Part 4 out of 5
lever to its last notch, and clutching a stanchion with one hand
and the steering-wheel with the other hung on like grim death and
consigned my soul to its author.
I heard a little exclamation of surprise from Xodar, followed by a
grim laugh. The boy laughed too and said something which I could
not catch for the whistling of the wind of our awful speed.
I looked above my head, hoping to catch the gleam of stars by which
I could direct our course and hold the hurtling thing that bore us
true to the centre of the shaft. To have touched the side at the
speed we were making would doubtless have resulted in instant death
for us all. But not a star showed above--only utter and impenetrable
Then I glanced below me, and there I saw a rapidly diminishing
circle of light--the mouth of the opening above the phosphorescent
radiance of Omean. By this I steered, endeavouring to keep the
circle of light below me ever perfect. At best it was but a slender
cord that held us from destruction, and I think that I steered that
night more by intuition and blind faith than by skill or reason.
We were not long in the shaft, and possibly the very fact of our
enormous speed saved us, for evidently we started in the right
direction and so quickly were we out again that we had no time to
alter our course. Omean lies perhaps two miles below the surface
crust of Mars. Our speed must have approximated two hundred miles
an hour, for Martian fliers are swift, so that at most we were in
the shaft not over forty seconds.
We must have been out of it for some seconds before I realised that
we had accomplished the impossible. Black darkness enshrouded all
about us. There were neither moons nor stars. Never before had I
seen such a thing upon Mars, and for the moment I was nonplussed.
Then the explanation came to me. It was summer at the south pole.
The ice cap was melting and those meteoric phenomena, clouds, unknown
upon the greater part of Barsoom, were shutting out the light of
heaven from this portion of the planet.
Fortunate indeed it was for us, nor did it take me long to grasp
the opportunity for escape which this happy condition offered
us. Keeping the boat's nose at a stiff angle I raced her for the
impenetrable curtain which Nature had hung above this dying world
to shut us out from the sight of our pursuing enemies.
We plunged through the cold camp fog without diminishing our
speed, and in a moment emerged into the glorious light of the two
moons and the million stars. I dropped into a horizontal course
and headed due north. Our enemies were a good half-hour behind us
with no conception of our direction. We had performed the miraculous
and come through a thousand dangers unscathed--we had escaped from
the land of the First Born. No other prisoners in all the ages of
Barsoom had done this thing, and now as I looked back upon it it
did not seem to have been so difficult after all.
I said as much to Xodar, over my shoulder.
"It is very wonderful, nevertheless," he replied. "No one else
could have accomplished it but John Carter."
At the sound of that name the boy jumped to his feet.
"John Carter!" he cried. "John Carter! Why, man, John Carter,
Prince of Helium, has been dead for years. I am his son."
THE EYES IN THE DARK
My son! I could not believe my ears. Slowly I rose and faced
the handsome youth. Now that I looked at him closely I commenced
to see why his face and personality had attracted me so strongly.
There was much of his mother's incomparable beauty in his clear-cut
features, but it was strongly masculine beauty, and his grey eyes
and the expression of them were mine.
The boy stood facing me, half hope and half uncertainty in his
"Tell me of your mother," I said. "Tell me all you can of the years
that I have been robbed by a relentless fate of her dear companionship."
With a cry of pleasure he sprang toward me and threw his arms
about my neck, and for a brief moment as I held my boy close to
me the tears welled to my eyes and I was like to have choked after
the manner of some maudlin fool--but I do not regret it, nor am I
ashamed. A long life has taught me that a man may seem weak where
women and children are concerned and yet be anything but a weakling
in the sterner avenues of life.
"Your stature, your manner, the terrible ferocity of your
swordsmanship," said the boy, "are as my mother has described them
to me a thousand times--but even with such evidence I could scarce
credit the truth of what seemed so improbable to me, however
much I desired it to be true. Do you know what thing it was that
convinced me more than all the others?"
"What, my boy?" I asked.
"Your first words to me--they were of my mother. None else but
the man who loved her as she has told me my father did would have
thought first of her."
"For long years, my son, I can scarce recall a moment that the
radiant vision of your mother's face has not been ever before me.
Tell me of her."
"Those who have known her longest say that she has not changed,
unless it be to grow more beautiful--were that possible. Only,
when she thinks I am not about to see her, her face grows very
sad, and, oh, so wistful. She thinks ever of you, my father, and
all Helium mourns with her and for her. Her grandfather's people
love her. They loved you also, and fairly worship your memory as
the saviour of Barsoom.
"Each year that brings its anniversary of the day that saw you
racing across a near dead world to unlock the secret of that awful
portal behind which lay the mighty power of life for countless
millions a great festival is held in your honour; but there are
tears mingled with the thanksgiving--tears of real regret that the
author of the happiness is not with them to share the joy of living
he died to give them. Upon all Barsoom there is no greater name
than John Carter."
"And by what name has your mother called you, my boy?" I asked.
"The people of Helium asked that I be named with my father's name,
but my mother said no, that you and she had chosen a name for me
together, and that your wish must be honoured before all others,
so the name that she called me is the one that you desired, a
combination of hers and yours--Carthoris."
Xodar had been at the wheel as I talked with my son, and now he
"She is dropping badly by the head, John Carter," he said. "So
long as we were rising at a stiff angle it was not noticeable, but
now that I am trying to keep a horizontal course it is different.
The wound in her bow has opened one of her forward ray tanks."
It was true, and after I had examined the damage I found it a much
graver matter than I had anticipated. Not only was the forced angle
at which we were compelled to maintain the bow in order to keep a
horizontal course greatly impeding our speed, but at the rate that
we were losing our repulsive rays from the forward tanks it was
but a question of an hour or more when we would be floating stern
up and helpless.
We had slightly reduced our speed with the dawning of a sense of
security, but now I took the helm once more and pulled the noble
little engine wide open, so that again we raced north at terrific
velocity. In the meantime Carthoris and Xodar with tools in hand
were puttering with the great rent in the bow in a hopeless endeavour
to stem the tide of escaping rays.
It was still dark when we passed the northern boundary of the ice
cap and the area of clouds. Below us lay a typical Martian landscape.
Rolling ochre sea bottom of long dead seas, low surrounding hills,
with here and there the grim and silent cities of the dead past;
great piles of mighty architecture tenanted only by age-old memories
of a once powerful race, and by the great white apes of Barsoom.
It was becoming more and more difficult to maintain our little
vessel in a horizontal position. Lower and lower sagged the bow
until it became necessary to stop the engine to prevent our flight
terminating in a swift dive to the ground.
As the sun rose and the light of a new day swept away the darkness
of night our craft gave a final spasmodic plunge, turned half upon
her side, and then with deck tilting at a sickening angle swung in
a slow circle, her bow dropping further below her stern each moment.
To hand-rail and stanchion we clung, and finally as we saw the end
approaching, snapped the buckles of our harness to the rings at
her sides. In another moment the deck reared at an angle of ninety
degrees and we hung in our leather with feet dangling a thousand
yards above the ground.
