving adequate light, Shizala showed me a bell-rope
very like old-fashioned bell-ropes on Earth. It was close to the bed and was
used to summon a servant. She left her circlet behind when she left. Before she
did so she told me that anyone could use the circlet and the servant would know
The bed consisted of a wide, hard
bench, on which was a thin mattress. A large fur rug was laid over this, and it
seemed rather too heavy, since the day had been very warm. To some, perhaps,
the bed would have been too austere but, as it happened, it was the kind I
I fell asleep immediately, having
shed my clothes, and I awoke only once in the middle of the Martian night—which
is, of course, longer than ours—feeling very cold. I had not realized how much
the temperature could change. I pulled the rug about me and was soon asleep
A FEMALE servant entered in the morning, after knocking
lightly on the door. I was standing at the window looking out over the
beautiful streets and houses of Varnal. At first I felt embarrassed by my
nakedness. But then I realized that there was no need since it was abnormal
here to wear many clothes, and then, it seemed, only for decoration.
What did continue to embarrass me,
however, was the look of open admiration she gave me as she handed me my
breakfast tray of fruit and basu.
After she had gone I sat down to
eat the fruit—a large one very similar to grape-fruit but with a slightly less
bitter taste—and drink the basu.
I was just finishing when there
was another knock on the door. I called, "Come in!" in English,
thinking that this would do the trick. It did. In walked Shizala, smiling.
Seeing her again, it seemed that I
had dreamed of her all night, for she was as beautiful—if not more so—as I
remembered her. Her blonde hair was swept back from her shoulders and back. She
had on a black, gauzy cloak and at her waist was the wide belt containing
holstered gun and short sword. These, I gathered, were ceremonial weapons of office,
for I could not imagine such a graceful girl having much familiarity with the
artifacts of war. On her feet she wore sandals, laced up the calf almost to the
knee. That was all she was wearing—but it was enough.
She picked up the circlet she had
worn the day before and put it on.
"I thought you might wish to
ride around the city and see everything," I heard her voice say in my
head. "Would you like that?"
"Very much," I replied.
"If you can spare the time."
"It would please me to do
so." She gave me a warm smile.
I could not make up my mind
whether she felt as attracted to me as I was to her, or whether she was just
being normally polite. It was a puzzle which was already beginning to fill a
great deal of my thoughts.
"First," she continued,
"it would be better if you spent a couple of hours with the Sheev teaching
machine. After that you will be able to converse in our language without
recourse to these rather clumsy things."
As she led me down corridors and
staircases, I asked her why, if the tongue of Vashu were common, there should
be such a thing as a languageteaching machine. She replied that it had been
designed for use on other planets but, since the other planets in the solar
system only appeared to be inhabited by animals, it had never been used.
She led me below ground. The
cellars of the palace seemed to go down many levels, but at last we reached a
place lighted by the same sort of dim bulb as the one in my room. These bulbs
were also of Sheev manufacture, Shizala told me, and had once burned much
brighter than they did now. The room was small and contained a single piece of
equipment. It was large and made of metal I did not recognize—probably an
alloy. It glowed a little, adding to the light in the room. It seemed to
consist of a cabinet with an alcove moulded to accommodate the form of a seated
I could see no other machinery and
I would dearly have loved to strip the cabinet down to see what was inside—but
curbed my impatience.
"Please sit there," said
Shizala, indicating the cabinet. "According to what I have been told, the
cabinet will be activated immediately you do so. You may feel yourself black
out, but do not be disturbed."
I did as she asked and, sure
enough, as soon as I was seated the cabinet began to hum softly. A cap came
down from above and fitted itself over my head,
began to feel dizzy and soon became unconscious.
I did not know how much time had
passed until I came to, finding myself still seated in the now no longer
activated cabinet. I looked at Shizala a little dazedly. My head was aching
"How do you feel?" she
"Fine," I said, getting
But I had not said 'fine' at all,
I realized. I had said vrazha—the Martian word that was its nearest equivalent.
