Part 2 out of 5
upon me and I knew that he awaited my answer as one might listen
to the reading of his sentence by the foreman of a jury.
What I advised the girl to do would seal our fate as well, since if
I bowed to the inevitable decree of age-old superstition we must
all remain and meet our fate in some horrible form within this
awful abode of horror and cruelty.
"We have the right to escape if we can," I answered. "Our own
moral senses will not be offended if we succeed, for we know that
the fabled life of love and peace in the blessed Valley of Dor is
a rank and wicked deception. We know that the valley is not sacred;
we know that the Holy Therns are not holy; that they are a race of
cruel and heartless mortals, knowing no more of the real life to
come than we do.
"Not only is it our right to bend every effort to escape--it is
a solemn duty from which we should not shrink even though we know
that we should be reviled and tortured by our own peoples when we
returned to them.
"Only thus may we carry the truth to those without, and though the
likelihood of our narrative being given credence is, I grant you,
remote, so wedded are mortals to their stupid infatuation for
impossible superstitions, we should be craven cowards indeed were
we to shirk the plain duty which confronts us.
"Again there is a chance that with the weight of the testimony of
several of us the truth of our statements may be accepted, and at
least a compromise effected which will result in the dispatching
of an expedition of investigation to this hideous mockery of heaven."
Both the girl and the green warrior stood silent in thought for
some moments. The former it was who eventually broke the silence.
"Never had I considered the matter in that light before," she said.
"Indeed would I give my life a thousand times if I could but save
a single soul from the awful life that I have led in this cruel
place. Yes, you are right, and I will go with you as far as we
can go; but I doubt that we ever shall escape."
I turned an inquiring glance toward the Thark.
"To the gates of Issus, or to the bottom of Korus," spoke the green
warrior; "to the snows to the north or to the snows to the south,
Tars Tarkas follows where John Carter leads. I have spoken."
"Come, then," I cried, "we must make the start, for we could not be
further from escape than we now are in the heart of this mountain
and within the four walls of this chamber of death."
"Come, then," said the girl, "but do not flatter yourself that
you can find no worse place than this within the territory of the
So saying she swung the secret panel that separated us from the
apartment in which I had found her, and we stepped through once
more into the presence of the other prisoners.
There were in all ten red Martians, men and women, and when we had
briefly explained our plan they decided to join forces with us,
though it was evident that it was with some considerable misgivings
that they thus tempted fate by opposing an ancient superstition,
even though each knew through cruel experience the fallacy of its
Thuvia, the girl whom I had first freed, soon had the others at
liberty. Tars Tarkas and I stripped the bodies of the two therns
of their weapons, which included swords, daggers, and two revolvers
of the curious and deadly type manufactured by the red Martians.
We distributed the weapons as far as they would go among our
followers, giving the firearms to two of the women; Thuvia being
one so armed.
With the latter as our guide we set off rapidly but cautiously
through a maze of passages, crossing great chambers hewn from the
solid metal of the cliff, following winding corridors, ascending
steep inclines, and now and again concealing ourselves in dark
recesses at the sound of approaching footsteps.
Our destination, Thuvia said, was a distant storeroom where arms
and ammunition in plenty might be found. From there she was to
lead us to the summit of the cliffs, from where it would require
both wondrous wit and mighty fighting to win our way through the
very heart of the stronghold of the Holy Therns to the world without.
"And even then, O Prince," she cried, "the arm of the Holy Thern is
long. It reaches to every nation of Barsoom. His secret temples
are hidden in the heart of every community. Wherever we go should
we escape we shall find that word of our coming has preceded us, and
death awaits us before we may pollute the air with our blasphemies."
We had proceeded for possibly an hour without serious interruption,
and Thuvia had just whispered to me that we were approaching our
first destination, when on entering a great chamber we came upon
a man, evidently a thern.
He wore in addition to his leathern trappings and jewelled ornaments
a great circlet of gold about his brow in the exact centre of which
was set an immense stone, the exact counterpart of that which I
had seen upon the breast of the little old man at the atmosphere
plant nearly twenty years before.
It is the one priceless jewel of Barsoom. Only two are known to
exist, and these were worn as the insignia of their rank and position
by the two old men in whose charge was placed the operation of the
great engines which pump the artificial atmosphere to all parts
of Mars from the huge atmosphere plant, the secret to whose mighty
portals placed in my possession the ability to save from immediate
extinction the life of a whole world.
The stone worn by the thern who confronted us was of about the same
size as that which I had seen before; an inch in diameter I should
say. It scintillated nine different and distinct rays; the seven
primary colours of our earthly prism and the two rays which are
unknown upon Earth, but whose wondrous beauty is indescribable.
As the thern saw us his eyes narrowed to two nasty slits.
"Stop!" he cried. "What means this, Thuvia?"
For answer the girl raised her revolver and fired point-blank at
him. Without a sound he sank to the earth, dead.
"Beast!" she hissed. "After all these years I am at last revenged."
Then as she turned toward me, evidently with a word of explanation
on her lips, her eyes suddenly widened as they rested upon me, and
with a little exclamation she started toward me.
"O Prince," she cried, "Fate is indeed kind to us. The way is still
difficult, but through this vile thing upon the floor we may yet
win to the outer world. Notest thou not the remarkable resemblance
between this Holy Thern and thyself?"
The man was indeed of my precise stature, nor were his eyes and
features unlike mine; but his hair was a mass of flowing yellow
locks, like those of the two I had killed, while mine is black and
"What of the resemblance?" I asked the girl Thuvia. "Do you wish
me with my black, short hair to pose as a yellow-haired priest of
this infernal cult?"
She smiled, and for answer approached the body of the man she had
slain, and kneeling beside it removed the circlet of gold from the
forehead, and then to my utter amazement lifted the entire scalp
bodily from the corpse's head.
Rising, she advanced to my side and placing the yellow wig over
my black hair, crowned me with the golden circlet set with the
"Now don his harness, Prince," she said, "and you may pass where
you will in the realms of the therns, for Sator Throg was a Holy
Thern of the Tenth Cycle, and mighty among his kind."
As I stooped to the dead man to do her bidding I noted that not a
hair grew upon his head, which was quite as bald as an egg.
"They are all thus from birth," explained Thuvia noting my surprise.
"The race from which they sprang were crowned with a luxuriant
growth of golden hair, but for many ages the present race has been
entirely bald. The wig, however, has come to be a part of their
apparel, and so important a part do they consider it that it is
cause for the deepest disgrace were a thern to appear in public
In another moment I stood garbed in the habiliments of a Holy Thern.
At Thuvia's suggestion two of the released prisoners bore the body
of the dead thern upon their shoulders with us as we continued
our journey toward the storeroom, which we reached without further
Here the keys which Thuvia bore from the dead thern of the prison
vault were the means of giving us immediate entrance to the
chamber, and very quickly we were thoroughly outfitted with arms
By this time I was so thoroughly fagged out that I could go no
further, so I threw myself upon the floor, bidding Tars Tarkas to
do likewise, and cautioning two of the released prisoners to keep
In an instant I was asleep.
CORRIDORS OF PERIL
How long I slept upon the floor of the storeroom I do not know,
but it must have been many hours.
I was awakened with a start by cries of alarm, and scarce were my
eyes opened, nor had I yet sufficiently collected my wits to quite
realize where I was, when a fusillade of shots rang out, reverberating
through the subterranean corridors in a series of deafening echoes.
In an instant I was upon my feet. A dozen lesser therns confronted
us from a large doorway at the opposite end of the storeroom from
which we had entered. About me lay the bodies of my companions,
with the exception of Thuvia and Tars Tarkas, who, like myself, had
been asleep upon the floor and thus escaped the first raking fire.
As I gained my feet the therns lowered their wicked rifles, their
faces distorted in mingled chagrin, consternation, and alarm.
Instantly I rose to the occasion.
"What means this?" I cried in tones of fierce anger. "Is Sator
Throg to be murdered by his own vassals?"
"Have mercy, O Master of the Tenth Cycle!" cried one of the fellows,
while the others edged toward the doorway as though to attempt a
surreptitious escape from the presence of the mighty one.
"Ask them their mission here," whispered Thuvia at my elbow.
"What do you here, fellows?" I cried.
"Two from the outer world are at large within the dominions of the
therns. We sought them at the command of the Father of Therns.
One was white with black hair, the other a huge green warrior,"
and here the fellow cast a suspicious glance toward Tars Tarkas.
"Here, then, is one of them," spoke Thuvia, indicating the Thark,
"and if you will look upon this dead man by the door perhaps you
will recognize the other. It was left for Sator Throg and his
poor slaves to accomplish what the lesser therns of the guard were
unable to do--we have killed one and captured the other; for this
had Sator Throg given us our liberty. And now in your stupidity
have you come and killed all but myself, and like to have killed
the mighty Sator Throg himself."
The men looked very sheepish and very scared.
"Had they not better throw these bodies to the plant men and then
return to their quarters, O Mighty One?" asked Thuvia of me.
"Yes; do as Thuvia bids you," I said.