I was swinging quite close to the controlling devices, so I reached
out to the lever that directed the rays of repulsion. The boat
responded to the touch, and very gently we began to sink toward
It was fully half an hour before we touched. Directly north of
us rose a rather lofty range of hills, toward which we decided to
make our way, since they afforded greater opportunity for concealment
from the pursuers we were confident might stumble in this direction.
An hour later found us in the time-rounded gullies of the hills,
amid the beautiful flowering plants that abound in the arid waste
places of Barsoom. There we found numbers of huge milk-giving
shrubs--that strange plant which serves in great part as food and
drink for the wild hordes of green men. It was indeed a boon to
us, for we all were nearly famished.
Beneath a cluster of these which afforded perfect concealment from
wandering air scouts, we lay down to sleep--for me the first time
in many hours. This was the beginning of my fifth day upon Barsoom
since I had found myself suddenly translated from my cottage on
the Hudson to Dor, the valley beautiful, the valley hideous. In
all this time I had slept but twice, though once the clock around
within the storehouse of the therns.
It was mid-afternoon when I was awakened by some one seizing my
hand and covering it with kisses. With a start I opened my eyes
to look into the beautiful face of Thuvia.
"My Prince! My Prince!" she cried, in an ecstasy of happiness.
"'Tis you whom I had mourned as dead. My ancestors have been good
to me; I have not lived in vain."
The girl's voice awoke Xodar and Carthoris. The boy gazed upon the
woman in surprise, but she did not seem to realize the presence of
another than I. She would have thrown her arms about my neck and
smothered me with caresses, had I not gently but firmly disengaged
"Come, come, Thuvia," I said soothingly; "you are overwrought
by the danger and hardships you have passed through. You forget
yourself, as you forget that I am the husband of the Princess of
"I forget nothing, my Prince," she replied. "You have spoken
no word of love to me, nor do I expect that you ever shall; but
nothing can prevent me loving you. I would not take the place of
Dejah Thoris. My greatest ambition is to serve you, my Prince,
for ever as your slave. No greater boon could I ask, no greater
honour could I crave, no greater happiness could I hope."
As I have before said, I am no ladies' man, and I must admit that
I seldom have felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed as I did that
moment. While I was quite familiar with the Martian custom which
allows female slaves to Martian men, whose high and chivalrous
honour is always ample protection for every woman in his household,
yet I had never myself chosen other than men as my body servants.
"And I ever return to Helium, Thuvia," I said, "you shall go with
me, but as an honoured equal, and not as a slave. There you shall
find plenty of handsome young nobles who would face Issus herself
to win a smile from you, and we shall have you married in short order
to one of the best of them. Forget your foolish gratitude-begotten
infatuation, which your innocence has mistaken for love. I like
your friendship better, Thuvia."
"You are my master; it shall be as you say," she replied simply,
but there was a note of sadness in her voice.
"How came you here, Thuvia?" I asked. "And where is Tars Tarkas?"
"The great Thark, I fear, is dead," she replied sadly. "He was a
mighty fighter, but a multitude of green warriors of another horde
than his overwhelmed him. The last that I saw of him they were
bearing him, wounded and bleeding, to the deserted city from which
they had sallied to attack us."
"You are not sure that he is dead, then?" I asked. "And where is
this city of which you speak?"
"It is just beyond this range of hills. The vessel in which you so
nobly resigned a place that we might find escape defied our small
skill in navigation, with the result that we drifted aimlessly about
for two days. Then we decided to abandon the craft and attempt to
make our way on foot to the nearest waterway. Yesterday we crossed
these hills and came upon the dead city beyond. We had passed within
its streets and were walking toward the central portion, when at
an intersecting avenue we saw a body of green warriors approaching.
"Tars Tarkas was in advance, and they saw him, but me they did not
see. The Thark sprang back to my side and forced me into an adjacent
doorway, where he told me to remain in hiding until I could escape,
making my way to Helium if possible.
"'There will be no escape for me now,' he said, 'for these be the
Warhoon of the South. When they have seen my metal it will be to
"Then he stepped out to meet them. Ah, my Prince, such fighting!
For an hour they swarmed about him, until the Warhoon dead formed
a hill where he had stood; but at last they overwhelmed him, those
behind pushing the foremost upon him until there remained no space
to swing his great sword. Then he stumbled and went down and
they rolled over him like a huge wave. When they carried him away
toward the heart of the city, he was dead, I think, for I did not
see him move."
"Before we go farther we must be sure," I said. "I cannot leave
Tars Tarkas alive among the Warhoons. To-night I shall enter the
city and make sure."
"And I shall go with you," spoke Carthoris.
"And I," said Xodar.
"Neither one of you shall go," I replied. "It is work that requires
stealth and strategy, not force. One man alone may succeed where
more would invite disaster. I shall go alone. If I need your
help, I will return for you."
They did not like it, but both were good soldiers, and it had been
agreed that I should command. The sun already was low, so that
I did not have long to wait before the sudden darkness of Barsoom
With a parting word of instructions to Carthoris and Xodar, in case
I should not return, I bade them all farewell and set forth at a
rapid dogtrot toward the city.
As I emerged from the hills the nearer moon was winging its wild
flight through the heavens, its bright beams turning to burnished
silver the barbaric splendour of the ancient metropolis. The city
had been built upon the gently rolling foothills that in the dim
and distant past had sloped down to meet the sea. It was due to
this fact that I had no difficulty in entering the streets unobserved.
The green hordes that use these deserted cities seldom occupy more
than a few squares about the central plaza, and as they come and
go always across the dead sea bottoms that the cities face, it is
usually a matter of comparative ease to enter from the hillside.
Once within the streets, I kept close in the dense shadows of the
walls. At intersections I halted a moment to make sure that none
was in sight before I sprang quickly to the shadows of the opposite
side. Thus I made the journey to the vicinity of the plaza without
detection. As I approached the purlieus of the inhabited portion
of the city I was made aware of the proximity of the warriors'
quarters by the squealing and grunting of the thoats and zitidars
corralled within the hollow courtyards formed by the buildings
surrounding each square.
These old familiar sounds that are so distinctive of green Martian
life sent a thrill of pleasure surging through me. It was as one
might feel on coming home after a long absence. It was amid such
sounds that I had first courted the incomparable Dejah Thoris in
the age-old marble halls of the dead city of Korad.
As I stood in the shadows at the far corner of the first square
which housed members of the horde, I saw warriors emerging from
several of the buildings. They all went in the same direction,
toward a great building which stood in the centre of the plaza. My
knowledge of green Martian customs convinced me that this was either
the quarters of the principal chieftain or contained the audience
chamber wherein the Jeddak met his jeds and lesser chieftains. In
either event, it was evident that something was afoot which might
have a bearing on the recent capture of Tars Tarkas.
To reach this building, which I now felt it imperative that I do,
I must needs traverse the entire length of one square and cross a
broad avenue and a portion of the plaza. From the noises of the
animals which came from every courtyard about me, I knew that there
were many people in the surrounding buildings--probably several
communities of the great horde of the Warhoons of the South.
