Exploring the Life and Works of Edgar Rice Burroughs
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THE FALL OF GATHOL
A Tale of the Morgor War
Certain characters and back story for this report of the Morgor War was inspired by Dead Cities of Mars by David Bruce Bozarth. Ryan's story stands on its own, but if you are interested in the back story of Kanator and the miniature white apes, read Bozarth's novel.
To: John Carter
CC: Tardos Mors, Mors Kajak
Subject: Gathol Resistance
Gahan of Gathol and Tara and family evacuated the city by airship. Teedwar Margol was in charge of the defenses but perished during the second landing.
At my command are eighteen miniature white apes from the Unbelieveable Adventure Tours Company. I have briefed them of my mission.
Wish us well and wish us victorious!
Ghek, a dwar undesired
* * * * * * *
Gathol lay in ruins. The Morgor hammer descended from the heavens in an instant and devastated the Gatholian defenses in a single night. Fully a hundred Sasoom ships razed the ranches and farms around the base of the mountain city of Gathol even as Gahan, Tara, and the children escaped at the horrific expense of the city's defense forces.
In the burrows betwixt the dungeons and the ulsio tunnels which were the playground of Ghek the Kaldane, the bombardment above was intense. Ghek raced to the surface and was appalled to see alien ships on the horizon and their deadly attack.
Nearby in a damaged building were miniature apes from Kanator cowering behind a collapsed wall. Ghek raised a claw to grab their attention.
"To the burrows! Into the mines! --Or die."
Eighteen white apes of Kanator followed the Kaldane spider brain into the depths of Gathol's diamond and platinum mines.
Gahan, Jeddak of Gathol, Gathol Besieged, A History of the Conflict, Helium Press
* * * * * * * *
Cheta, Jed of Kanator, and his contingent of seventeen miniature white apes followed me into the depths of Gathol. By the most unfortunate circumstances were these creatures in Gathol at the time the Morgors commenced their assault. Cheta and his apes were on a publicity tour for the entertainment conglomerate known as Unbelievable Adventure Tours--war, much less interplanetary war--was not on the agenda.
Deep within the labyrinth of the Gatholian mines we were safe for the moment. It appeared the Morgors had not pressed their assault on the city as fiercely as I believed they could have. Upon reflection why should they? Stored supplies will last only three or four months and, as it seemed the Morgors controlled the sky and the ground it would not be long before humans would turn on each other for the sake of their families. The Morgors need only hold the high ground and wait. In time they could walk over the starving or dead bodies of Gathol's population without resistance.
Ten days after the assault nothing had changed. The Morgors controlled the exterior city, though not without some counterattacks by the displaced population. Many of the citizens of Gathol had taken refuge in the mines. Though some were warriors eager to carry the war to those aliens occupying the surface the vast majority were ordinary folk--merchants and workers and their families.
The refugees had to be fed. Cheta armed his apes with swords and daggers and into the vermin burrows beneath Gathol these tiny apes went to hunt the ulsio. I, like most of Barsoom who knew of the Unbelievable Adventure Tours company, believed these talking white apes, just barely half the height of an erect red man, were merely clowns and entertainers with the extraordinary capacity to speak intelligently. Yet, they are every bit as ferocious as their gigantic brethren, before which even the mighty banth and the fierce green Thark may tremble, and that ferocity was needed to hunt the dangerous ulsio.
Deeper into the mines I led the humans and the apes as the Morgors began their explorations of the underground. The diamonds and platinum drew them into the dark spaces--and when it was possible to inflict damage to them without too much exposure to our small forces, we did so.
I am a worker Kaldane and I have lived among humans for a long time. Gathol was my home for many years before I left the city to find a rykor to replace the one which died and then encountered, on a distant dead sea bottom, two Jasoomians who changed the course of my life. Through them I met Cheta, who is a valued and trusted friend. With Connie Wescott, Tony Martin, and Bar Novacs we created Unbelievable Adventure Tours and I was happy to play my small part in the scheme--but it was not until the Morgors invaded Barsoom that I really learned to respect Cheta and his small apes.
Cheta, myself, and three or four of his apes often patrolled the upper chambers. Many times have I experienced the satisfaction of snipping off the head of a Morgor with my powerful claws. As many times I have had the satisfaction of watching Cheta and his apes dismember the invaders with their sharp swords and daggers--and their jaws and surprising strength. But though we carried the war to the aliens, we were too few and they were too many.
Cheta had identified all of the problems of making the ulsio burrows habitable for sentient beings. He had also implemented solutions. Bioluminescent fungi were gathered and encouraged to grow on the walls of the tunnels. Scrap metal from any available source was used to create barriers strong enough to keep the ulsios from overrunning our portion of the burrows. Street signs were being posted in the burrows so that the humans and apes could find their way around. We used diamonds and platinum as our markers.
We acquired a selection of short swords, daggers and a variety of other lethal and non lethal items during night time forays to the surface. The small apes could travel discretely and, because they were so strong, could carry large collections of weapons, food, instruments, and necessities. These supplies were looted from the dead or abandoned during the exodus. Much of what we collected was stolen from Morgor front line pickets who were not sufficiently security conscious.
We placed the Morgor pickets under surveillance using a variety of lenses provided by the teedwar in command of the Gathol defenses and this was augmented by my rather enormous telepathic abilities. I may be a worker kaldane but even the lowest of kaldanes is a super intelligence that no human of Barsoom can match.
As our condition improved over the following ten days we and our human friends began to gather data and locate the Morgor positions. Geraa was the artist among the apes of Kanator. She sketched an operations map of the Morgor compound on the sand floor of our lowest and most secure chamber. It was interesting to see her use jewels as map markers. The ape sentinels posted at the higher levels were white diamonds and I was an ingot of platinum. The Morgor positions were shown with ordinary rocks.