As the men picked up the bodies I noticed that the one who stooped
to gather up the late Sator Throg started as his closer scrutiny
fell upon the upturned face, and then the fellow stole a furtive,
sneaking glance in my direction from the corner of his eye.
That he suspicioned something of the truth I could have sworn;
but that it was only a suspicion which he did not dare voice was
evidenced by his silence.
Again, as he bore the body from the room, he shot a quick but
searching glance toward me, and then his eyes fell once more upon
the bald and shiny dome of the dead man in his arms. The last
fleeting glimpse that I obtained of his profile as he passed from
my sight without the chamber revealed a cunning smile of triumph
upon his lips.
Only Tars Tarkas, Thuvia, and I were left. The fatal marksmanship
of the therns had snatched from our companions whatever slender
chance they had of gaining the perilous freedom of the world without.
So soon as the last of the gruesome procession had disappeared the
girl urged us to take up our flight once more.
She, too, had noted the questioning attitude of the thern who had
borne Sator Throg away.
"It bodes no good for us, O Prince," she said. "For even though
this fellow dared not chance accusing you in error, there be those
above with power sufficient to demand a closer scrutiny, and that,
Prince would indeed prove fatal."
I shrugged my shoulders. It seemed that in any event the outcome
of our plight must end in death. I was refreshed from my sleep,
but still weak from loss of blood. My wounds were painful. No
medicinal aid seemed possible. How I longed for the almost
miraculous healing power of the strange salves and lotions of the
green Martian women. In an hour they would have had me as new.
I was discouraged. Never had a feeling of such utter hopelessness
come over me in the face of danger. Then the long flowing, yellow
locks of the Holy Thern, caught by some vagrant draught, blew about
Might they not still open the way of freedom? If we acted in time,
might we not even yet escape before the general alarm was sounded?
We could at least try.
"What will the fellow do first, Thuvia?" I asked. "How long will
it be before they may return for us?"
"He will go directly to the Father of Therns, old Matai Shang. He
may have to wait for an audience, but since he is very high among
the lesser therns, in fact as a thorian among them, it will not be
long that Matai Shang will keep him waiting.
"Then if the Father of Therns puts credence in his story, another
hour will see the galleries and chambers, the courts and gardens,
filled with searchers."
"What we do then must be done within an hour. What is the best
way, Thuvia, the shortest way out of this celestial Hades?"
"Straight to the top of the cliffs, Prince," she replied, "and then
through the gardens to the inner courts. From there our way will
lie within the temples of the therns and across them to the outer
court. Then the ramparts--O Prince, it is hopeless. Ten thousand
warriors could not hew a way to liberty from out this awful place.
"Since the beginning of time, little by little, stone by stone, have
the therns been ever adding to the defences of their stronghold.
A continuous line of impregnable fortifications circles the outer
slopes of the Mountains of Otz.
"Within the temples that lie behind the ramparts a million fighting-men
are ever ready. The courts and gardens are filled with slaves,
with women and with children.
"None could go a stone's throw without detection."
"If there is no other way, Thuvia, why dwell upon the difficulties
of this. We must face them."
"Can we not better make the attempt after dark?" asked Tars Tarkas.
"There would seem to be no chance by day."
"There would be a little better chance by night, but even then the
ramparts are well guarded; possibly better than by day. There are
fewer abroad in the courts and gardens, though," said Thuvia.
"What is the hour?" I asked.
"It was midnight when you released me from my chains," said Thuvia.
"Two hours later we reached the storeroom. There you slept for
fourteen hours. It must now be nearly sundown again. Come, we
will go to some nearby window in the cliff and make sure."
So saying, she led the way through winding corridors until at
a sudden turn we came upon an opening which overlooked the Valley
At our right the sun was setting, a huge red orb, below the western
range of Otz. A little below us stood the Holy Thern on watch upon
his balcony. His scarlet robe of office was pulled tightly about
him in anticipation of the cold that comes so suddenly with darkness
as the sun sets. So rare is the atmosphere of Mars that it absorbs
very little heat from the sun. During the daylight hours it is
always extremely hot; at night it is intensely cold. Nor does the
thin atmosphere refract the sun's rays or diffuse its light as upon
Earth. There is no twilight on Mars. When the great orb of day
disappears beneath the horizon the effect is precisely as that of
the extinguishing of a single lamp within a chamber. From brilliant
light you are plunged without warning into utter darkness. Then
the moons come; the mysterious, magic moons of Mars, hurtling like
monster meteors low across the face of the planet.
The declining sun lighted brilliantly the eastern banks of Korus,
the crimson sward, the gorgeous forest. Beneath the trees we saw
feeding many herds of plant men. The adults stood aloft upon their
toes and their mighty tails, their talons pruning every available
leaf and twig. It was then that I understood the careful trimming
of the trees which had led me to form the mistaken idea when first
I opened my eyes upon the grove that it was the playground of a
As we watched, our eyes wandered to the rolling Iss, which issued
from the base of the cliffs beneath us. Presently there emerged
from the mountain a canoe laden with lost souls from the outer world.
There were a dozen of them. All were of the highly civilized and
cultured race of red men who are dominant on Mars.
The eyes of the herald upon the balcony beneath us fell upon the
doomed party as soon as did ours. He raised his head and leaning
far out over the low rail that rimmed his dizzy perch, voiced the
shrill, weird wail that called the demons of this hellish place to
For an instant the brutes stood with stiffly erected ears, then
they poured from the grove toward the river's bank, covering the
distance with great, ungainly leaps.
The party had landed and was standing on the sward as the awful
horde came in sight. There was a brief and futile effort of defence.
Then silence as the huge, repulsive shapes covered the bodies of
their victims and scores of sucking mouths fastened themselves to
the flesh of their prey.
I turned away in disgust.
"Their part is soon over," said Thuvia. "The great white apes get
the flesh when the plant men have drained the arteries. Look, they
are coming now."
As I turned my eyes in the direction the girl indicated, I saw a
dozen of the great white monsters running across the valley toward
the river bank. Then the sun went down and darkness that could
almost be felt engulfed us.
Thuvia lost no time in leading us toward the corridor which winds
back and forth up through the cliffs toward the surface thousands
of feet above the level on which we had been.
Twice great banths, wandering loose through the galleries, blocked
our progress, but in each instance Thuvia spoke a low word of
command and the snarling beasts slunk sullenly away.
"If you can dissolve all our obstacles as easily as you master
these fierce brutes I can see no difficulties in our way," I said
to the girl, smiling. "How do you do it?"
She laughed, and then shuddered.
"I do not quite know," she said. "When first I came here I angered
Sator Throg, because I repulsed him. He ordered me to be thrown
into one of the great pits in the inner gardens. It was filled
with banths. In my own country I had been accustomed to command.
Something in my voice, I do not know what, cowed the beasts as they
sprang to attack me.
"Instead of tearing me to pieces, as Sator Throg had desired, they
fawned at my feet. So greatly were Sator Throg and his friends
amused by the sight that they kept me to train and handle the
terrible creatures. I know them all by name. There are many of
them wandering through these lower regions. They are the scavengers.
Many prisoners die here in their chains. The banths solve the
problem of sanitation, at least in this respect.
"In the gardens and temples above they are kept in pits. The therns
fear them. It is because of the banths that they seldom venture
below ground except as their duties call them."
An idea occurred to me, suggested by what Thuvia had just said.
"Why not take a number of banths and set them loose before us above
ground?" I asked.
"It would distract attention from us, I am sure," she said.
She commenced calling in a low singsong voice that was half purr.
She continued this as we wound our tedious way through the maze of
subterranean passages and chambers.
Presently soft, padded feet sounded close behind us, and as I turned I
saw a pair of great, green eyes shining in the dark shadows at our
rear. From a diverging tunnel a sinuous, tawny form crept stealthily
Low growls and angry snarls assailed our ears on every side as we
hastened on and one by one the ferocious creatures answered the
call of their mistress.
She spoke a word to each as it joined us. Like well-schooled
terriers, they paced the corridors with us, but I could not help
but note the lathering jowls, nor the hungry expressions with which
they eyed Tars Tarkas and myself.
Soon we were entirely surrounded by some fifty of the brutes. Two
walked close on either side of Thuvia, as guards might walk. The
sleek sides of others now and then touched my own naked limbs. It
was a strange experience; the almost noiseless passage of naked human
feet and padded paws; the golden walls splashed with precious stones;
the dim light cast by the tiny radium bulbs set at considerable
distances along the roof; the huge, maned beasts of prey crowding
with low growls about us; the mighty green warrior towering high
above us all; myself crowned with the priceless diadem of a Holy
Thern; and leading the procession the beautiful girl, Thuvia.
I shall not soon forget it.
Presently we approached a great chamber more brightly lighted than
the corridors. Thuvia halted us. Quietly she stole toward the
entrance and glanced within. Then she motioned us to follow her.
The room was filled with specimens of the strange beings that
inhabit this underworld; a heterogeneous collection of hybrids--the
offspring of the prisoners from the outside world; red and green
Martians and the white race of therns.