To pass undetected among all these people was in itself a difficult
task, but if I was to find and rescue the great Thark I must expect
even more formidable obstacles before success could be mine. I
had entered the city from the south and now stood on the corner of
the avenue through which I had passed and the first intersecting
avenue south of the plaza. The buildings upon the south side
of this square did not appear to be inhabited, as I could see no
lights, and so I decided to gain the inner courtyard through one
Nothing occurred to interrupt my progress through the deserted pile
I chose, and I came into the inner court close to the rear walls
of the east buildings without detection. Within the court a great
herd of thoats and zitidars moved restlessly about, cropping the
moss-like ochre vegetation which overgrows practically the entire
uncultivated area of Mars. What breeze there was came from the
north-west, so there was little danger that the beasts would scent
me. Had they, their squealing and grunting would have grown to
such a volume as to attract the attention of the warriors within
Close to the east wall, beneath the overhanging balconies of the
second floors, I crept in dense shadows the full length of the
courtyard, until I came to the buildings at the north end. These
were lighted for about three floors up, but above the third floor
all was dark.
To pass through the lighted rooms was, of course, out of the question,
since they swarmed with green Martian men and women. My only path
lay through the upper floors, and to gain these it was necessary
to scale the face of the wall. The reaching of the balcony of the
second floor was a matter of easy accomplishment--an agile leap
gave my hands a grasp upon the stone hand-rail above. In another
instant I had drawn myself upon the balcony.
Here through the open windows I saw the green folk squatting upon
their sleeping silks and furs, grunting an occasional monosyllable,
which, in connection with their wondrous telepathic powers, is ample
for their conversational requirements. As I drew closer to listen
to their words a warrior entered the room from the hall beyond.
"Come, Tan Gama," he cried, "we are to take the Thark before Kab
Kadja. Bring another with you."
The warrior addressed arose and, beckoning to a fellow squatting
near, the three turned and left the apartment.
If I could but follow them the chance might come to free Tars Tarkas
at once. At least I would learn the location of his prison.
At my right was a door leading from the balcony into the building.
It was at the end of an unlighted hall, and on the impulse of
the moment I stepped within. The hall was broad and led straight
through to the front of the building. On either side were the
doorways of the various apartments which lined it.
I had no more than entered the corridor than I saw the three warriors
at the other end--those whom I had just seen leaving the apartment.
Then a turn to the right took them from my sight again. Quickly I
hastened along the hallway in pursuit. My gait was reckless, but
I felt that Fate had been kind indeed to throw such an opportunity
within my grasp, and I could not afford to allow it to elude me
At the far end of the corridor I found a spiral stairway leading
to the floors above and below. The three had evidently left the
floor by this avenue. That they had gone down and not up I was
sure from my knowledge of these ancient buildings and the methods
of the Warhoons.
I myself had once been a prisoner of the cruel hordes of northern
Warhoon, and the memory of the underground dungeon in which I
lay still is vivid in my memory. And so I felt certain that Tars
Tarkas lay in the dark pits beneath some nearby building, and that
in that direction I should find the trail of the three warriors
leading to his cell.
Nor was I wrong. At the bottom of the runway, or rather at the
landing on the floor below, I saw that the shaft descended into
the pits beneath, and as I glanced down the flickering light of a
torch revealed the presence of the three I was trailing.
Down they went toward the pits beneath the structure, and at a
safe distance behind I followed the flicker of their torch. The
way led through a maze of tortuous corridors, unlighted save for
the wavering light they carried. We had gone perhaps a hundred
yards when the party turned abruptly through a doorway at their
right. I hastened on as rapidly as I dared through the darkness
until I reached the point at which they had left the corridor.
There, through an open door, I saw them removing the chains that
secured the great Thark, Tars Tarkas, to the wall.
Hustling him roughly between them, they came immediately from the
chamber, so quickly in fact that I was near to being apprehended.
But I managed to run along the corridor in the direction I had been
going in my pursuit of them far enough to be without the radius of
their meagre light as they emerged from the cell.
I had naturally assumed that they would return with Tars Tarkas
the same way that they had come, which would have carried them away
from me; but, to my chagrin, they wheeled directly in my direction
as they left the room. There was nothing for me but to hasten on
in advance and keep out of the light of their torch. I dared not
attempt to halt in the darkness of any of the many intersecting
corridors, for I knew nothing of the direction they might take.
Chance was as likely as not to carry me into the very corridor they
might choose to enter.
The sensation of moving rapidly through these dark passages was far
from reassuring. I knew not at what moment I might plunge headlong
into some terrible pit or meet with some of the ghoulish creatures
that inhabit these lower worlds beneath the dead cities of dying
Mars. There filtered to me a faint radiance from the torch of the
men behind--just enough to permit me to trace the direction of the
winding passageways directly before me, and so keep me from dashing
myself against the walls at the turns.
Presently I came to a place where five corridors diverged from
a common point. I had hastened along one of them for some little
distance when suddenly the faint light of the torch disappeared
from behind me. I paused to listen for sounds of the party behind
me, but the silence was as utter as the silence of the tomb.
Quickly I realized that the warriors had taken one of the other
corridors with their prisoner, and so I hastened back with a feeling
of considerable relief to take up a much safer and more desirable
position behind them. It was much slower work returning, however,
than it had been coming, for now the darkness was as utter as the
It was necessary to feel every foot of the way back with my hand
against the side wall, that I might not pass the spot where the
five roads radiated. After what seemed an eternity to me, I reached
the place and recognized it by groping across the entrances to the
several corridors until I had counted five of them. In not one,
however, showed the faintest sign of light.
I listened intently, but the naked feet of the green men sent back
no guiding echoes, though presently I thought I detected the clank
of side arms in the far distance of the middle corridor. Up this,
then, I hastened, searching for the light, and stopping to listen
occasionally for a repetition of the sound; but soon I was forced
to admit that I must have been following a blind lead, as only
darkness and silence rewarded my efforts.
Again I retraced my steps toward the parting of the ways, when to
my surprise I came upon the entrance to three diverging corridors,
any one of which I might have traversed in my hasty dash after the
false clue I had been following. Here was a pretty fix, indeed!
Once back at the point where the five passageways met, I might
wait with some assurance for the return of the warriors with Tars
Tarkas. My knowledge of their customs lent colour to the belief
that he was but being escorted to the audience chamber to have
sentence passed upon him. I had not the slightest doubt but that
they would preserve so doughty a warrior as the great Thark for
the rare sport he would furnish at the Great Games.
But unless I could find my way back to that point the chances
were most excellent that I would wander for days through the awful
blackness, until, overcome by thirst and hunger, I lay down to die,
or--What was that!
A faint shuffling sounded behind me, and as I cast a hasty glance
over my shoulder my blood froze in my veins for the thing I saw
there. It was not so much fear of the present danger as it was the
horrifying memories it recalled of that time I near went mad over
the corpse of the man I had killed in the dungeons of the Warhoons,
when blazing eyes came out of the dark recesses and dragged the
thing that had been a man from my clutches and I heard it scraping
over the stone of my prison as they bore it away to their terrible
And now in these black pits of the other Warhoons I looked into
those same fiery eyes, blazing at me through the terrible darkness,
revealing no sign of the beast behind them. I think that the most
fearsome attribute of these awesome creatures is their silence and
the fact that one never sees them--nothing but those baleful eyes
glaring unblinkingly out of the dark void behind.
