Masters of the Pit

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Third of the Michael Kane trilogy, also known as Barbarians of Mars. Originally published under the pseudonym Edward P. Bradbury.

Publishing History (UK)

  • Mass Market Paperback, Compact, 1965, Cover by James Cawthorn - as Barbarians of Mars
  • Mass Market Paperback, NEL, 128pp., ISBN: 0-450-00721-9, Jul 1971, Cover by Richard Clifton Dey
  • Mass Market Paperback, NEL, 128pp., ISBN: 0-450-04158-1, May 1978, Cover by Richard Clifton Dey

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Omnibus Publication (UK)

Publishing History (US)

  • Mass Market Paperback, Lancer, 1966, Cover by Gray Morrow - as Barbarians of Mars
  • Mass Market Paperback, Lancer, ISBN: 0-447-75199-0, 1970, Cover by Jim Steranko - as The Masters of the Pit
  • Mass Market Paperback, DAW, ISBN: 0-87997-450-8, Mar 1979, Cover by Richard Hescox - as Masters of the Pit or Barbarians of Mars
  • Mass Market Paperback, Ace, ISBN: 0-441-04887-0, Jun 1991, Cover by Dorian - as Barbarians of Mars
  • B-format Paperback, Piazo, ISBN: 978-1-60125-104-6, Jun 2008, Cover by Andrew Hou

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Omnibus Publication (US)

Synopsis

* * The following section may contain spoilers * *

With peace restored to Vashu Michael Kane has been married to Shizala. When Hool Haji visits, Kane decides that they should both return to the Yaksha Vaults to see what useful machines they can find. On the way, the airship develops engine trouble and they are forced to land near the city of Cend-Amrid. Seeking help, they discover that the city is in the grip of a plague, released when the inhabitants opened an ancient container, and is under the influence of the strange way of life dictated by the city's rulers. Escaping from the city and its machine-like inhabitants, they find the engine easier to repair than they thought and continue on, determined to find a cure for the plague in the underground city.

When they reach the Yaksha vaults they discover that it has been found by others and that most of the machines have been taken! Investigating further they encounter barbarians, who tell them that they are the Bagarad from across the Western Ocean, led by Rokin the Gold. Fighting these and defeating them they are captured by others and taken to meet Rokin. He orders them to be put on board his ship along with the machines they have taken, and transported to the Western Continent.

While they are crossing the Western Sea they are struck by a terrible storm which leads to them being shipwrecked far from their intended landing place. Setting out to explore with a party of men, Rokin takes Michael Kane and Hool Haji with him. They are attacked by a party of dog-men, the Hounds of Hahg, who capture them and plan to sacrifice them to their masters. Kane, Hool Haji, and Rokin are taken to the Crystal Pit and thrown in. Unable to escape, when the dog-men have withdrawn and just before the First Masters have come, a cat-girl appears and throws some swords to them.

Defending themselves they kill many Jihadoos (as Hool Haji calls them) but are nevertheless taken and borne through the air over the forest by the flying creatures. Rokin is killed by the creature carrying him, but Kane forces his captor to drop him near the top of the forest canopy. Unable to see whether Hool Haji has escaped he makes his way back towards the Crystal Pit, hoping to find the cat-girl who helped them. Fasha (the cat-girl) finds him and takes him back to her village, where he learns that the People of Purha are at war with the Hounds of Hahg.

The People of Purha set out to help Michael Kane recover the last machines from the shipwrecks but finds that the dog-men have taken them to their village. Kane and the cat-people watch the First Masters order the machines taken to the Crystal Pit and see them destroyed by the destruction of the machines. Whether they are killed by design or accident, Kane is unsure.

Accompanied by a part of the People of Purha, Kane sets out for Bagarad and is reunited with Hool Haji on the way, who has survived a few adventure of his own. Upon reaching Bagarad, they discover it destroyed, along with all the machines, through the tinkering of the barbarians.

Resolving to recross the Western Sea and return to search the Yaksha vaults, they are met by Darnad in an airship. He takes them to the underground city but they discover nothing. Flying on towards Varnal, they see a mass of people, clearly infected with the Green Death, approaching the city. Overtaking them and landing at Varnal, they decide the only course is to abandon the city leaving it to the plague-carrying invaders. After seeking and finding a seer who may be able to help them cure the disease but refuses to help them, Kane and Darnad return to their temporary camp in the hills via the city and discover the invaders cured! Realising that it must be something in the waters of the Green Lake, they set about distributing it throughout the lands affected by the plague. Once this is done, Michael Kane constructs a matter transmitter and returns to Earth, to tell Edward Powys Bradbury of his latest adventures, promising to return once in a while to relate more.

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