Constant confinement below ground had wrought odd freaks upon their
skins. They more resemble corpses than living beings. Many are
deformed, others maimed, while the majority, Thuvia explained, are
As they lay sprawled about the floor, sometimes overlapping one
another, again in heaps of several bodies, they suggested instantly
to me the grotesque illustrations that I had seen in copies of
Dante's INFERNO, and what more fitting comparison? Was this not
indeed a veritable hell, peopled by lost souls, dead and damned
beyond all hope?
Picking our way carefully we threaded a winding path across the
chamber, the great banths sniffing hungrily at the tempting prey
spread before them in such tantalizing and defenceless profusion.
Several times we passed the entrances to other chambers similarly
peopled, and twice again we were compelled to cross directly through
them. In others were chained prisoners and beasts.
"Why is it that we see no therns?" I asked of Thuvia.
"They seldom traverse the underworld at night, for then it is that
the great banths prowl the dim corridors seeking their prey. The
therns fear the awful denizens of this cruel and hopeless world
that they have fostered and allowed to grow beneath their feet. The
prisoners even sometimes turn upon them and rend them. The thern
can never tell from what dark shadow an assassin may spring upon
"By day it is different. Then the corridors and chambers are filled
with guards passing to and fro; slaves from the temples above come
by hundreds to the granaries and storerooms. All is life then.
You did not see it because I led you not in the beaten tracks, but
through roundabout passages seldom used. Yet it is possible that
we may meet a thern even yet. They do occasionally find it necessary
to come here after the sun has set. Because of this I have moved
with such great caution."
But we reached the upper galleries without detection and presently
Thuvia halted us at the foot of a short, steep ascent.
"Above us," she said, "is a doorway which opens on to the inner
gardens. I have brought you thus far. From here on for four miles
to the outer ramparts our way will be beset by countless dangers.
Guards patrol the courts, the temples, the gardens. Every inch of
the ramparts themselves is beneath the eye of a sentry."
I could not understand the necessity for such an enormous force of
armed men about a spot so surrounded by mystery and superstition
that not a soul upon Barsoom would have dared to approach it even
had they known its exact location. I questioned Thuvia, asking
her what enemies the therns could fear in their impregnable fortress.
We had reached the doorway now and Thuvia was opening it.
"They fear the black pirates of Barsoom, O Prince," she said, "from
whom may our first ancestors preserve us."
The door swung open; the smell of growing things greeted my nostrils;
the cool night air blew against my cheek. The great banths sniffed
the unfamiliar odours, and then with a rush they broke past us with
low growls, swarming across the gardens beneath the lurid light of
the nearer moon.
Suddenly a great cry arose from the roofs of the temples; a cry of
alarm and warning that, taken up from point to point, ran off to
the east and to the west, from temple, court, and rampart, until
it sounded as a dim echo in the distance.
The great Thark's long-sword leaped from its scabbard; Thuvia shrank
shuddering to my side.
THE BLACK PIRATES OF BARSOOM
"What is it?" I asked of the girl.
For answer she pointed to the sky.
I looked, and there, above us, I saw shadowy bodies flitting hither
and thither high over temple, court, and garden.
Almost immediately flashes of light broke from these strange objects.
There was a roar of musketry, and then answering flashes and roars
from temple and rampart.
"The black pirates of Barsoom, O Prince," said Thuvia.
In great circles the air craft of the marauders swept lower and
lower toward the defending forces of the therns.
Volley after volley they vomited upon the temple guards; volley on
volley crashed through the thin air toward the fleeting and illusive
As the pirates swooped closer toward the ground, thern soldiery
poured from the temples into the gardens and courts. The sight of
them in the open brought a score of fliers darting toward us from
The therns fired upon them through shields affixed to their rifles,
but on, steadily on, came the grim, black craft. They were small
fliers for the most part, built for two to three men. A few larger
ones there were, but these kept high aloft dropping bombs upon the
temples from their keel batteries.
At length, with a concerted rush, evidently in response to a signal
of command, the pirates in our immediate vicinity dashed recklessly
to the ground in the very midst of the thern soldiery.
Scarcely waiting for their craft to touch, the creatures manning
them leaped among the therns with the fury of demons. Such fighting!
Never had I witnessed its like before. I had thought the green
Martians the most ferocious warriors in the universe, but the awful
abandon with which the black pirates threw themselves upon their
foes transcended everything I ever before had seen.
Beneath the brilliant light of Mars' two glorious moons the whole
scene presented itself in vivid distinctness. The golden-haired,
white-skinned therns battling with desperate courage in hand-to-hand
conflict with their ebony-skinned foemen.
Here a little knot of struggling warriors trampled a bed of gorgeous
pimalia; there the curved sword of a black man found the heart of
a thern and left its dead foeman at the foot of a wondrous statue
carved from a living ruby; yonder a dozen therns pressed a single
pirate back upon a bench of emerald, upon whose iridescent surface
a strangely beautiful Barsoomian design was traced out in inlaid
A little to one side stood Thuvia, the Thark, and I. The tide of
battle had not reached us, but the fighters from time to time swung
close enough that we might distinctly note them.
The black pirates interested me immensely. I had heard vague
rumours, little more than legends they were, during my former life
on Mars; but never had I seen them, nor talked with one who had.
They were popularly supposed to inhabit the lesser moon, from which
they descended upon Barsoom at long intervals. Where they visited
they wrought the most horrible atrocities, and when they left
carried away with them firearms and ammunition, and young girls
as prisoners. These latter, the rumour had it, they sacrificed
to some terrible god in an orgy which ended in the eating of their
I had an excellent opportunity to examine them, as the strife
occasionally brought now one and now another close to where I stood.
They were large men, possibly six feet and over in height. Their
features were clear cut and handsome in the extreme; their eyes were
well set and large, though a slight narrowness lent them a crafty
appearance; the iris, as well as I could determine by moonlight,
was of extreme blackness, while the eyeball itself was quite white
and clear. The physical structure of their bodies seemed identical
with those of the therns, the red men, and my own. Only in the
colour of their skin did they differ materially from us; that is
of the appearance of polished ebony, and odd as it may seem for
a Southerner to say it, adds to rather than detracts from their
But if their bodies are divine, their hearts, apparently, are quite
the reverse. Never did I witness such a malign lust for blood as
these demons of the outer air evinced in their mad battle with the
All about us in the garden lay their sinister craft, which the
therns for some reason, then unaccountable to me, made no effort
to injure. Now and again a black warrior would rush from a near by
temple bearing a young woman in his arms. Straight for his flier
he would leap while those of his comrades who fought near by would
rush to cover his escape.
The therns on their side would hasten to rescue the girl, and in
an instant the two would be swallowed in the vortex of a maelstrom
of yelling devils, hacking and hewing at one another, like fiends
But always, it seemed, were the black pirates of Barsoom victorious,
and the girl, brought miraculously unharmed through the conflict,
borne away into the outer darkness upon the deck of a swift flier.
Fighting similar to that which surrounded us could be heard in
both directions as far as sound carried, and Thuvia told me that
the attacks of the black pirates were usually made simultaneously
along the entire ribbon-like domain of the therns, which circles
the Valley Dor on the outer slopes of the Mountains of Otz.
As the fighting receded from our position for a moment, Thuvia
turned toward me with a question.
"Do you understand now, O Prince," she said, "why a million warriors
guard the domains of the Holy Therns by day and by night?"
"The scene you are witnessing now is but a repetition of what I
have seen enacted a score of times during the fifteen years I have
been a prisoner here. From time immemorial the black pirates of
Barsoom have preyed upon the Holy Therns.
"Yet they never carry their expeditions to a point, as one might
readily believe it was in their power to do, where the extermination
of the race of therns is threatened. It is as though they but
utilized the race as playthings, with which they satisfy their
ferocious lust for fighting; and from whom they collect toll in
arms and ammunition and in prisoners."
"Why don't they jump in and destroy these fliers?" I asked. "That
would soon put a stop to the attacks, or at least the blacks would
scarce be so bold. Why, see how perfectly unguarded they leave
their craft, as though they were lying safe in their own hangars
"The therns do not dare. They tried it once, ages ago, but the
next night and for a whole moon thereafter a thousand great black
battleships circled the Mountains of Otz, pouring tons of projectiles
upon the temples, the gardens, and the courts, until every thern who
was not killed was driven for safety into the subterranean galleries.
"The therns know that they live at all only by the sufferance of
the black men. They were near to extermination that once and they
will not venture risking it again."
As she ceased talking a new element was instilled into the conflict.
It came from a source equally unlooked for by either thern or pirate.
The great banths which we had liberated in the garden had evidently
been awed at first by the sound of the battle, the yelling of the
warriors and the loud report of rifle and bomb.
But now they must have become angered by the continuous noise and
excited by the smell of new blood, for all of a sudden a great form
shot from a clump of low shrubbery into the midst of a struggling
mass of humanity. A horrid scream of bestial rage broke from the
banth as he felt warm flesh beneath his powerful talons.
As though his cry was but a signal to the others, the entire great
pack hurled themselves among the fighters. Panic reigned in an
instant. Thern and black man turned alike against the common enemy,
for the banths showed no partiality toward either.
The awful beasts bore down a hundred men by the mere weight of their
great bodies as they hurled themselves into the thick of the fight.