Grasping my long-sword tightly in my hand, I backed slowly along
the corridor away from the thing that watched me, but ever as I
retreated the eyes advanced, nor was there any sound, not even the
sound of breathing, except the occasional shuffling sound as of
the dragging of a dead limb, that had first attracted my attention.
On and on I went, but I could not escape my sinister pursuer.
Suddenly I heard the shuffling noise at my right, and, looking, saw
another pair of eyes, evidently approaching from an intersecting
corridor. As I started to renew my slow retreat I heard the noise
repeated behind me, and then before I could turn I heard it again
at my left.
The things were all about me. They had me surrounded at the intersection
of two corridors. Retreat was cut off in all directions, unless
I chose to charge one of the beasts. Even then I had no doubt but
that the others would hurl themselves upon my back. I could not
even guess the size or nature of the weird creatures. That they
were of goodly proportions I guessed from the fact that the eyes
were on a level with my own.
Why is it that darkness so magnifies our dangers? By day I would
have charged the great banth itself, had I thought it necessary, but
hemmed in by the darkness of these silent pits I hesitated before
a pair of eyes.
Soon I saw that the matter shortly would be taken entirely from my
hands, for the eyes at my right were moving slowly nearer me, as
were those at my left and those behind and before me. Gradually
they were closing in upon me--but still that awful stealthy silence!
For what seemed hours the eyes approached gradually closer and
closer, until I felt that I should go mad for the horror of it. I
had been constantly turning this way and that to prevent any sudden
rush from behind, until I was fairly worn out. At length I could
endure it no longer, and, taking a fresh grasp upon my long-sword,
I turned suddenly and charged down upon one of my tormentors.
As I was almost upon it the thing retreated before me, but a sound
from behind caused me to wheel in time to see three pairs of eyes
rushing at me from the rear. With a cry of rage I turned to meet
the cowardly beasts, but as I advanced they retreated as had their
fellow. Another glance over my shoulder discovered the first eyes
sneaking on me again. And again I charged, only to see the eyes
retreat before me and hear the muffled rush of the three at my
Thus we continued, the eyes always a little closer in the end than
they had been before, until I thought that I should go mad with the
terrible strain of the ordeal. That they were waiting to spring
upon my back seemed evident, and that it would not be long before
they succeeded was equally apparent, for I could not endure the
wear of this repeated charge and countercharge indefinitely. In
fact, I could feel myself weakening from the mental and physical
strain I had been undergoing.
At that moment I caught another glimpse from the corner of my eye
of the single pair of eyes at my back making a sudden rush upon me.
I turned to meet the charge; there was a quick rush of the three
from the other direction; but I determined to pursue the single
pair until I should have at least settled my account with one of
the beasts and thus be relieved of the strain of meeting attacks
from both directions.
There was no sound in the corridor, only that of my own breathing,
yet I knew that those three uncanny creatures were almost upon me.
The eyes in front were not retreating so rapidly now; I was almost
within sword reach of them. I raised my sword arm to deal the blow
that should free me, and then I felt a heavy body upon my back.
A cold, moist, slimy something fastened itself upon my throat. I
stumbled and went down.
FLIGHT AND PURSUIT
I could not have been unconscious more than a few seconds, and yet
I know that I was unconscious, for the next thing I realized was
that a growing radiance was illuminating the corridor about me and
the eyes were gone.
I was unharmed except for a slight bruise upon my forehead where
it had struck the stone flagging as I fell.
I sprang to my feet to ascertain the cause of the light. It came
from a torch in the hand of one of a party of four green warriors,
who were coming rapidly down the corridor toward me. They had
not yet seen me, and so I lost no time in slipping into the first
intersecting corridor that I could find. This time, however, I
did not advance so far away from the main corridor as on the other
occasion that had resulted in my losing Tars Tarkas and his guards.
The party came rapidly toward the opening of the passageway in which
I crouched against the wall. As they passed by I breathed a sigh
of relief. I had not been discovered, and, best of all, the party
was the same that I had followed into the pits. It consisted of
Tars Tarkas and his three guards.
I fell in behind them and soon we were at the cell in which the
great Thark had been chained. Two of the warriors remained without
while the man with the keys entered with the Thark to fasten his
irons upon him once more. The two outside started to stroll slowly
in the direction of the spiral runway which led to the floors above,
and in a moment were lost to view beyond a turn in the corridor.
The torch had been stuck in a socket beside the door, so that its
rays illuminated both the corridor and the cell at the same time.
As I saw the two warriors disappear I approached the entrance to
the cell, with a well-defined plan already formulated.
While I disliked the thought of carrying out the thing that I had
decided upon, there seemed no alternative if Tars Tarkas and I were
to go back together to my little camp in the hills.
Keeping near the wall, I came quite close to the door to Tars
Tarkas' cell, and there I stood with my longsword above my head,
grasped with both hands, that I might bring it down in one quick
cut upon the skull of the jailer as he emerged.
I dislike to dwell upon what followed after I heard the footsteps
of the man as he approached the doorway. It is enough that within
another minute or two, Tars Tarkas, wearing the metal of a Warhoon
chief, was hurrying down the corridor toward the spiral runway,
bearing the Warhoon's torch to light his way. A dozen paces behind
him followed John Carter, Prince of Helium.
The two companions of the man who lay now beside the door of the
cell that had been Tars Tarkas' had just started to ascend the
runway as the Thark came in view.
"Why so long, Tan Gama?" cried one of the men.
"I had trouble with a lock," replied Tars Tarkas. "And now I find
that I have left my short-sword in the Thark's cell. Go you on,
I'll return and fetch it."
"As you will, Tan Gama," replied he who had before spoken. "We
shall see you above directly."
"Yes," replied Tars Tarkas, and turned as though to retrace his
steps to the cell, but he only waited until the two had disappeared
at the floor above. Then I joined him, we extinguished the torch,
and together we crept toward the spiral incline that led to the
upper floors of the building.
At the first floor we found that the hallway ran but halfway through,
necessitating the crossing of a rear room full of green folk, ere
we could reach the inner courtyard, so there was but one thing
left for us to do, and that was to gain the second floor and the
hallway through which I had traversed the length of the building.
Cautiously we ascended. We could hear the sounds of conversation
coming from the room above, but the hall still was unlighted, nor
was any one in sight as we gained the top of the runway. Together
we threaded the long hall and reached the balcony overlooking the
courtyard, without being detected.
At our right was the window letting into the room in which I
had seen Tan Gama and the other warriors as they started to Tars
Tarkas' cell earlier in the evening. His companions had returned
here, and we now overheard a portion of their conversation.
"What can be detaining Tan Gama?" asked one.
"He certainly could not be all this time fetching his shortsword
from the Thark's cell," spoke another.
