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Selestor's Men of Atlantis, by Clara Iza von Ravn, [1937], at

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Battle on Mars as described by the watching sage. The army of shadows.

"Aye, I will finish now the tale of Mars men on that day when sage—Atlantian—peered with eye—sense, heightened by tradition's flow of explanation. Explanation of the habits, garb and methods of those men who long before had taught their arts and sciences to others of their kind through that broad stream of interchanging thought which then was practiced.

"Later lost that art of interchange of speech through subtle note of Nature, understood and practiced by creatures who are less than we.

"Ye ask what foe he spied him through his glass? As he was pondering, on his sight there burst a wondrous vision. The tiny specks long floating to his eye, grew larger; birds at first they seemed, then clearly, flying ships of shape and size unlike the galleys sailing on the sea. Yet longer, lighter, woven from the fiber of some plant and held in shape by polished strands that metal seemed, yet Earth-man hath not seen its like.

"Aye, sails had they enwoven with a care for magnet draughts. Electric entered there, but seemingly abeyed by other force, a combination of etheric gas and magnet cubes which, like the ocean buoy employed for balance ’gainst a certain poise to carry or convey the sailing boat to motive point.

"Great sails set transversely on the sides made coveted balance sweeps. Of lengthened hemp made fan-like, outer sails and cords that caught the breeze

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and slackened (speed?) steered by one observant man who held both magnet and a lever in his hands. Condensed atmosphere rose in a globe placed near the center of the ship, adjusted by a spring of purest 'platinum' and glass to ward electric shock."

Thus, afterwards, learned he the ships were made.

At last he spied the foe-men in the ships as on they came. A race of men whose faces lacked not intellect, but low upon their brows the stubborn hair did grow as apes. Their nether limbs lacked garment or yet greaves, but there a coat of fur showed to the sight.

"What men are these?" quoth he. "The sages of old have told no tale of such as these! As men, yet ape, they seem! The men of Neptune!" cried he loud, at last. "I see the silver spears four-pronged! The circling light above each head that as a halo seems!

"I wist thine eyes ne’er saw such shape"—to him beside. "Deft fingered, yet the fingers longer grown than man's on earth. Not claw-point, but a clean white tip which feels as keenly as the brain contends."

The men of Mars stand watching with the helm on head and spear well pointed. Javelin throwers by the thousand stand with foot pressed hard upon the bars of shields that hold them from the foemen. Shields of toughened wood.

"But why not break in air the ships, these men of Mars, ere these, their foes, alight?"

All strong a stream of thought smote full his brain: "The law forbiddeth strife uneven. Man may hold his land, his home, by vantage of the spear and yet give to his foe a chance for life, nor send the shuddering soul unfairly from its shell." Thus came the power of thought unto him.

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"Mars’ ships have warned of numbers. Stand her sons defensive. March the Neptune foemen at advance on leaving ships, well guarded at their anchorage.

"Mars spearsmen make attack! The javelin-throwers stand, and all are so directed by the leading chiefs that colors tell their movements. These he holds in hand—the standards made from carven stem and silken stuff that casts a shimmer 'round and to the eye speaks method of attack."

All was done in silence. Not a voice was heard, but trumpet blew loud blasts unheard by him who in the tower high did eager watch the fray. He saw the fiery, darting prongs of spears which tore the body in that fight. It was a fight of skill which men of Earth ne’er dreamed could be unfolded.

A fight where science stood by science's side with mind all paramount, and body playing part of motive force. For years of mental toil unfolded in that hour in stroke of missile-thrower from the suction-valve, and every spear was poised so that one thrust some vital part did pierce, and fell the man all painless dying.

Science taught the point of vantage to the eye; to northward meant that action on the eye most irritating. The stroke less sure. Who faced the south was sun-smote. This the word; the glare within the circle where the spears tipped white with metal, hardened, dazzled, blinded and no aim was sure.

Each army strove to face the vantage point of compass or yet the breeze that blowed with potency. To east or west was soldiers’ vantage point to face upon that planet. Sun-rays smote less the eye, nor carried shadow of a burnished blade to orb with such intensity. Thus they contended and each soldier strove to face the point to east or west as case might be or foe distributed.

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At last the foemen fierce engaged were conscious of a cloud low over Mars. A denser cloud than e’er they sensed before. It shut the sun-light from the field of strife and caused a chill to creep upon each warrior there.

"Behold!" a general cried, "the hands of gods lie low above us smiting us in turn, perchance, as we smite one another!"

As he spake a rush of icy air encircled, a fall of seeming forms, and where the men of Mars stood red enrobed or Neptune's blue, or white like lily leaf, stood shadows—one for every warring man. And yet they seemed not shadows.

Hair was blown from cheeks all rounded, youth was there enthralled beneath the helm of waving plumes and eyes, dark, laughing, scorning, perchance, looked from beneath their silken lash. Their limbs turned perfect as a statue stands of carven marble, and the flesh tint showed them fairer than the pausing warriors there.

Their garment was the simple gown that shepherds wear and reached but to the knee, and sandals, made from hide, bound feet of slender mould.

No sound came from their lips, tradition speaks, but trumpets raised were shimmering bright as light on water. Arrows flew from bows of supple, carven wood and thongs of hide—a deer's, mayhap, or bears, I know not—and upon each shoulder bore each man his quivered arrows—pointed—sharp with stone that shone as diamond drops of dew.

They charged impartially upon Mars and Neptune—seemed to smite with shortened axes to the left and right and fought in line of single, compact hordes; each line a wall of bristling marble seemed, with not one break. A line so long it wound its way yet thrice about the foemen armies, and to distance seemed to creep so far the eye reached not. A line

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of seeming solid flesh, arms touching, knee to knee, with not one break to show that any man had fallen. Fell they not—that host of shadows.

The Mars-men, bold, recovered first and strove to pierce with spear. Next Neptune's fuller charge, impotent, broke not the ranks. A thrill of horror he could mark by look—the sage within the tower—ran through each warrior's frame as loud they seemed to cry: "Our spears pierce not! Our javelins, hurled at air, fall heavy! Bloodless! smiting naught! These men so bold, so fearless, from the clouds come they? Cloud spectres?"

Yet the horror of the fight was on them. Helpless fell the hand that held the spear, and to their air boats rushed old Neptune's sons while Mars’ stood helpless, dumb! The men of air rose slowly, seemingly returning whence they came.

I know the science-body is the shell, and soul the all. The "form of thought" once seen seems but as man imbued with every attribute of flesh, yet frail to touch as shadow on the wall it be. Aye, such is thought. The men of Earth strove long to learn the secrets of old Mars and long had waited for the moment, thus, by science trained, the line of warriors slept as body sleeps but in the soul they wandered. Scarce three seconds had they stood upon the planet when the "fight" was done.

I tell the story in all truth as it was told to me: A general of that age when Thought did rule, so planned and taught that from a solitary point of Earth—this very land, * ye speak, those warriors, men, were sent long ages since.

And yet ye speak: "In old barbaric days!"

On other planets that which hath no form, but is a force on earth, takes shape and substance, too,

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in time. And to the eyes of Mars’ men grows the shape or body. This is Law. A science of the matter formed in cloud on other planes or planets where the growth law differs from our own of earth. Where vapor forms in whorls and added growth makes spirals, branching, that which to our eyes is but the mist which sun drinks.


134:* America.

Next: Chapter XIX. The great sea-fight of Atlantis. Setting out of the Northmen for plunder