Jartan 11

Elements of the Game

 

At one point or another most writers attempt to pay homage to authors who wrote the stories that they read during childhood. Edgar Rice Burroughs tales about John Carter on Barsoom are some of those fond childhood favorites that still cast shadows over the way that I put words to paper. Call it cribbing or down right plagiarism there is no more fun than to try to imitate the style of ones preceptor……here is an excerpt from a tale about John Carter’s great grandson on Barsoom.

 

Praised be to our first ancestor. – Thuvia, Princess of Ptarth

     A clear, sweet a trumpet sounded across the field of Jetan as the gates of Mantor swung open. Resolutely the Orange participants entered single file onto the playing field.  Surrounded by the huge stadium they moved one by one across the polished interlocking squares of black and orange to take their appointed places for the game.  Doctor Leland Roush as Orange Chief moved to the dais of square e-1 with Leowe the Orange Princess beside him on square f-1. Carel and Swank stood on squares b-1 and g-1 respectively, as Odwars for the Orange players.

Vol Kindre, Chief of the Black players, already stood on square f-10. Next to him on e-10 held by two First Born guards was Loewe’s younger sister, Belomei, dressed in dark shoulder furs as Black Princess.

Rising to silence the excited chatter of the assembly, Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl bid the Jatan begin. Her champion, the ebony giant Vol Kindre, raised his sword and called out to Roush on the far side of the playing field. “Surrender your players to me, champion of Xaxa Jeddara of Phundahl, for the glory and good of Barsoom and all your lives will be spared.”

Hearing no one give quarter, he commanded, “Lead Panthan f-nine to f-eight.”

After that events transpired with great rapidity with both surprising and totally unexpected events at least from the viewpoint Barsoomian where bloody strife had been the first and greatest consideration of individuals, races and nations for thousands of years.

With Vol Kindre’s first move the yells of participants mingled with wild cheers from First Born allies and the hundreds of assorted nobles in the stands surrounding the gigantic board. The Jetan game of combat to the death began.

Following two feinting moves by Vol Kindre for the Black, that were quickly resolved with but a single Panthan pike thrust for a kill, the forth Orange move by Roush was called. Carel found himself upon the blooded spattered space exposed to Vol Kindre’s next move. A Thoat, carrying its rider, moved diagonally onto the square occupied by Carel.

The spectators surrounding the field leaned forward in their seats after their applause and cheeres that greeted the Black move died away. This was only the second disputed square of the game and a hushed silence of anticipation fell upon the vast assemblage. If Carel went down to defeat by the lance and sword wielding Black player riding the Thoat then Vol Kindre could move this victorious player onto the square occupied by Leowe and the game would be over – over in just sx moves and both Belomei and Leowe lives would belong to Xaxa.

*

 

It had begun as these things often do with a graceful landing of a slipship. This one returning Carel Clayton, Doctor Leland Roush, Agustis Swank and the two Lotharian shifters Flosirie and Hanold triumphantly to Barsoom from their successful Io mission.

The welcome, headed by Sutterland for the task of rescuing his spiritual granddaughter Leowe and the abducted Therns from Io, was well planned. A medical team, on hand, waited at the ready for any casualties; the contingent of Helium and Dor patrician well wishers, all smiles, stood surrounding the quadrants spiritual minister, Sutterland. Cheers went up from the group standing at the docking portal, as Leowe stepped down from the dilated belly panel of the slipship onto the landing platen. There followed a warm embrace by Sutterland and his granddaughter.

Though jubilation surrounded the return of the rescued Therns, Carel felt an air of trepidation behind the conviviality and looked to Roush for a hint of what he only felt. Known for his ability to read minds, Doctor Leland Roush, the Amtor metascientest, was well ahead of Carel and spoke his readings aloud, “The First Born and their allies the Orovars, Warhoon, Torquas and Thurds are stirring up quite a fuss over the implosion of Io and the eradication of the vampire form of the Gorb.”

Having overheard part of Roush’s comment to Carel Leowe gasped, “What….what did you say?”

“A problem dear girl,” Sutterland admitted his dismay to Leowe. “Quite often one action begets another. What Doctor Roush has said is true. The Black scions of the North are readying for battle because of my action against the Gorb. I have not been able to reason with them.”

“Can’t be true.” Swank muttered,” They don’t even have a tie to those cyborg blood suckers.”

Xaxa, Jeddara of Phundahl,” the Doctor sugested.

“Wasn’t she the Priestess who was reborn into a new body by Ras Thavas?” Carel asked.

“Indeed,” Roush continued, “as a scientist Ras Thavas himself was remarkable. The things he accomplished. He was never intentionally cruel and I am sure not intentionally wicked.”

“But the Hormands… weren’t they the predecessors of the Gorb?”

“Yes, Carel, Thavas was guilty of the most diabolical actions and the basest of crimes; yet in the next moment he might perform a deed that if duplicated upon your ancestor John Carter’s Earth would have raised him to the highest pinnacle of mankind’s esteem.”

“And… the Jeddara of Phundahl?”

“Old again. Aging after a hundred years, but not without power and followers. Living now in the grand palace of Mantor.”

“That’s the jest of it all,” Sutterland spoke to the group. “Xaxa believed that Vald Obannato’s mortician, Raduka Hu could redo the brain transfer of Ras Thavas and put her into a new body. While you were away her giant of a champion Vol Kindre, a First Born, raided the Thern stronghold taking Loewe’s youngest sister, Belomei, to set her body aside for Xaxa’s regeneration.”

“Raduka Hu is no more,” Carel said.

Sutterland nodded his head in affirmation as he spoke, “Xaxa knows that. She’s enraged that her chance to again renew into a fresh body is gone and will now only give up the girl through an outright war or Jetan…”

“Jetan, isn’t that a game like chess?” Carel asked.