"His short-sword?" asked a woman. "What mean you?"
"Tan Gama left his short-sword in the Thark's cell," explained the
first speaker, "and left us at the runway, to return and get it."
"Tan Gama wore no short-sword this night," said the woman. "It was
broken in to-day's battle with the Thark, and Tan Gama gave it to
me to repair. See, I have it here," and as she spoke she drew Tan
Gama's short-sword from beneath her sleeping silks and furs.
The warriors sprang to their feet.
"There is something amiss here," cried one.
"'Tis even what I myself thought when Tan Gama left us at the runway,"
said another. "Methought then that his voice sounded strangely."
"Come! let us hasten to the pits."
We waited to hear no more. Slinging my harness into a long single
strap, I lowered Tars Tarkas to the courtyard beneath, and an
instant later dropped to his side.
We had spoken scarcely a dozen words since I had felled Tan Gama
at the cell door and seen in the torch's light the expression of
utter bewilderment upon the great Thark's face.
"By this time," he had said, "I should have learned to wonder at
nothing which John Carter accomplishes." That was all. He did
not need to tell me that he appreciated the friendship which had
prompted me to risk my life to rescue him, nor did he need to say
that he was glad to see me.
This fierce green warrior had been the first to greet me that day,
now twenty years gone, which had witnessed my first advent upon
Mars. He had met me with levelled spear and cruel hatred in his
heart as he charged down upon me, bending low at the side of his
mighty thoat as I stood beside the incubator of his horde upon the
dead sea bottom beyond Korad. And now among the inhabitants of two
worlds I counted none a better friend than Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of
As we reached the courtyard we stood in the shadows beneath the
balcony for a moment to discuss our plans.
"There be five now in the party, Tars Tarkas," I said; "Thuvia,
Xodar, Carthoris, and ourselves. We shall need five thoats to bear
"Carthoris!" he cried. "Your son?"
"Yes. I found him in the prison of Shador, on the Sea of Omean,
in the land of the First Born."
"I know not any of these places, John Carter. Be they upon Barsoom?"
"Upon and below, my friend; but wait until we shall have made good
our escape, and you shall hear the strangest narrative that ever a
Barsoomian of the outer world gave ear to. Now we must steal our
thoats and be well away to the north before these fellows discover
how we have tricked them."
In safety we reached the great gates at the far end of the courtyard,
through which it was necessary to take our thoats to the avenue
beyond. It is no easy matter to handle five of these great, fierce
beasts, which by nature are as wild and ferocious as their masters
and held in subjection by cruelty and brute force alone.
As we approached them they sniffed our unfamiliar scent and with
squeals of rage circled about us. Their long, massive necks upreared
raised their great, gaping mouths high above our heads. They are
fearsome appearing brutes at best, but when they are aroused they
are fully as dangerous as they look. The thoat stands a good ten
feet at the shoulder. His hide is sleek and hairless, and of a
dark slate colour on back and sides, shading down his eight legs
to a vivid yellow at the huge, padded, nailless feet; the belly
is pure white. A broad, flat tail, larger at the tip than at the
root, completes the picture of this ferocious green Martian mount
--a fit war steed for these warlike people.
As the thoats are guided by telepathic means alone, there is
no need for rein or bridle, and so our object now was to find two
that would obey our unspoken commands. As they charged about us we
succeeded in mastering them sufficiently to prevent any concerted
attack upon us, but the din of their squealing was certain to bring
investigating warriors into the courtyard were it to continue much
At length I was successful in reaching the side of one great brute,
and ere he knew what I was about I was firmly seated astride his
glossy back. A moment later Tars Tarkas had caught and mounted
another, and then between us we herded three or four more toward
the great gates.
Tars Tarkas rode ahead and, leaning down to the latch, threw the
barriers open, while I held the loose thoats from breaking back to
the herd. Then together we rode through into the avenue with our
stolen mounts and, without waiting to close the gates, hurried off
toward the southern boundary of the city.
Thus far our escape had been little short of marvellous, nor did
our good fortune desert us, for we passed the outer purlieus of the
dead city and came to our camp without hearing even the faintest
sound of pursuit.
Here a low whistle, the prearranged signal, apprised the balance of
our party that I was returning, and we were met by the three with
every manifestation of enthusiastic rejoicing.
But little time was wasted in narration of our adventure. Tars
Tarkas and Carthoris exchanged the dignified and formal greetings
common upon Barsoom, but I could tell intuitively that the Thark
loved my boy and that Carthoris reciprocated his affection.
Xodar and the green Jeddak were formally presented to each other.
Then Thuvia was lifted to the least fractious thoat, Xodar and
Carthoris mounted two others, and we set out at a rapid pace toward
the east. At the far extremity of the city we circled toward
the north, and under the glorious rays of the two moons we sped
noiselessly across the dead sea bottom, away from the Warhoons and
the First Born, but to what new dangers and adventures we knew not.
Toward noon of the following day we halted to rest our mounts and
ourselves. The beasts we hobbled, that they might move slowly
about cropping the ochre moss-like vegetation which constitutes
both food and drink for them on the march. Thuvia volunteered to
remain on watch while the balance of the party slept for an hour.
It seemed to me that I had but closed my eyes when I felt her
hand upon my shoulder and heard her soft voice warning me of a new
"Arise, O Prince," she whispered. "There be that behind us which
has the appearance of a great body of pursuers."
The girl stood pointing in the direction from whence we had come,
and as I arose and looked, I, too, thought that I could detect
a thin dark line on the far horizon. I awoke the others. Tars
Tarkas, whose giant stature towered high above the rest of us,
could see the farthest.
"It is a great body of mounted men," he said, "and they are travelling
at high speed."
There was no time to be lost. We sprang to our hobbled thoats,
freed them, and mounted. Then we turned our faces once more toward
the north and took our flight again at the highest speed of our
For the balance of the day and all the following night we raced
across that ochre wilderness with the pursuers at our back ever
gaining upon us. Slowly but surely they were lessening the distance
between us. Just before dark they had been close enough for us to
plainly distinguish that they were green Martians, and all during
the long night we distinctly heard the clanking of their accoutrements
As the sun rose on the second day of our flight it disclosed
the pursuing horde not a half-mile in our rear. As they saw us a
fiendish shout of triumph rose from their ranks.
Several miles in advance lay a range of hills--the farther shore
of the dead sea we had been crossing. Could we but reach these
hills our chances of escape would be greatly enhanced, but Thuvia's
mount, although carrying the lightest burden, already was showing
signs of exhaustion. I was riding beside her when suddenly her
animal staggered and lurched against mine. I saw that he was going
down, but ere he fell I snatched the girl from his back and swung
her to a place upon my own thoat, behind me, where she clung with
her arms about me.
This double burden soon proved too much for my already overtaxed
beast, and thus our speed was terribly diminished, for the others
would proceed no faster than the slowest of us could go. In that
little party there was not one who would desert another; yet we
were of different countries, different colours, different races,
different religions--and one of us was of a different world.
We were quite close to the hills, but the Warhoons were gaining
so rapidly that we had given up all hope of reaching them in time.