Leaping and clawing, they mowed down the warriors with their powerful
paws, turning for an instant to rend their victims with frightful
The scene was fascinating in its terribleness, but suddenly it came
to me that we were wasting valuable time watching this conflict,
which in itself might prove a means of our escape.
The therns were so engaged with their terrible assailants that now,
if ever, escape should be comparatively easy. I turned to search
for an opening through the contending hordes. If we could but reach
the ramparts we might find that the pirates somewhere had thinned
the guarding forces and left a way open to us to the world without.
As my eyes wandered about the garden, the sight of the hundreds of
air craft lying unguarded around us suggested the simplest avenue
to freedom. Why it had not occurred to me before! I was thoroughly
familiar with the mechanism of every known make of flier on Barsoom.
For nine years I had sailed and fought with the navy of Helium.
I had raced through space on the tiny one-man air scout and I had
commanded the greatest battleship that ever had floated in the thin
air of dying Mars.
To think, with me, is to act. Grasping Thuvia by the arm, I
whispered to Tars Tarkas to follow me. Quickly we glided toward a
small flier which lay furthest from the battling warriors. Another
instant found us huddled on the tiny deck. My hand was on the
starting lever. I pressed my thumb upon the button which controls
the ray of repulsion, that splendid discovery of the Martians which
permits them to navigate the thin atmosphere of their planet in
huge ships that dwarf the dreadnoughts of our earthly navies into
The craft swayed slightly but she did not move. Then a new cry of
warning broke upon our ears. Turning, I saw a dozen black pirates
dashing toward us from the melee. We had been discovered. With
shrieks of rage the demons sprang for us. With frenzied insistence
I continued to press the little button which should have sent us
racing out into space, but still the vessel refused to budge. Then
it came to me--the reason that she would not rise.
We had stumbled upon a two-man flier. Its ray tanks were charged
only with sufficient repulsive energy to lift two ordinary men.
The Thark's great weight was anchoring us to our doom.
The blacks were nearly upon us. There was not an instant to be
lost in hesitation or doubt.
I pressed the button far in and locked it. Then I set the lever
at high speed and as the blacks came yelling upon us I slipped from
the craft's deck and with drawn long-sword met the attack.
At the same moment a girl's shriek rang out behind me and an instant
later, as the blacks fell upon me. I heard far above my head, and
faintly, in Thuvia's voice: "My Prince, O my Prince; I would rather
remain and die with--" But the rest was lost in the noise of my
I knew though that my ruse had worked and that temporarily at
least Thuvia and Tars Tarkas were safe, and the means of escape
For a moment it seemed that I could not withstand the weight of
numbers that confronted me, but again, as on so many other occasions
when I had been called upon to face fearful odds upon this planet
of warriors and fierce beasts, I found that my earthly strength
so far transcended that of my opponents that the odds were not so
greatly against me as they appeared.
My seething blade wove a net of death about me. For an instant
the blacks pressed close to reach me with their shorter swords,
but presently they gave back, and the esteem in which they suddenly
had learned to hold my sword arm was writ large upon each countenance.
I knew though that it was but a question of minutes before their
greater numbers would wear me down, or get around my guard. I must
go down eventually to certain death before them. I shuddered at
the thought of it, dying thus in this terrible place where no word
of my end ever could reach my Dejah Thoris. Dying at the hands of
nameless black men in the gardens of the cruel therns.
Then my old-time spirit reasserted itself. The fighting blood of
my Virginian sires coursed hot through my veins. The fierce blood
lust and the joy of battle surged over me. The fighting smile that
has brought consternation to a thousand foemen touched my lips. I
put the thought of death out of my mind, and fell upon my antagonists
with fury that those who escaped will remember to their dying day.
That others would press to the support of those who faced me I
knew, so even as I fought I kept my wits at work, searching for an
avenue of escape.
It came from an unexpected quarter out of the black night behind
me. I had just disarmed a huge fellow who had given me a desperate
struggle, and for a moment the blacks stood back for a breathing
They eyed me with malignant fury, yet withal there was a touch of
respect in their demeanour.
"Thern," said one, "you fight like a Dator. But for your detestable
yellow hair and your white skin you would be an honour to the First
Born of Barsoom."
"I am no thern," I said, and was about to explain that I was from
another world, thinking that by patching a truce with these fellows
and fighting with them against the therns I might enlist their aid
in regaining my liberty. But just at that moment a heavy object
smote me a resounding whack between my shoulders that nearly felled
me to the ground.
As I turned to meet this new enemy an object passed over my shoulder,
striking one of my assailants squarely in the face and knocking him
senseless to the sward. At the same instant I saw that the thing
that had struck us was the trailing anchor of a rather fair-sized
air vessel; possibly a ten man cruiser.
The ship was floating slowly above us, not more than fifty feet
over our heads. Instantly the one chance for escape that it offered
presented itself to me. The vessel was slowly rising and now the
anchor was beyond the blacks who faced me and several feet above
With a bound that left them gaping in wide-eyed astonishment I
sprang completely over them. A second leap carried me just high
enough to grasp the now rapidly receding anchor.
But I was successful, and there I hung by one hand, dragging through
the branches of the higher vegetation of the gardens, while my late
foemen shrieked and howled beneath me.
Presently the vessel veered toward the west and then swung gracefully
to the south. In another instant I was carried beyond the crest
of the Golden Cliffs, out over the Valley Dor, where, six thousand
feet below me, the Lost Sea of Korus lay shimmering in the moonlight.
Carefully I climbed to a sitting posture across the anchor's arms.
I wondered if by chance the vessel might be deserted. I hoped so.
Or possibly it might belong to a friendly people, and have wandered
by accident almost within the clutches of the pirates and the
therns. The fact that it was retreating from the scene of battle
lent colour to this hypothesis.
But I decided to know positively, and at once, so, with the greatest
caution, I commenced to climb slowly up the anchor chain toward
the deck above me.
One hand had just reached for the vessel's rail and found it when
a fierce black face was thrust over the side and eyes filled with
triumphant hate looked into mine.
A FAIR GODDESS
For an instant the black pirate and I remained motionless, glaring
into each other's eyes. Then a grim smile curled the handsome
lips above me, as an ebony hand came slowly in sight from above
the edge of the deck and the cold, hollow eye of a revolver sought
the centre of my forehead.
Simultaneously my free hand shot out for the black throat, just
within reach, and the ebony finger tightened on the trigger. The
pirate's hissing, "Die, cursed thern," was half choked in his
windpipe by my clutching fingers. The hammer fell with a futile
click upon an empty chamber.
Before he could fire again I had pulled him so far over the edge
of the deck that he was forced to drop his firearm and clutch the
rail with both hands.
My grasp upon his throat effectually prevented any outcry, and so
we struggled in grim silence; he to tear away from my hold, I to
drag him over to his death.
His face was taking on a livid hue, his eyes were bulging from
their sockets. It was evident to him that he soon must die unless
he tore loose from the steel fingers that were choking the life
from him. With a final effort he threw himself further back upon
the deck, at the same instant releasing his hold upon the rail to
tear frantically with both hands at my fingers in an effort to drag
them from his throat.
That little second was all that I awaited. With one mighty downward
surge I swept him clear of the deck. His falling body came near
to tearing me from the frail hold that my single free hand had upon
the anchor chain and plunging me with him to the waters of the sea
I did not relinquish my grasp upon him, however, for I knew that
a single shriek from those lips as he hurtled to his death in the
silent waters of the sea would bring his comrades from above to
Instead I held grimly to him, choking, ever choking, while his
frantic struggles dragged me lower and lower toward the end of the
Gradually his contortions became spasmodic, lessening by degrees
until they ceased entirely. Then I released my hold upon him and
in an instant he was swallowed by the black shadows far below.
Again I climbed to the ship's rail. This time I succeeded
in raising my eyes to the level of the deck, where I could take a
careful survey of the conditions immediately confronting me.
The nearer moon had passed below the horizon, but the clear effulgence
of the further satellite bathed the deck of the cruiser, bringing
into sharp relief the bodies of six or eight black men sprawled
about in sleep.
Huddled close to the base of a rapid fire gun was a young white
girl, securely bound. Her eyes were widespread in an expression
of horrified anticipation and fixed directly upon me as I came in
sight above the edge of the deck.
Unutterable relief instantly filled them as they fell upon the
mystic jewel which sparkled in the centre of my stolen headpiece.
She did not speak. Instead her eyes warned me to beware the sleeping
figures that surrounded her.
Noiselessly I gained the deck. The girl nodded to me to approach
her. As I bent low she whispered to me to release her.
"I can aid you," she said, "and you will need all the aid available
when they awaken."
"Some of them will awake in Korus," I replied smiling.
She caught the meaning of my words, and the cruelty of her
answering smile horrified me. One is not astonished by cruelty
in a hideous face, but when it touches the features of a goddess
whose fine-chiselled lineaments might more fittingly portray love
and beauty, the contrast is appalling.
Quickly I released her.
"Give me a revolver," she whispered. "I can use that upon those
your sword does not silence in time."
