>Volitional Fluid, or Gods’ Tears

>It is rumoured, but not substantiated, that this substance may be found in Teleleli.

It is said to be a milky, thick fluid, like a liqueur, and beautiful to behold. It is not, however, desired for its appearance, nor even for its delicious taste, but for its ability, when treated correctly, to give the power to move with the speed of thought.

Some say that it is literally the tears of a god. Others contend that very enlightened mystics may enter a state of deep meditation, wherein they secrete the substance from their eyes or skin.

It is notable that the Tibetans ascribe various miraculous properties to the tears of Buddha and other holy men.

>Burley, or Oh-Be-Joyful

>Burley is a variety of the hemianthropoi’s pipe-weed. Smoking it will temporarily banish the effects of lack of sleep. To enhance this effect, the weed is not mixed with cheap wine or ale like other varieties. Instead it is flavoured with the essence of printers’ ink, and the paper used in books.


>These creatures have, thankfully, never been seen in Teleleli. They are only known there through descriptions given by refugees from Barsoom, who say that they came into conflict with them in the distant past.

The original appearance of the creatures is not known, although they may have resembled Barsoomians, or even been a branch of that species. The prevailing philosophy of their society seemed to be based on a belief that the mind was separate to the body, even to the brain, and a hatred of the body combined with an idealisation of the mind. Possessing advanced science, they were able to alter their bodies. Perhaps this led to a vicious cycle where they found themselves in bodies instinctively alien to them, which caused their hatred of the body to grow, and led in turn to more extreme modifications.

Whether this is the reason, it is undisputed that they altered their bodies more and more. At one period in Barsoomian history they are reported as having soft, oversized, but otherwise human- or Barsoomian-like heads, but lacking any other body. Instead, they grew headless bodies, on which they ‘rode’, controlling them by unknown means.

After many centuries their bodies were huge, and resembled machines more than biological creatures, having a metal-like skin and weapons of great power, including poisonous black smoke and a ‘Tenth Ray’, which is described as a special form of light which incinerated whatever it fell upon. They are said to have had many tentacles instead of arms and legs, and to have been able to travel land and sea with equal ease, though not to fly (the name Sky-Tyrants derives from the fact that they towered over the Barsoomians).

It strikes me as a peculiar coincidence that the loa of Haitian voodoo are said to ‘ride’ the worshippers whom they possess, and perhaps this provides some clue as to the Sky-Tyrants’ eventual fate. It may be that they managed to become altogether incorporeal. In any case, after a destructive war they are heard of no more in the history of Barsoom.

>The Flying City of the Night

>As the name would imply, this structure is a flying city. Its appearance is feared by many, since it appears only with the intention of destroying and looting. However it seems to choose its targets carefully, on political grounds. The inhabitants of the city appear to have similar views to the Conspiracy of Equals. When asked who led them, they are said to have replied “Prince Nobody” or “Captain No-one.”

As well as flight, the city seems to be capable of submerging itself under the sea, which it does to avoid pursuit. At other times it has flown away over mountain ranges or forests, slowing down land-based pursuit. It does not appear to be able to fly as high as cloud level, or to remain in the air indefinitely.

It is often said that the City will free political prisoners, debtors or slaves, and that some have gone with the city when it escaped. This has led to speculation that the inhabitants of the city may no longer be its original builders. Thus it is not known whether the inhabitants understand how the city flies.

>Brazen Head

>A Brazen Head is, as the name implies, a life-size model of a human head cast in brass or bronze, and often set with precious stones and with the head-dress of a priest, which is reputed to be able to answer any question.

It is said to speak in a voice like the piping of flutes, although some authorities say that it does not literally speak, but gives its answers on a scroll which issues from its mouth. Some say that it can only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and that it takes questions in a frustratingly literal way. Others say that anything which a Brazen Head sees or hears, it is as if all Brazen Heads in the world have seen or heard it.

There are cryptic references in the Lesser Key of King Ranjit to ‘false Heads’. But whether they give false or random answers, or cannot answer at all, is unclear.

(thanks to Telecanter for the original inspiration for this)