Thuvia and I were in the rear, for our beast was lagging more and
more. Suddenly I felt the girl's warm lips press a kiss upon my
shoulder. "For thy sake, O my Prince," she murmured. Then her
arms slipped from about my waist and she was gone.
I turned and saw that she had deliberately slipped to the ground
in the very path of the cruel demons who pursued us, thinking that
by lightening the burden of my mount it might thus be enabled to
bear me to the safety of the hills. Poor child! She should have
known John Carter better than that.
Turning my thoat, I urged him after her, hoping to reach her side
and bear her on again in our hopeless flight. Carthoris must have
glanced behind him at about the same time and taken in the situation,
for by the time I had reached Thuvia's side he was there also, and,
springing from his mount, he threw her upon its back and, turning
the animal's head toward the hills, gave the beast a sharp crack
across the rump with the flat of his sword. Then he attempted to
do the same with mine.
The brave boy's act of chivalrous self-sacrifice filled me with
pride, nor did I care that it had wrested from us our last frail
chance for escape. The Warhoons were now close upon us. Tars Tarkas
and Xodar had discovered our absence and were charging rapidly to
our support. Everything pointed toward a splendid ending of my
second journey to Barsoom. I hated to go out without having seen
my divine Princess, and held her in my arms once again; but if
it were not writ upon the book of Fate that such was to be, then
would I take the most that was coming to me, and in these last few
moments that were to be vouchsafed me before I passed over into that
unguessed future I could at least give such an account of myself
in my chosen vocation as would leave the Warhoons of the South food
for discourse for the next twenty generations.
As Carthoris was not mounted, I slipped from the back of my
own mount and took my place at his side to meet the charge of the
howling devils bearing down upon us. A moment later Tars Tarkas
and Xodar ranged themselves on either hand, turning their thoats
loose that we might all be on an equal footing.
The Warhoons were perhaps a hundred yards from us when a loud
explosion sounded from above and behind us, and almost at the same
instant a shell burst in their advancing ranks. At once all was
confusion. A hundred warriors toppled to the ground. Riderless
thoats plunged hither and thither among the dead and dying.
Dismounted warriors were trampled underfoot in the stampede which
followed. All semblance of order had left the ranks of the green
men, and as they looked far above our heads to trace the origin of
this unexpected attack, disorder turned to retreat and retreat to
a wild panic. In another moment they were racing as madly away
from us as they had before been charging down upon us.
We turned to look in the direction from whence the first report
had come, and there we saw, just clearing the tops of the nearer
hills, a great battleship swinging majestically through the air.
Her bow gun spoke again even as we looked, and another shell burst
among the fleeing Warhoons.
As she drew nearer I could not repress a wild cry of elation, for
upon her bows I saw the device of Helium.
As Carthoris, Xodar, Tars Tarkas, and I stood gazing at the magnificent
vessel which meant so much to all of us, we saw a second and then
a third top the summit of the hills and glide gracefully after
Now a score of one-man air scouts were launching from the upper
decks of the nearer vessel, and in a moment more were speeding in
long, swift dives to the ground about us.
In another instant we were surrounded by armed sailors, and an
officer had stepped forward to address us, when his eyes fell upon
Carthoris. With an exclamation of surprised pleasure he sprang
forward, and, placing his hands upon the boy's shoulder, called
him by name.
"Carthoris, my Prince," he cried, "Kaor! Kaor! Hor Vastus greets
the son of Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, and of her husband,
John Carter. Where have you been, O my Prince? All Helium has
been plunged in sorrow. Terrible have been the calamities that
have befallen your great-grandsire's mighty nation since the fatal
day that saw you leave our midst."
"Grieve not, my good Hor Vastus," cried Carthoris, "since I bring
not back myself alone to cheer my mother's heart and the hearts of
my beloved people, but also one whom all Barsoom loved best--her
greatest warrior and her saviour--John Carter, Prince of Helium!"
Hor Vastus turned in the direction indicated by Carthoris, and
as his eyes fell upon me he was like to have collapsed from sheer
"John Carter!" he exclaimed, and then a sudden troubled look came
into his eyes. "My Prince," he started, "where hast thou--" and
then he stopped, but I knew the question that his lips dared not
frame. The loyal fellow would not be the one to force from mine
a confession of the terrible truth that I had returned from the
bosom of the Iss, the River of Mystery, back from the shore of the
Lost Sea of Korus, and the Valley Dor.
"Ah, my Prince," he continued, as though no thought had interrupted
his greeting, "that you are back is sufficient, and let Hor Vastus'
sword have the high honour of being first at thy feet." With these
words the noble fellow unbuckled his scabbard and flung his sword
upon the ground before me.
Could you know the customs and the character of red Martians you
would appreciate the depth of meaning that that simple act conveyed
to me and to all about us who witnessed it. The thing was equivalent
to saying, "My sword, my body, my life, my soul are yours to do
with as you wish. Until death and after death I look to you alone
for authority for my every act. Be you right or wrong, your word
shall be my only truth. Whoso raises his hand against you must
answer to my sword."
It is the oath of fealty that men occasionally pay to a Jeddak whose
high character and chivalrous acts have inspired the enthusiastic
love of his followers. Never had I known this high tribute paid to
a lesser mortal. There was but one response possible. I stooped
and lifted the sword from the ground, raised the hilt to my lips,
and then, stepping to Hor Vastus, I buckled the weapon upon him
with my own hands.
"Hor Vastus," I said, placing my hand upon his shoulder, "you know
best the promptings of your own heart. That I shall need your sword
I have little doubt, but accept from John Carter upon his sacred
honour the assurance that he will never call upon you to draw this
sword other than in the cause of truth, justice, and righteousness."
"That I knew, my Prince," he replied, "ere ever I threw my beloved
blade at thy feet."
As we spoke other fliers came and went between the ground and the
battleship, and presently a larger boat was launched from above, one
capable of carrying a dozen persons, perhaps, and dropped lightly
near us. As she touched, an officer sprang from her deck to the
ground, and, advancing to Hor Vastus, saluted.
"Kantos Kan desires that this party whom we have rescued be brought
immediately to the deck of the Xavarian," he said.
As we approached the little craft I looked about for the members of
my party and for the first time noticed that Thuvia was not among
them. Questioning elicited the fact that none had seen her since
Carthoris had sent her thoat galloping madly toward the hills, in
the hope of carrying her out of harm's way.
Immediately Hor Vastus dispatched a dozen air scouts in as many
directions to search for her. It could not be possible that she
had gone far since we had last seen her. We others stepped to
the deck of the craft that had been sent to fetch us, and a moment
later were upon the Xavarian.
The first man to greet me was Kantos Kan himself. My old friend
had won to the highest place in the navy of Helium, but he was still
to me the same brave comrade who had shared with me the privations
of a Warhoon dungeon, the terrible atrocities of the Great Games,
and later the dangers of our search for Dejah Thoris within the
hostile city of Zodanga.
Then I had been an unknown wanderer upon a strange planet, and he
a simple padwar in the navy of Helium. To-day he commanded all
Helium's great terrors of the skies, and I was a Prince of the
House of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.