Twenty two days into the invasion I lost my only remaining rykor in a tunnel battle with Morgors. We killed them all, and I ate the flesh of the Sasoom monster which had killed my beloved mount. It was not very tasty.
No longer could I rely upon a rykor, a human seeming creature without a head, as transportation. Kaldanes are creatures of all head and intelligence supported by multiple legs and armed with two massive claws--but swift in locomotion we are not. Cheta, my ape friend, understood the problem and offered his services. Many nights we toured the tunnels with me on his shoulder. His brawn, despite his tiny size, and my brain--and his brain, too, for Cheta is a nimble thinker in his own right.
As the Morgors consolidated their positions on Gathol's exterior their forays into the underground increased. No matter how widely dispersed, or deeply placed, our people might be it seemed the alien invaders found us. Little by little our strengths were whittled away. Attrition was our enemy. It seemed that succor from afar was not forthcoming. Daily the Morgor attacks grew in strength.
Though we lost warriors in our battles beneath the surface, we were killing Morgors at an alarming rate. We knew the tunnels. We knew the chambers. We could pick and chose our battlefields. For every man we lost they lost twenty.
And then things became worse. The Morgors began to systematically gas the tunnels. Something had to be done. We could not long remain in the pits of Gathol as we had no defense against the deadly fumes they pumped into the tunnels.
It was Cheta who suggested a foray into the enemy's heart. "We have collected projectiles and shot. What if we open the shells and place them about their headquarters at night? When the explosions come we make a run for it into the marshes southwest of Gathol."
I have often wondered if kaldanes are really the super intelligences of Barsoom. The small ape had suggested something that should have been perfectly obvious to me. Barsoomian cannon rounds and projectiles are phosphorous ignited, that is to say that sunlight will explode any fractured ordinance.
"Their headquarters, their landing field, and their barracks. Can we do this?"
Cheta nodded. "There are fifteen of us left," he said, remarking upon the number of white apes. "Each can carry two bombs. We know there are six Morgor ships. We know where their officers meet. We know where they sleep. The ships and the sleepers--they must be hit hardest."
I looked at my friend. "The others will do as needed, but you and I will have to take out the officers."
That was the gist of our discussion, yet while we spoke those few words my brain raced ahead. Gathol must be abandoned. There were only six hundred of us left in the mines. The Gatholian surface population was securely contained by the Morgors in various parts of the city and there was no way we could help them. Parjil Du, the last padwar among the red men of Gathol, was advised of our plan, but his duty was to organize the escape of the remaining men and their families via the Morgor-held Gatholian fliers at the main landing field the moment the sun rose to activate our bombs.
In darkness we started--the darkness of the tunnels and the darkness of night without--sixteen in all. Cheta issued his commands to the small white apes. Each carried a pair of deadly cruiser rounds and a hammer or rock. Up through the tunnels and ulsio burrows we traveled, silent as death. At the third level below the surface the group dispersed, each member on their assigned mission. Somewhere below us the padwar was leading the humans to the exit above the landing field. They would have to fight their way out at the last moment as there were Morgors in their path.
Cheta carried me and his two bombs to the surface. At the street level we paused. There were no Morgors in sight. The white ape scurried across the open expanse and swiftly mounted the exterior wall of Gahan's palace, which the Morgors had taken as their headquarters.
There were lights on within the building on the upper stories. The Morgors, hideous in appearance, their vital organs clearly visible inside their desiccated and skeletonous frames, did not see us. At my direction Cheta placed a bomb on a ledge just below a window and left me there while he went to the opposite side to place the other. I cracked the housing to expose the explosive and crawled down the building's carved façade to our agreed upon meeting place.
Since I knew where to look as I scanned the rooftops below, I saw a number of Cheta's apes placing their bombs. Eight, ten, thirteen were placed. Those apes vanished into the darkness, descending the mountain to the location of the captured airfield. If I had lungs I might have breathed a sigh. Every Morgor ship had been targeted as well as the Morgor barracks. The two apes assigned to the power facility placed their bombs. As they were departing, however, they were seen and attacked by Morgors.
Cheta startled me. "We can do nothing," the small white ape said, turning his eyes away from the slaughter. "We must go."
I gripped his fur with my chelae and watched the battle as Cheta scampered down the building. The two apes gave a good account against the Morgors before they were killed. My friend swiftly carried us into the darkness between buildings.
"Their names will live long in Kanator," Cheta said. "Polly and Anna were named by Tony Martin at their birth."
"I, too, will remember their names," I said.
The padwar was directing the loading of the airships when we arrived. Near the Morgor position were many bodies, both alien and Barsoomian. Above us on the mountain the Morgors were stirring.
A dozen ships were filled in as many tals and lifted off heavily laden. Cheta and I were in the second wave of departures. Mere instants of time later dawn arrived like a shot and explosions boomed upon the mount of Gathol. Dust and flame grew and expanded like trees of hellish origin. A third wave of ships departed from Gathol and…
The Morgors, those who survived the bombings, attacked the two hundred or so still on the ground. Our flier sped away from Gathol at such speed that I could not see with any clarity what occurred, but there is no doubt in my mind that those still on the ground perished most horribly.
• * * * * * *
To: John Carter
CC: Tardos Mors, Mors Kajak
Subject: Gathol Abandoned
Free Gatholian forces departed city yesterday. Four hundred saved. Remaining civilian population under Morgor control estimated to be six hundred thousand.
All Morgor ships were destroyed. Morgor command and control disabled, but cannot say was destroyed.
Recommend citations to the apes of Kanator.
Ghek, a dwar no more.