I did as she bid. Then I turned toward the distasteful work that
lay before me. This was no time for fine compunctions, nor for
a chivalry that these cruel demons would neither appreciate nor
Stealthily I approached the nearest sleeper. When he awoke he was
well on his journey to the bosom of Korus. His piercing shriek as
consciousness returned to him came faintly up to us from the black
The second awoke as I touched him, and, though I succeeded in
hurling him from the cruiser's deck, his wild cry of alarm brought
the remaining pirates to their feet. There were five of them.
As they arose the girl's revolver spoke in sharp staccato and one
sank back to the deck again to rise no more.
The others rushed madly upon me with drawn swords. The girl
evidently dared not fire for fear of wounding me, but I saw her
sneak stealthily and cat-like toward the flank of the attackers.
Then they were on me.
For a few minutes I experienced some of the hottest fighting I had
ever passed through. The quarters were too small for foot work.
It was stand your ground and give and take. At first I took
considerably more than I gave, but presently I got beneath one
fellow's guard and had the satisfaction of seeing him collapse upon
The others redoubled their efforts. The crashing of their blades
upon mine raised a terrific din that might have been heard for
miles through the silent night. Sparks flew as steel smote steel,
and then there was the dull and sickening sound of a shoulder bone
parting beneath the keen edge of my Martian sword.
Three now faced me, but the girl was working her way to a point
that would soon permit her to reduce the number by one at least.
Then things happened with such amazing rapidity that I can scarce
comprehend even now all that took place in that brief instant.
The three rushed me with the evident purpose of forcing me back
the few steps that would carry my body over the rail into the void
below. At the same instant the girl fired and my sword arm made
two moves. One man dropped with a bullet in his brain; a sword
flew clattering across the deck and dropped over the edge beyond
as I disarmed one of my opponents and the third went down with my
blade buried to the hilt in his breast and three feet of it protruding
from his back, and falling wrenched the sword from my grasp.
Disarmed myself, I now faced my remaining foeman, whose own sword
lay somewhere thousands of feet below us, lost in the Lost Sea.
The new conditions seemed to please my adversary, for a smile of
satisfaction bared his gleaming teeth as he rushed at me bare-handed.
The great muscles which rolled beneath his glossy black hide
evidently assured him that here was easy prey, not worth the trouble
of drawing the dagger from his harness.
I let him come almost upon me. Then I ducked beneath his outstretched
arms, at the same time sidestepping to the right. Pivoting on my
left toe, I swung a terrific right to his jaw, and, like a felled
ox, he dropped in his tracks.
A low, silvery laugh rang out behind me.
"You are no thern," said the sweet voice of my companion, "for
all your golden locks or the harness of Sator Throg. Never lived
there upon all Barsoom before one who could fight as you have fought
this night. Who are you?"
"I am John Carter, Prince of the House of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
Helium," I replied. "And whom," I added, "has the honour of serving
been accorded me?"
She hesitated a moment before speaking. Then she asked:
"You are no thern. Are you an enemy of the therns?"
"I have been in the territory of the therns for a day and a half.
During that entire time my life has been in constant danger. I
have been harassed and persecuted. Armed men and fierce beasts
have been set upon me. I had no quarrel with the therns before,
but can you wonder that I feel no great love for them now? I have
She looked at me intently for several minutes before she replied.
It was as though she were attempting to read my inmost soul, to
judge my character and my standards of chivalry in that long-drawn,
Apparently the inventory satisfied her.
"I am Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang, Holy Hekkador of the Holy
Therns, Father of Therns, Master of Life and Death upon Barsoom,
Brother of Issus, Prince of Life Eternal."
At that moment I noticed that the black I had dropped with my fist
was commencing to show signs of returning consciousness. I sprang
to his side. Stripping his harness from him I securely bound his
hands behind his back, and after similarly fastening his feet tied
him to a heavy gun carriage.
"Why not the simpler way?" asked Phaidor.
"I do not understand. What 'simpler way'?" I replied.
With a slight shrug of her lovely shoulders she made a gesture with
her hands personating the casting of something over the craft's
"I am no murderer," I said. "I kill in self-defence only."
She looked at me narrowly. Then she puckered those divine brows
of hers, and shook her head. She could not comprehend.
Well, neither had my own Dejah Thoris been able to understand what
to her had seemed a foolish and dangerous policy toward enemies.
Upon Barsoom, quarter is neither asked nor given, and each dead man
means so much more of the waning resources of this dying planet to
be divided amongst those who survive.
But there seemed a subtle difference here between the manner in
which this girl contemplated the dispatching of an enemy and the
tender-hearted regret of my own princess for the stern necessity
which demanded it.
I think that Phaidor regretted the thrill that the spectacle would
have afforded her rather than the fact that my decision left another
enemy alive to threaten us.
The man had now regained full possession of his faculties, and
was regarding us intently from where he lay bound upon the deck.
He was a handsome fellow, clean limbed and powerful, with an
intelligent face and features of such exquisite chiselling that
Adonis himself might have envied him.
The vessel, unguided, had been moving slowly across the valley;
but now I thought it time to take the helm and direct her course.
Only in a very general way could I guess the location of the Valley
Dor. That it was far south of the equator was evident from the
constellations, but I was not sufficiently a Martian astronomer
to come much closer than a rough guess without the splendid charts
and delicate instruments with which, as an officer in the Heliumite
Navy, I had formerly reckoned the positions of the vessels on which
That a northerly course would quickest lead me toward the more
settled portions of the planet immediately decided the direction
that I should steer. Beneath my hand the cruiser swung gracefully
about. Then the button which controlled the repulsive rays sent us
soaring far out into space. With speed lever pulled to the last
notch, we raced toward the north as we rose ever farther and farther
above that terrible valley of death.
As we passed at a dizzy height over the narrow domains of the therns
the flash of powder far below bore mute witness to the ferocity of
the battle that still raged along that cruel frontier. No sound
of conflict reached our ears, for in the rarefied atmosphere of our
great altitude no sound wave could penetrate; they were dissipated
in thin air far below us.
It became intensely cold. Breathing was difficult. The girl,
Phaidor, and the black pirate kept their eyes glued upon me. At
length the girl spoke.
"Unconsciousness comes quickly at this altitude," she said quietly.
"Unless you are inviting death for us all you had best drop, and
There was no fear in her voice. It was as one might say: "You had
better carry an umbrella. It is going to rain."
I dropped the vessel quickly to a lower level. Nor was I a moment
too soon. The girl had swooned.
The black, too, was unconscious, while I, myself, retained my senses,
I think, only by sheer will. The one on whom all responsibility
rests is apt to endure the most.
We were swinging along low above the foothills of the Otz. It
was comparatively warm and there was plenty of air for our starved
lungs, so I was not surprised to see the black open his eyes, and
a moment later the girl also.
"It was a close call," she said.
"It has taught me two things though," I replied.
"That even Phaidor, daughter of the Master of Life and Death, is
mortal," I said smiling.
"There is immortality only in Issus," she replied. "And Issus is
for the race of therns alone. Thus am I immortal."
I caught a fleeting grin passing across the features of the black
as he heard her words. I did not then understand why he smiled.
Later I was to learn, and she, too, in a most horrible manner.
"If the other thing you have just learned," she continued, "has
led to as erroneous deductions as the first you are little richer
in knowledge than you were before."
"The other," I replied, "is that our dusky friend here does not hail
from the nearer moon--he was like to have died at a few thousand
feet above Barsoom. Had we continued the five thousand miles that
lie between Thuria and the planet he would have been but the frozen
memory of a man."
Phaidor looked at the black in evident astonishment.
"If you are not of Thuria, then where?" she asked.
He shrugged his shoulders and turned his eyes elsewhere, but did
The girl stamped her little foot in a peremptory manner.
"The daughter of Matai Shang is not accustomed to having her queries
remain unanswered," she said. "One of the lesser breed should feel
honoured that a member of the holy race that was born to inherit
life eternal should deign even to notice him."
Again the black smiled that wicked, knowing smile.
"Xodar, Dator of the First Born of Barsoom, is accustomed to give
commands, not to receive them," replied the black pirate. Then,
turning to me, "What are your intentions concerning me?"
"I intend taking you both back to Helium," I said. "No harm will
come to you. You will find the red men of Helium a kindly and
magnanimous race, but if they listen to me there will be no more
voluntary pilgrimages down the river Iss, and the impossible belief
that they have cherished for ages will be shattered into a thousand
"Are you of Helium?" he asked.
"I am a Prince of the House of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium," I
replied, "but I am not of Barsoom. I am of another world."
Xodar looked at me intently for a few moments.
"I can well believe that you are not of Barsoom," he said at
length. "None of this world could have bested eight of the First
Born single-handed. But how is it that you wear the golden hair
and the jewelled circlet of a Holy Thern?" He emphasized the word
holy with a touch of irony.
"I had forgotten them," I said. "They are the spoils of conquest,"
and with a sweep of my hand I removed the disguise from my head.
When the black's eyes fell on my close-cropped black hair they
opened in astonishment. Evidently he had looked for the bald pate
of a thern.