I had spoken Martian!
"It works!" I cried.
"What sort of machine is it that can achieve that so swiftly?"
"I do not know. We are
content simply to use the things of the Sheev. We were warned in the far past
never to tamper with their gifts since it might result in disaster for us!
Their mighty civilization once suffered a disaster, but we have only a few
legends which speak of it and they are bound up in talk of supernatural
we no longer believe."
Respecting what was evidently a
deeply rooted custom never to question the Sheev inventions, I remained silent,
though every instinct made me want to get at the language-teaching machine,
probably a highly sophisticated computer containing
hypnotic device of some kind.
My headache had gone by the time
we reached the upper levels of the palace and walked through the great hall out
into the city. At the bottom of the wide, white steps two strange beasts were
They were about the same size as
Shire horses— the famous English Great Horse which had once borne knights into
battle. But horses they were not. Their origin seemed to stem from the same
basic root as Man! They were ape-like creatures with wide kangaroo tails, their
hind legs larger than the forelegs. They were on all fours now and saddles were
on their backs. Their great heads, placid and intelligent, turned to look at us
as we came down the steps.
I had a few qualms about mounting
mine, since it did bear certain affinities to my own race, but once aboard it
seemed natural that I should ride it. Its back was wider than that of a horse
and involved stretching one's legs out in front, and cupping the feet in the
stirrups attached to another part of the harness up ahead. The saddle had a
solid support allowing the rider to stretch backwards at ease. It was rather
like being seated in a sports car, and was very comfortable.
In a kind of holster on my right
were several lances, though I had no idea of their purpose. I found that by
gentle tugs on the reins, the dahara would respond quickly to any command I
With Shizala leading the way, we
trotted off through the plaza and down the main street of Varnal.
The city was as exquisite as ever
under the deep yellow sun. The sky was cloudless and I began to relax, feeling
that I could spend the rest of my life in Varnal and its surrounds. Here a dome
caught the light and flashed brightly; there a little white house nestled
between an impressive ziggurat on one side and a slender tower on the other.
People moved about in a leisurely yet purposeful way. A fruit market was busy,
but there was none of the noise and bustle of a similar Earthly market-place.
As we rode around the city, Shizala told me much about it.
The Karnala as a race had always
been primarily traders. Their origins were the same as many races—they had
started off as barbarian raiders and finally settled on one part of the country
they had liked. But instead of turning to farming they had continued to travel
as traders instead of raiders. Because of daring expeditions to far parts of
Vashu, they had become very rich, trading southern artifacts for northern
precious metals, and so on.
The Karnala were also great
artists, musicians and—what was highly worthwhile in terms of trade as well as
everything else—the finest book producers in their world. The printing presses
of Karnala, I learned, were of a flatbed type, not so fast as the rotary
machines on Earth, but producing what appeared to my eye much sharper printing.
The Sanskrit-like lettering I still could not read but, as Shizala took me
round a small press, showing me some of the beautifully made books it produced,
I soon learned to recognize many words as she pointed them out to me.
These books were in great demand
across the whole continent and were a great asset to the Karnala, as were their
artists and writers who produced the raw material.
Other industries thrived in
Varnal. Their swordsmiths were also renowned throughout the world, I learned.
The smiths still worked by the old methods, using furnace and anvil much as
smiths on Earth worked—an earth that was yet to come, I realized.
Some farming was done now, but on
a big scale and not by private landowners. Square miles of cereals were
I was told, and harvested all at once by volunteers
from all over the Karnala nation. What was not used was stored in case of hard
times, for the Karnala were well aware that a nation based on trade and
industry cannot buy food in famine and will only survive if it can produce its
The absence of any places of
worship was noticeable and I asked Shizala about this. She replied that there
was no official religion of any kind, but for those who wanted to believe in a
higher being it was better to look for Him in their own minds and hearts, not
to seek Him in the words of others.