He did not ask me where I had been. Like Hor Vastus, he too dreaded
the truth and would not be the one to wrest a statement from me.
That it must come some time he well knew, but until it came he
seemed satisfied to but know that I was with him once more. He
greeted Carthoris and Tars Tarkas with the keenest delight, but he
asked neither where he had been. He could scarcely keep his hands
off the boy.
"You do not know, John Carter," he said to me, "how we of Helium
love this son of yours. It is as though all the great love we
bore his noble father and his poor mother had been centred in him.
When it became known that he was lost, ten million people wept."
"What mean you, Kantos Kan," I whispered, "by 'his poor mother'?"
for the words had seemed to carry a sinister meaning which I could
He drew me to one side.
"For a year," he said, "Ever since Carthoris disappeared, Dejah Thoris
has grieved and mourned for her lost boy. The blow of years ago,
when you did not return from the atmosphere plant, was lessened
to some extent by the duties of motherhood, for your son broke his
white shell that very night."
"That she suffered terribly then, all Helium knew, for did not
all Helium suffer with her the loss of her lord! But with the boy
gone there was nothing left, and after expedition upon expedition
returned with the same hopeless tale of no clue as to his whereabouts,
our beloved Princess drooped lower and lower, until all who saw
her felt that it could be but a matter of days ere she went to join
her loved ones within the precincts of the Valley Dor.
"As a last resort, Mors Kajak, her father, and Tardos Mors, her
grandfather, took command of two mighty expeditions, and a month
ago sailed away to explore every inch of ground in the northern
hemisphere of Barsoom. For two weeks no word has come back from
them, but rumours were rife that they had met with a terrible
disaster and that all were dead.
"About this time Zat Arras renewed his importunities for her hand
in marriage. He has been for ever after her since you disappeared.
She hated him and feared him, but with both her father and grandfather
gone, Zat Arras was very powerful, for he is still Jed of Zodanga,
to which position, you will remember, Tardos Mors appointed him
after you had refused the honour.
"He had a secret audience with her six days ago. What took place
none knows, but the next day Dejah Thoris had disappeared, and
with her had gone a dozen of her household guard and body servants,
including Sola the green woman--Tars Tarkas' daughter, you recall.
No word left they of their intentions, but it is always thus with
those who go upon the voluntary pilgrimage from which none returns.
We cannot think aught than that Dejah Thoris has sought the icy bosom
of Iss, and that her devoted servants have chosen to accompany her.
"Zat Arras was at Helium when she disappeared. He commands this
fleet which has been searching for her since. No trace of her have
we found, and I fear that it be a futile quest."
While we talked, Hor Vastus' fliers were returning to the Xavarian.
Not one, however, had discovered a trace of Thuvia. I was much
depressed over the news of Dejah Thoris' disappearance, and now
there was added the further burden of apprehension concerning the
fate of this girl whom I believed to be the daughter of some proud
Barsoomian house, and it had been my intention to make every effort
to return her to her people.
I was about to ask Kantos Kan to prosecute a further search for her
when a flier from the flagship of the fleet arrived at the Xavarian
with an officer bearing a message to Kantos Kan from Arras.
My friend read the dispatch and then turned to me.
"Zat Arras commands me to bring our 'prisoners' before him. There
is naught else to do. He is supreme in Helium, yet it would be
far more in keeping with chivalry and good taste were he to come
hither and greet the saviour of Barsoom with the honours that are
"You know full well, my friend," I said, smiling, "that Zat Arras
has good cause to hate me. Nothing would please him better than
to humiliate me and then to kill me. Now that he has so excellent
an excuse, let us go and see if he has the courage to take advantage
Summoning Carthoris, Tars Tarkas, and Xodar, we entered the small
flier with Kantos Kan and Zat Arras' officer, and in a moment were
stepping to the deck of Zat Arras' flagship.
As we approached the Jed of Zodanga no sign of greeting or recognition
crossed his face; not even to Carthoris did he vouchsafe a friendly
word. His attitude was cold, haughty, and uncompromising.
"Kaor, Zat Arras," I said in greeting, but he did not respond.
"Why were these prisoners not disarmed?" he asked to Kantos Kan.
"They are not prisoners, Zat Arras," replied the officer.
"Two of them are of Helium's noblest family. Tars Tarkas, Jeddak
of Thark, is Tardos Mors' best beloved ally. The other is a friend
and companion of the Prince of Helium--that is enough for me to
"It is not enough for me, however," retorted Zat Arras. "More must
I hear from those who have taken the pilgrimage than their names.
Where have you been, John Carter?"
"I have just come from the Valley Dor and the Land of the First
Born, Zat Arras," I replied.
"Ah!" he exclaimed in evident pleasure, "you do not deny it, then?
You have returned from the bosom of Iss?"
"I have come back from a land of false hope, from a valley
of torture and death; with my companions I have escaped from the
hideous clutches of lying fiends. I have come back to the Barsoom
that I saved from a painless death to again save her, but this time
from death in its most frightful form."
"Cease, blasphemer!" cried Zat Arras. "Hope not to save thy cowardly
carcass by inventing horrid lies to--" But he got no further. One
does not call John Carter "coward" and "liar" thus lightly, and
Zat Arras should have known it. Before a hand could be raised to
stop me, I was at his side and one hand grasped his throat.
"Come I from heaven or hell, Zat Arras, you will find me still the
same John Carter that I have always been; nor did ever man call me
such names and live--without apologizing." And with that I commenced
to bend him back across my knee and tighten my grip upon his throat.
"Seize him!" cried Zat Arras, and a dozen officers sprang forward
to assist him.
Kantos Kan came close and whispered to me.
"Desist, I beg of you. It will but involve us all, for I cannot
see these men lay hands upon you without aiding you. My officers
and men will join me and we shall have a mutiny then that may lead
to the revolution. For the sake of Tardos Mors and Helium, desist."
At his words I released Zat Arras and, turning my back upon him,
walked toward the ship's rail.
"Come, Kantos Kan," I said, "the Prince of Helium would return to
None interfered. Zat Arras stood white and trembling amidst his
officers. Some there were who looked upon him with scorn and drew
toward me, while one, a man long in the service and confidence of
Tardos Mors, spoke to me in a low tone as I passed him.
"You may count my metal among your fighting-men, John Carter," he
I thanked him and passed on. In silence we embarked, and shortly
after stepped once more upon the deck of the Xavarian. Fifteen
minutes later we received orders from the flagship to proceed toward
Our journey thither was uneventful. Carthoris and I were wrapped
in the gloomiest of thoughts. Kantos Kan was sombre in contemplation
of the further calamity that might fall upon Helium should Zat Arras
attempt to follow the age-old precedent that allotted a terrible
death to fugitives from the Valley Dor. Tars Tarkas grieved for
the loss of his daughter. Xodar alone was care-free--a fugitive
and outlaw, he could be no worse off in Helium than elsewhere.