"You are indeed of another world," he said, a touch of awe in his
voice. "With the skin of a thern, the black hair of a First Born
and the muscles of a dozen Dators it was no disgrace even for Xodar
to acknowledge your supremacy. A thing he could never do were you
a Barsoomian," he added.
"You are travelling several laps ahead of me, my friend,"
I interrupted. "I glean that your name is Xodar, but whom, pray,
are the First Born, and what a Dator, and why, if you were conquered
by a Barsoomian, could you not acknowledge it?"
"The First Born of Barsoom," he explained, "are the race of black
men of which I am a Dator, or, as the lesser Barsoomians would
say, Prince. My race is the oldest on the planet. We trace our
lineage, unbroken, direct to the Tree of Life which flourished in
the centre of the Valley Dor twenty-three million years ago.
"For countless ages the fruit of this tree underwent the gradual
changes of evolution, passing by degrees from true plant life to
a combination of plant and animal. In the first stages the fruit
of the tree possessed only the power of independent muscular action,
while the stem remained attached to the parent plant; later a brain
developed in the fruit, so that hanging there by their long stems
they thought and moved as individuals.
"Then, with the development of perceptions came a comparison of
them; judgments were reached and compared, and thus reason and the
power to reason were born upon Barsoom.
"Ages passed. Many forms of life came and went upon the Tree of
Life, but still all were attached to the parent plant by stems of
varying lengths. At length the fruit tree consisted in tiny plant
men, such as we now see reproduced in such huge dimensions in the
Valley Dor, but still hanging to the limbs and branches of the tree
by the stems which grew from the tops of their heads.
"The buds from which the plant men blossomed resembled large nuts
about a foot in diameter, divided by double partition walls into
four sections. In one section grew the plant man, in another a
sixteen-legged worm, in the third the progenitor of the white ape
and in the fourth the primaeval black man of Barsoom.
"When the bud burst the plant man remained dangling at the end of
his stem, but the three other sections fell to the ground, where the
efforts of their imprisoned occupants to escape sent them hopping
about in all directions.
"Thus as time went on, all Barsoom was covered with these imprisoned
creatures. For countless ages they lived their long lives within
their hard shells, hopping and skipping about the broad planet;
falling into rivers, lakes, and seas, to be still further spread
about the surface of the new world.
"Countless billions died before the first black man broke through
his prison walls into the light of day. Prompted by curiosity, he
broke open other shells and the peopling of Barsoom commenced.
"The pure strain of the blood of this first black man has remained
untainted by admixture with other creatures in the race of which
I am a member; but from the sixteen-legged worm, the first ape and
renegade black man has sprung every other form of animal life upon
"The therns," and he smiled maliciously as he spoke, "are but the
result of ages of evolution from the pure white ape of antiquity.
They are a lower order still. There is but one race of true and
immortal humans on Barsoom. It is the race of black men.
"The Tree of Life is dead, but before it died the plant men learned
to detach themselves from it and roam the face of Barsoom with the
other children of the First Parent.
"Now their bisexuality permits them to reproduce themselves after
the manner of true plants, but otherwise they have progressed
but little in all the ages of their existence. Their actions and
movements are largely matters of instinct and not guided to any great
extent by reason, since the brain of a plant man is but a trifle
larger than the end of your smallest finger. They live upon
vegetation and the blood of animals, and their brain is just large
enough to direct their movements in the direction of food, and to
translate the food sensations which are carried to it from their
eyes and ears. They have no sense of self-preservation and so are
entirely without fear in the face of danger. That is why they are
such terrible antagonists in combat."
I wondered why the black man took such pains to discourse thus at
length to enemies upon the genesis of life Barsoomian. It seemed
a strangely inopportune moment for a proud member of a proud race
to unbend in casual conversation with a captor. Especially in view
of the fact that the black still lay securely bound upon the deck.
It was the faintest straying of his eye beyond me for the barest
fraction of a second that explained his motive for thus dragging
out my interest in his truly absorbing story.
He lay a little forward of where I stood at the levers, and thus
he faced the stern of the vessel as he addressed me. It was at
the end of his description of the plant men that I caught his eye
fixed momentarily upon something behind me.
Nor could I be mistaken in the swift gleam of triumph that brightened
those dark orbs for an instant.
Some time before I had reduced our speed, for we had left the Valley
Dor many miles astern, and I felt comparatively safe.
I turned an apprehensive glance behind me, and the sight that I
saw froze the new-born hope of freedom that had been springing up
A great battleship, forging silent and unlighted through the dark
night, loomed close astern.
THE DEPTHS OF OMEAN
Now I realized why the black pirate had kept me engrossed with his
strange tale. For miles he had sensed the approach of succour,
and but for that single tell-tale glance the battleship would have
been directly above us in another moment, and the boarding party
which was doubtless even now swinging in their harness from the
ship's keel, would have swarmed our deck, placing my rising hope
of escape in sudden and total eclipse.
I was too old a hand in aerial warfare to be at a loss now for the
right manoeuvre. Simultaneously I reversed the engines and dropped
the little vessel a sheer hundred feet.
Above my head I could see the dangling forms of the boarding party
as the battleship raced over us. Then I rose at a sharp angle,
throwing my speed lever to its last notch.
Like a bolt from a crossbow my splendid craft shot its steel prow
straight at the whirring propellers of the giant above us. If I
could but touch them the huge bulk would be disabled for hours and
escape once more possible.
At the same instant the sun shot above the horizon, disclosing a
hundred grim, black faces peering over the stern of the battleship
At sight of us a shout of rage went up from a hundred throats. Orders
were shouted, but it was too late to save the giant propellers,
and with a crash we rammed them.
Instantly with the shock of impact I reversed my engine, but my
prow was wedged in the hole it had made in the battleship's stern.
Only a second I hung there before tearing away, but that second
was amply long to swarm my deck with black devils.
There was no fight. In the first place there was no room to fight.
We were simply submerged by numbers. Then as swords menaced me a
command from Xodar stayed the hands of his fellows.
"Secure them," he said, "but do not injure them."
Several of the pirates already had released Xodar. He now personally
attended to my disarming and saw that I was properly bound. At
least he thought that the binding was secure. It would have been
had I been a Martian, but I had to smile at the puny strands that
confined my wrists. When the time came I could snap them as they
had been cotton string.
The girl they bound also, and then they fastened us together. In
the meantime they had brought our craft alongside the disabled
battleship, and soon we were transported to the latter's deck.
Fully a thousand black men manned the great engine of destruction.
Her decks were crowded with them as they pressed forward as far as
discipline would permit to get a glimpse of their captives.
The girl's beauty elicited many brutal comments and vulgar jests.
It was evident that these self-thought supermen were far inferior
to the red men of Barsoom in refinement and in chivalry.
My close-cropped black hair and thern complexion were the subjects
of much comment. When Xodar told his fellow nobles of my fighting
ability and strange origin they crowded about me with numerous
The fact that I wore the harness and metal of a thern who had been
killed by a member of my party convinced them that I was an enemy
of their hereditary foes, and placed me on a better footing in
Without exception the blacks were handsome men, and well built.
The officers were conspicuous through the wondrous magnificence
of their resplendent trappings. Many harnesses were so encrusted
with gold, platinum, silver and precious stones as to entirely hide
the leather beneath.
The harness of the commanding officer was a solid mass of diamonds.
Against the ebony background of his skin they blazed out with a
peculiarly accentuated effulgence. The whole scene was enchanting.
The handsome men; the barbaric splendour of the accoutrements; the
polished skeel wood of the deck; the gloriously grained sorapus
of the cabins, inlaid with priceless jewels and precious metals in
intricate and beautiful design; the burnished gold of hand rails;
the shining metal of the guns.
Phaidor and I were taken below decks, where, still fast bound,
we were thrown into a small compartment which contained a single
port-hole. As our escort left us they barred the door behind them.
We could hear the men working on the broken propellers, and from the
port-hole we could see that the vessel was drifting lazily toward
For some time neither of us spoke. Each was occupied with his
own thoughts. For my part I was wondering as to the fate of Tars
Tarkas and the girl, Thuvia.
Even if they succeeded in eluding pursuit they must eventually fall
into the hands of either red men or green, and as fugitives from
the Valley Dor they could look for but little else than a swift
and terrible death.
How I wished that I might have accompanied them. It seemed to me
that I could not fail to impress upon the intelligent red men of
Barsoom the wicked deception that a cruel and senseless superstition
had foisted upon them.
Tardos Mors would believe me. Of that I was positive. And that
he would have the courage of his convictions my knowledge of his
character assured me. Dejah Thoris would believe me. Not a doubt
as to that entered my head. Then there were a thousand of my red
and green warrior friends whom I knew would face eternal damnation
gladly for my sake. Like Tars Tarkas, where I led they would
My only danger lay in that should I ever escape the black pirates
it might be to fall into the hands of unfriendly red or green men.
Then it would mean short shrift for me.
Well, there seemed little to worry about on that score, for the
likelihood of my ever escaping the blacks was extremely remote.
The girl and I were linked together by a rope which permitted us
to move only about three or four feet from each other. When we had
entered the compartment we had seated ourselves upon a low bench
beneath the porthole. The bench was the only furniture of the
room. It was of sorapus wood. The floor, ceiling and walls were
of carborundum aluminum, a light, impenetrable composition extensively
utilized in the construction of Martian fighting ships.