On the other hand, there were
public schools, libraries, clinics, social centers, hotels and the like, and no
one seemed under-privileged or unhappy in Varnal.
The Karnala political philosophy
seemed to be one of armed neutrality. They were a strong nation and prepared
for any attack. Besides this, an oldfashioned martial code still seemed to
exist, because an aggressor never attacked without good warning.
After telling me this, Shizala
added: "Apart from the more savage tribes, and they are no threat.
Those-and the Blue Giants."
"Who are the Blue
Giants?" I asked.
They are fierce and without code or conscience. They dwell in
the far north and only venture out on raids. They have only once come this far
south, and then my father's army drove them away ..." She bowed her head
and tightened her grip of the reins.
"And never returned?" I
said sympathetically, feeling I had to say something.
She jostled the reins and the
dahara began to trot faster. I imitated her and we were soon galloping along
the wide streets through which the delicate green mist wound, and up towards
the golden hills—the Calling Hills.
We were soon out of the city and
rushing through the strange trees which seemed to be calling for us as we moved
After a while Shizala slowed her
steed and I did likewise. She turned to me with a smile.
"I acted wilfully—I hope you
will forgive me."
"I could forgive you
anything," I said, almost without thinking.
She gave me a quizzical,
intelligent look which again I could not interpret.
"Perhaps," she said.
"I should mention ..."
Again I spoke on impulse.
"Let us not talk—we are interrupting the voices of the trees. Let us just
ride and listen."
As we rode I suddenly began to
wonder how I was going to live on Mars. I had accepted that I would like to
stay in the idyllic city of Varnal— I would never willingly leave a place which
sheltered such a graceful beauty as the girl riding beside me at that
moment—but how was I going to earn my living?
As a scientist I could probably
contribute something to the industries. It struck me that Shizala might be
interested if I suggested that she elect me as some sort of Court Scientific
Adviser! This would allow me to serve a useful function in the community and at
the same time enable me to be close to her and see a great deal of her.
At that time, of course, I was
acting almost intuitively. I had not as yet wondered if the customs of the
Karnala would even permit me to propose marriage to Shizala—and, anyway, there
was a very good chance that Shizala would want nothing to do with me. Why
should she? Although she had not questioned what I had told her about where I
had come from and how I had arrived on her planet, for all she knew I might be
My mind was confused as I rode
along. At length we decided we had best return to the city and the palace, and
I directed my strange steed back with some reluctance.
The visiting Prince of Mishim Tep,
Telem Fas Ogdai, was waiting on the steps of the palace when we arrived. He had
one foot on a higher step and his hand rested on the hilt of his long,
broadbladed sword. He wore soft boots and a heavy cloak of dark material. He
looked both angry and impatient, and twice as I dismounted and walked up the steps
towards him, removed his hand from his sword-hilt to finger the plain gold
He ignored me but flashed a glance
at Shizala and then turned his back on both of us, rumbling up the steps into
Shizala looked at me apologetically.
"I am sorry, Michael Kane—but I had better speak to the Bradhinak. Will
you excuse me? You will find food in the hall."
I hope to see you again later."
She gave me a quick, half-nervous
smile and then she was tripping up the steps after Bradhinak.
Some diplomatic problem, I
guessed, since the prince was evidently an emissary of some kind and was here
on diplomatic business as well as a friendly visit.
Perhaps Karnala's strength had
been sapped in the battle and the following expedition which had lost them
their king. Perhaps they were forced to rely on stronger allies while they
built up their strength again—and perhaps Mishim Tep was one of these allies.
All this speculation seemed likely— and much of it was subsequently proved
I entered the great hall. A kind
off buffet meal had been laid out on the table by servants.
meat, fruit, the inevitable basu, sweetmeats and so forth.
I sampled a
little of everything and found almost all of it to my liking. I exchanged small
talk with some of the men and women around the table. They were evidently very
curious about me but too polite to ask too many direct questions— which I did
not feel in any mood to answer at that moment.