While the Queen of Space Opera’s work may not be new, the publisher for this edition is. Say hello to Cirsova Publishing’s Black Amazon of Mars*:
Danger Awaits in the Far North!
Long ago, an ancient evil was sealed away in the northern wastes of Mars by the legendary hero, Ban Cruach. A powerful talisman of Ban Cruach has been stolen – the thief’s dying wish is that it be returned by Eric John Stark to its rightful place in the City of Kushat which stands before the Gates of Death!
Before Stark can reach Kushat, he and the Talisman fall into the hands of a mysterious warlord named Ciaran, who prepares to lead a warband against Kushat and beyond. Undeterred by superstition, Ciaran seeks the power and riches that are said to lie beyond the Gates of Death and Ban Cruach’s eternal vigil!
Ciaran may bring destruction not only to the northern city states but to all of Mars, if Kushat should fall and the Gates of Death be thrown open before his hordes!
Eric John Stark has returned to Mars to escort a dying friend home. They hadn’t known each other long prior to the other man’s fatal injury, but battles forge strange friendships. This former thief’s relationship with the wandering Earth man is no different.
The hope was to reach the city of Kushat before the other man finally succumbed to his wound. However, while camped amid ruins in the northern wastes of the Red Planet, both Eric and his friend realize time has run out. Before he passes the man hands Stark the Talisman of Ban Cruach. He explains how he stole it and why he fled his home city for the stars: absconding with this relic carries a death sentence, one the man has now paid in full. After warning Stark not to lose the Talisman or let anyone take it, he passes away in his sleep.
Stark waits for dawn while keeping vigil with the dead. While he does this, curiosity overcomes him, and he takes out the Talisman and studies it. Then he puts it to his forehead, allowing him access to Ban Cruach’s memories. What he sees there is so terrible that he rips the Talisman from his brow. Disoriented, he has to wait some time to calm down.
In that time, a war party comes upon his location. They are too close for him to simply flee, so he waits for them to see him and approach.
After stripping him of his weapons and searching the dead man, they take Stark to their master’s camp. There, Lord Ciaran attempts to bargain with him, to no avail. The Earth man is sentenced to a torturous execution but escapes. Badly injured, he manages to reach Kushat, bringing them news of the hordes of warriors headed for their gates – and the legendary peril that lies on the other side of the city.
Fans of space opera will want to pick up this novella, as will casual readers. Leigh Brackett’s writing earned the character of Erik John Stark a place in the history of the SF/F genre. This story demonstrates how she did it.
*These are Amazon affiliate links. When you purchase something through it, this author receives a commission from Amazon at no extra charge to you, the buyer. If you liked this article, friend Caroline Furlong on Facebook or follow her here at www.carolinefurlong.wordpress.com. Her stories have been published in Cirsova’s Summer Special and Unbound III: Goodbye, Earth, while her poetry has appeared in Organic Ink, Vol. 2. She has also had stories published in Planetary Anthologies Luna and Uranus. Her latest story is available in Cirsova Magazine’s recently released Summer Issue. Order them today!