As I had sat meditating upon the future my eyes had been riveted upon
the port-hole which was just level with them as I sat. Suddenly I
looked toward Phaidor. She was regarding me with a strange expression
I had not before seen upon her face. She was very beautiful then.
Instantly her white lids veiled her eyes, and I thought I discovered
a delicate flush tingeing her cheek. Evidently she was embarrassed
at having been detected in the act of staring at a lesser creature,
"Do you find the study of the lower orders interesting?" I asked,
She looked up again with a nervous but relieved little laugh.
"Oh very," she said, "especially when they have such excellent
It was my turn to flush, but I did not. I felt that she was poking
fun at me, and I admired a brave heart that could look for humour
on the road to death, and so I laughed with her.
"Do you know where we are going?" she said.
"To solve the mystery of the eternal hereafter, I imagine," I
"I am going to a worse fate than that," she said, with a little
"What do you mean?"
"I can only guess," she replied, "since no thern damsel of all the
millions that have been stolen away by black pirates during the
ages they have raided our domains has ever returned to narrate her
experiences among them. That they never take a man prisoner lends
strength to the belief that the fate of the girls they steal is
worse than death."
"Is it not a just retribution?" I could not help but ask.
"What do you mean?"
"Do not the therns themselves do likewise with the poor creatures
who take the voluntary pilgrimage down the River of Mystery? Was
not Thuvia for fifteen years a plaything and a slave? Is it less
than just that you should suffer as you have caused others to
"You do not understand," she replied. "We therns are a holy race.
It is an honour to a lesser creature to be a slave among us. Did
we not occasionally save a few of the lower orders that stupidly
float down an unknown river to an unknown end all would become the
prey of the plant men and the apes."
"But do you not by every means encourage the superstition among
those of the outside world?" I argued. "That is the wickedest of
your deeds. Can you tell me why you foster the cruel deception?"
"All life on Barsoom," she said, "is created solely for the support
of the race of therns. How else could we live did the outer world
not furnish our labour and our food? Think you that a thern would
demean himself by labour?"
"It is true then that you eat human flesh?" I asked in horror.
She looked at me in pitying commiseration for my ignorance.
"Truly we eat the flesh of the lower orders. Do not you also?"
"The flesh of beasts, yes," I replied, "but not the flesh of man."
"As man may eat of the flesh of beasts, so may gods eat of the
flesh of man. The Holy Therns are the gods of Barsoom."
I was disgusted and I imagine that I showed it.
"You are an unbeliever now," she continued gently, "but should we
be fortunate enough to escape the clutches of the black pirates and
come again to the court of Matai Shang I think that we shall find
an argument to convince you of the error of your ways. And--," she
hesitated, "perhaps we shall find a way to keep you as--as--one of
Again her eyes dropped to the floor, and a faint colour suffused
her cheek. I could not understand her meaning; nor did I for a
long time. Dejah Thoris was wont to say that in some things I was
a veritable simpleton, and I guess that she was right.
"I fear that I would ill requite your father's hospitality," I
answered, "since the first thing that I should do were I a thern
would be to set an armed guard at the mouth of the River Iss to
escort the poor deluded voyagers back to the outer world. Also
should I devote my life to the extermination of the hideous plant
men and their horrible companions, the great white apes."
She looked at me really horror struck.
"No, no," she cried, "you must not say such terribly sacrilegious
things--you must not even think them. Should they ever guess that
you entertained such frightful thoughts, should we chance to regain
the temples of the therns, they would mete out a frightful death
to you. Not even my--my--" Again she flushed, and started over.
"Not even I could save you."
I said no more. Evidently it was useless. She was even more
steeped in superstition than the Martians of the outer world. They
only worshipped a beautiful hope for a life of love and peace and
happiness in the hereafter. The therns worshipped the hideous plant
men and the apes, or at least they reverenced them as the abodes
of the departed spirits of their own dead.
At this point the door of our prison opened to admit Xodar.
He smiled pleasantly at me, and when he smiled his expression was
kindly--anything but cruel or vindictive.
"Since you cannot escape under any circumstances," he said, "I
cannot see the necessity for keeping you confined below. I will
cut your bonds and you may come on deck. You will witness something
very interesting, and as you never shall return to the outer world
it will do no harm to permit you to see it. You will see what
no other than the First Born and their slaves know the existence
of--the subterranean entrance to the Holy Land, to the real heaven
"It will be an excellent lesson for this daughter of the therns,"
he added, "for she shall see the Temple of Issus, and Issus,
perchance, shall embrace her."
Phaidor's head went high.
"What blasphemy is this, dog of a pirate?" she cried. "Issus would
wipe out your entire breed an' you ever came within sight of her
"You have much to learn, thern," replied Xodar, with an ugly smile,
"nor do I envy you the manner in which you will learn it."
As we came on deck I saw to my surprise that the vessel was passing
over a great field of snow and ice. As far as the eye could reach
in any direction naught else was visible.
There could be but one solution to the mystery. We were above the
south polar ice cap. Only at the poles of Mars is there ice or
snow upon the planet. No sign of life appeared below us. Evidently
we were too far south even for the great fur-bearing animals which
the Martians so delight in hunting.
Xodar was at my side as I stood looking out over the ship's rail.
"What course?" I asked him.
"A little west of south," he replied. "You will see the Otz Valley
directly. We shall skirt it for a few hundred miles."
"The Otz Valley!" I exclaimed; "but, man, is not there where lie
the domains of the therns from which I but just escaped?"
"Yes," answered Xodar. "You crossed this ice field last night in
the long chase that you led us. The Otz Valley lies in a mighty
depression at the south pole. It is sunk thousands of feet below
the level of the surrounding country, like a great round bowl. A
hundred miles from its northern boundary rise the Otz Mountains
which circle the inner Valley of Dor, in the exact centre of which
lies the Lost Sea of Korus. On the shore of this sea stands the
Golden Temple of Issus in the Land of the First Born. It is there
that we are bound."
As I looked I commenced to realize why it was that in all the ages
only one had escaped from the Valley Dor. My only wonder was that
even the one had been successful. To cross this frozen, wind-swept
waste of bleak ice alone and on foot would be impossible.
"Only by air boat could the journey be made," I finished aloud.
"It was thus that one did escape the therns in bygone times; but
none has ever escaped the First Born," said Xodar, with a touch of
pride in his voice.
We had now reached the southernmost extremity of the great ice
barrier. It ended abruptly in a sheer wall thousands of feet high
at the base of which stretched a level valley, broken here and
there by low rolling hills and little clumps of forest, and with
tiny rivers formed by the melting of the ice barrier at its base.
Once we passed far above what seemed to be a deep canyon-like rift
stretching from the ice wall on the north across the valley as far
as the eye could reach. "That is the bed of the River Iss," said
Xodar. "It runs far beneath the ice field, and below the level of
the Valley Otz, but its canyon is open here."
Presently I descried what I took to be a village, and pointing it
out to Xodar asked him what it might be.
"It is a village of lost souls," he answered, laughing. "This strip
between the ice barrier and the mountains is considered neutral
ground. Some turn off from their voluntary pilgrimage down the
Iss, and, scaling the awful walls of its canyon below us, stop in
the valley. Also a slave now and then escapes from the therns and
makes his way hither.
"They do not attempt to recapture such, since there is no escape
from this outer valley, and as a matter of fact they fear the
patrolling cruisers of the First Born too much to venture from
their own domains.
"The poor creatures of this outer valley are not molested by us
since they have nothing that we desire, nor are they numerically
strong enough to give us an interesting fight--so we too leave them
"There are several villages of them, but they have increased
in numbers but little in many years since they are always warring
Now we swung a little north of west, leaving the valley of lost
souls, and shortly I discerned over our starboard bow what appeared
to be a black mountain rising from the desolate waste of ice. It
was not high and seemed to have a flat top.
Xodar had left us to attend to some duty on the vessel, and Phaidor
and I stood alone beside the rail. The girl had not once spoken
since we had been brought to the deck.
"Is what he has been telling me true?" I asked her.
"In part, yes," she answered. "That about the outer valley
is true, but what he says of the location of the Temple of Issus
in the centre of his country is false. If it is not false--" she
hesitated. "Oh it cannot be true, it cannot be true. For if it
were true then for countless ages have my people gone to torture
and ignominious death at the hands of their cruel enemies, instead
of to the beautiful Life Eternal that we have been taught to believe
Issus holds for us."
"As the lesser Barsoomians of the outer world have been lured by you
to the terrible Valley Dor, so may it be that the therns themselves
have been lured by the First Born to an equally horrid fate," I
suggested. "It would be a stern and awful retribution, Phaidor;
but a just one."
"I cannot believe it," she said.
"We shall see," I answered, and then we fell silent again for we were
rapidly approaching the black mountains, which in some indefinable
way seemed linked with the answer to our problem.
As we neared the dark, truncated cone the vessel's speed was
diminished until we barely moved. Then we topped the crest of the
mountain and below us I saw yawning the mouth of a huge circular
well, the bottom of which was lost in inky blackness.
The diameter of this enormous pit was fully a thousand feet. The
walls were smooth and appeared to be composed of a black, basaltic
For a moment the vessel hovered motionless directly above the centre
of the gaping void, then slowly she began to settle into the black
chasm. Lower and lower she sank until as darkness enveloped us
her lights were thrown on and in the dim halo of her own radiance
the monster battleship dropped on and on down into what seemed to
me must be the very bowels of Barsoom.
For quite half an hour we descended and then the shaft terminated
abruptly in the dome of a mighty subterranean world. Below us rose
and fell the billows of a buried sea. A phosphorescent radiance
illuminated the scene. Thousands of ships dotted the bosom of the
ocean. Little islands rose here and there to support the strange
and colourless vegetation of this strange world.
Slowly and with majestic grace the battleship dropped until
she rested on the water. Her great propellers had been drawn and
housed during our descent of the shaft and in their place had been
run out the smaller but more powerful water propellers. As these
commenced to revolve the ship took up its journey once more, riding
the new element as buoyantly and as safely as she had the air.
Phaidor and I were dumbfounded. Neither had either heard or dreamed
that such a world existed beneath the surface of Barsoom.
Nearly all the vessels we saw were war craft. There were a few
lighters and barges, but none of the great merchantmen such as ply
the upper air between the cities of the outer world.
"Here is the harbour of the navy of the First Born," said a voice
behind us, and turning we saw Xodar watching us with an amused
smile on his lips.
"This sea," he continued, "is larger than Korus. It receives the
waters of the lesser sea above it. To keep it from filling above
a certain level we have four great pumping stations that force the
oversupply back into the reservoirs far north from which the red
men draw the water which irrigates their farm lands."
A new light burst on me with this explanation. The red men had
always considered it a miracle that caused great columns of water
to spurt from the solid rock of their reservoir sides to increase
the supply of the precious liquid which is so scarce in the outer
world of Mars.
Never had their learned men been able to fathom the secret of the
source of this enormous volume of water. As ages passed they had
simply come to accept it as a matter of course and ceased to question
We passed several islands on which were strangely shaped circular
buildings, apparently roofless, and pierced midway between the ground
and their tops with small, heavily barred windows. They bore the
earmarks of prisons, which were further accentuated by the armed
guards who squatted on low benches without, or patrolled the short
Few of these islets contained over an acre of ground, but presently
we sighted a much larger one directly ahead. This proved to be
our destination, and the great ship was soon made fast against the
Xodar signalled us to follow him and with a half-dozen officers and
men we left the battleship and approached a large oval structure
a couple of hundred yards from the shore.
"You shall soon see Issus," said Xodar to Phaidor. "The few
prisoners we take are presented to her. Occasionally she selects
slaves from among them to replenish the ranks of her handmaidens.
None serves Issus above a single year," and there was a grim smile
on the black's lips that lent a cruel and sinister meaning to his
Phaidor, though loath to believe that Issus was allied to such as
these, had commenced to entertain doubts and fears. She clung very
closely to me, no longer the proud daughter of the Master of Life
and Death upon Barsoom, but a young and frightened girl in the
power of relentless enemies.
The building which we now entered was entirely roofless. In its
centre was a long tank of water, set below the level of the floor
like the swimming pool of a natatorium. Near one side of the pool
floated an odd-looking black object. Whether it were some strange
monster of these buried waters, or a queer raft, I could not at
We were soon to know, however, for as we reached the edge of
the pool directly above the thing, Xodar cried out a few words in
a strange tongue. Immediately a hatch cover was raised from the
surface of the object, and a black seaman sprang from the bowels
of the strange craft.
Xodar addressed the seaman.
"Transmit to your officer," he said, "the commands of Dator Xodar.
Say to him that Dator Xodar, with officers and men, escorting two
prisoners, would be transported to the gardens of Issus beside the
"Blessed be the shell of thy first ancestor, most noble Dator,"
replied the man. "It shall be done even as thou sayest," and
raising both hands, palms backward, above his head after the manner
of salute which is common to all races of Barsoom, he disappeared
once more into the entrails of his ship.
A moment later an officer resplendent in the gorgeous trappings of
his rank appeared on deck and welcomed Xodar to the vessel, and in
the latter's wake we filed aboard and below.
The cabin in which we found ourselves extended entirely across the
ship, having port-holes on either side below the water line. No
sooner were all below than a number of commands were given, in
accordance with which the hatch was closed and secured, and the
vessel commenced to vibrate to the rhythmic purr of its machinery.
"Where can we be going in such a tiny pool of water?" asked Phaidor.
"Not up," I replied, "for I noticed particularly that while the
building is roofless it is covered with a strong metal grating."
"Then where?" she asked again.
"From the appearance of the craft I judge we are going down," I
Phaidor shuddered. For such long ages have the waters of Barsoom's
seas been a thing of tradition only that even this daughter of the
therns, born as she had been within sight of Mars' only remaining
sea, had the same terror of deep water as is a common attribute of
Presently the sensation of sinking became very apparent. We were
going down swiftly. Now we could hear the water rushing past the
port-holes, and in the dim light that filtered through them to the
water beyond the swirling eddies were plainly visible.
Phaidor grasped my arm.
"Save me!" she whispered. "Save me and your every wish shall
be granted. Anything within the power of the Holy Therns to give
will be yours. Phaidor--" she stumbled a little here, and then in
a very low voice, "Phaidor already is yours."
I felt very sorry for the poor child, and placed my hand over hers
where it rested on my arm. I presume my motive was misunderstood,
for with a swift glance about the apartment to assure herself that
we were alone, she threw both her arms about my neck and dragged
my face down to hers.
ISSUS, GODDESS OF LIFE ETERNAL
The confession of love which the girl's fright had wrung from her
touched me deeply; but it humiliated me as well, since I felt that
in some thoughtless word or act I had given her reason to believe
that I reciprocated her affection.
Never have I been much of a ladies' man, being more concerned
with fighting and kindred arts which have ever seemed to me more
befitting a man than mooning over a scented glove four sizes too
small for him, or kissing a dead flower that has begun to smell
like a cabbage. So I was quite at a loss as to what to do or say.
A thousand times rather face the wild hordes of the dead sea bottoms
than meet the eyes of this beautiful young girl and tell her the
thing that I must tell her.
But there was nothing else to be done, and so I did it. Very
clumsily too, I fear.
Gently I unclasped her hands from about my neck, and still holding
them in mine I told her the story of my love for Dejah Thoris.
That of all the women of two worlds that I had known and admired
during my long life she alone had I loved.
The tale did not seem to please her. Like a tigress she sprang,
panting, to her feet. Her beautiful face was distorted in an
expression of horrible malevolence. Her eyes fairly blazed into
"Dog," she hissed. "Dog of a blasphemer! Think you that Phaidor,
daughter of Matai Shang, supplicates? She commands. What to her
is your puny outer world passion for the vile creature you chose
in your other life?
"Phaidor has glorified you with her love, and you have spurned her.
Ten thousand unthinkably atrocious deaths could not atone for the
affront that you have put upon me. The thing that you call Dejah
Thoris shall die the most horrible of them all. You have sealed
the warrant for her doom.
"And you! You shall be the meanest slave in the service of the
goddess you have attempted to humiliate. Tortures and ignominies
shall be heaped upon you until you grovel at my feet asking the
boon of death.
"In my gracious generosity I shall at length grant your prayer,
and from the high balcony of the Golden Cliffs I shall watch the
great white apes tear you asunder."
She had it all fixed up. The whole lovely programme from start
to finish. It amazed me to think that one so divinely beautiful
could at the same time be so fiendishly vindictive. It occurred
to me, however, that she had overlooked one little factor in her
revenge, and so, without any intent to add to her discomfiture, but
rather to permit her to rearrange her plans along more practical
lines, I pointed to the nearest port-hole.
Evidently she had entirely forgotten her surroundings and her
present circumstances, for a single glance at the dark, swirling
waters without sent her crumpled upon a low bench, where with her
face buried in her arms she sobbed more like a very unhappy little
girl than a proud and all-powerful goddess.
Down, down we continued to sink until the heavy glass of the
port-holes became noticeably warm from the heat of the water without.
Evidently we were very far beneath the surface crust of Mars.
Presently our downward motion ceased, and I could hear the propellers
swirling through the water at our stern and forcing us ahead at
high speed. It was very dark down there, but the light from our
port-holes, and the reflection from what must have been a powerful
searchlight on the submarine's nose showed that we were forging
through a narrow passage, rock-lined, and tube-like.
After a few minutes the propellers ceased their whirring. We
came to a full stop, and then commenced to rise swiftly toward the
surface. Soon the light from without increased and we came to a
Xodar entered the cabin with his men.
"Come," he said, and we followed him through the hatchway which
had been opened by one of the seamen.
We found ourselves in a small subterranean vault, in the centre of
which was the pool in which lay our submarine, floating as we had
first seen her with only her black back showing.
Around the edge of the pool was a level platform, and then the walls
of the cave rose perpendicularly for a few feet to arch toward the
centre of the low roof. The walls about the ledge were pierced