"Let us hope that we may at least go out with good red blood upon
our blades," he said. It was a simple wish and one most likely to
Among the officers of the Xavarian I thought I could discern
division into factions ere we had reached Helium. There were those
who gathered about Carthoris and myself whenever the opportunity
presented, while about an equal number held aloof from us. They
offered us only the most courteous treatment, but were evidently
bound by their superstitious belief in the doctrine of Dor and Iss
and Korus. I could not blame them, for I knew how strong a hold
a creed, however ridiculous it may be, may gain upon an otherwise
By returning from Dor we had committed a sacrilege; by recounting
our adventures there, and stating the facts as they existed we had
outraged the religion of their fathers. We were blasphemers--lying
heretics. Even those who still clung to us from personal love and
loyalty I think did so in the face of the fact that at heart they
questioned our veracity--it is very hard to accept a new religion
for an old, no matter how alluring the promises of the new may
be; but to reject the old as a tissue of falsehoods without being
offered anything in its stead is indeed a most difficult thing to
ask of any people.
Kantos Kan would not talk of our experiences among the therns and
the First Born.
"It is enough," he said, "that I jeopardize my life here and
hereafter by countenancing you at all--do not ask me to add still
further to my sins by listening to what I have always been taught
was the rankest heresy."
I knew that sooner or later the time must come when our friends
and enemies would be forced to declare themselves openly. When
we reached Helium there must be an accounting, and if Tardos Mors
had not returned I feared that the enmity of Zat Arras might weigh
heavily against us, for he represented the government of Helium.
To take sides against him were equivalent to treason. The majority
of the troops would doubtless follow the lead of their officers,
and I knew that many of the highest and most powerful men of both
land and air forces would cleave to John Carter in the face of god,
man, or devil.
On the other hand, the majority of the populace unquestionably
would demand that we pay the penalty of our sacrilege. The outlook
seemed dark from whatever angle I viewed it, but my mind was so
torn with anguish at the thought of Dejah Thoris that I realize
now that I gave the terrible question of Helium's plight but scant
attention at that time.
There was always before me, day and night, a horrible nightmare of
the frightful scenes through which I knew my Princess might even
then be passing--the horrid plant men--the ferocious white apes.
At times I would cover my face with my hands in a vain effort to
shut out the fearful thing from my mind.
It was in the forenoon that we arrived above the mile-high scarlet
tower which marks greater Helium from her twin city. As we descended
in great circles toward the navy docks a mighty multitude could be
seen surging in the streets beneath. Helium had been notified by
radio-aerogram of our approach.
From the deck of the Xavarian we four, Carthoris, Tars Tarkas,
Xodar, and I, were transferred to a lesser flier to be transported
to quarters within the Temple of Reward. It is here that Martian
justice is meted to benefactor and malefactor. Here the hero is
decorated. Here the felon is condemned. We were taken into the
temple from the landing stage upon the roof, so that we did not
pass among the people at all, as is customary. Always before I had
seen prisoners of note, or returned wanderers of eminence, paraded
from the Gate of Jeddaks to the Temple of Reward up the broad Avenue
of Ancestors through dense crowds of jeering or cheering citizens.
I knew that Zat Arras dared not trust the people near to us, for
he feared that their love for Carthoris and myself might break into
a demonstration which would wipe out their superstitious horror of
the crime we were to be charged with. What his plans were I could
only guess, but that they were sinister was evidenced by the fact
that only his most trusted servitors accompanied us upon the flier
to the Temple of Reward.
We were lodged in a room upon the south side of the temple,
overlooking the Avenue of Ancestors down which we could see the
full length to the Gate of Jeddaks, five miles away. The people in
the temple plaza and in the streets for a distance of a full mile
were standing as close packed as it was possible for them to get.
They were very orderly--there were neither scoffs nor plaudits,
and when they saw us at the window above them there were many who
buried their faces in their arms and wept.
Late in the afternoon a messenger arrived from Zat Arras to inform
us that we would be tried by an impartial body of nobles in the
great hall of the temple at the 1st zode* on the following day, or
about 8:40 A.M. Earth time.
*Wherever Captain Carter has used Martian measurements of
time, distance, weight, and the like I have translated them into
as nearly their equivalent in earthly values as is possible. His
notes contain many Martian tables, and a great volume of scientific
data, but since the International Astronomic Society is at present
engaged in classifying, investigating, and verifying this vast fund
of remarkable and valuable information, I have felt that it will
add nothing to the interest of Captain Carter's story or to the
sum total of human knowledge to maintain a strict adherence to
the original manuscript in these matters, while it might readily
confuse the reader and detract from the interest of the history.
For those who may be interested, however, I will explain that the
Martian day is a trifle over 24 hours 37 minutes duration (Earth
time). This the Martians divide into ten equal parts, commencing
the day at about 6 A.M. Earth time. The zodes are divided into
fifty shorter periods, each of which in turn is composed of 200
brief periods of time, about equivalent to the earthly second. The
Barsoomian Table of Time as here given is but a part of the full
table appearing in Captain Carter's notes.
200 tals . . . . . . . . . 1 xat
50 xats . . . . . . . . . 1 zode
10 zodes . . . . . . . . 1 revolution of Mars upon its axis.
THE DEATH SENTENCE
A few moments before the appointed time on the following morning
a strong guard of Zat Arras' officers appeared at our quarters to
conduct us to the great hall of the temple.
In twos we entered the chamber and marched down the broad Aisle of
Hope, as it is called, to the platform in the centre of the hall.
Before and behind us marched armed guards, while three solid ranks
of Zodangan soldiery lined either side of the aisle from the entrance
to the rostrum.
As we reached the raised enclosure I saw our judges. As is the
custom upon Barsoom there were thirty-one, supposedly selected by
lot from men of the noble class, for nobles were on trial. But to
my amazement I saw no single friendly face among them. Practically
all were Zodangans, and it was I to whom Zodanga owed her defeat
at the hands of the green hordes and her subsequent vassalage to
Helium. There could be little justice here for John Carter, or his
son, or for the great Thark who had commanded the savage tribesmen
who overran Zodanga's broad avenues, looting, burning, and murdering.
About us the vast circular coliseum was packed to its full capacity.
All classes were represented--all ages, and both sexes. As we
entered the hall the hum of subdued conversation ceased until as we
halted upon the platform, or Throne of Righteousness, the silence
of death enveloped the ten thousand spectators.
The judges were seated in a great circle about the periphery of the
circular platform. We were assigned seats with our backs toward a
small platform in the exact centre of the larger one. This placed
us facing the judges and the audience. Upon the smaller platform
each would take his place while his case was being heard.
Zat Arras himself sat in the golden chair of the presiding
magistrate. As we were seated and our guards retired to the foot
of the stairway leading to the platform, he arose and called my
"John Carter," he cried, "take your place upon the Pedestal of
Truth to be judged impartially according to your acts and here to
know the reward you have earned thereby." Then turning to and fro
toward the audience he narrated the acts upon the value of which
my reward was to be determined.
"Know you, O judges and people of Helium," he said, "that John Carter,
one time Prince of Helium, has returned by his own statement from
the Valley Dor and even from the Temple of Issus itself. That, in
the presence of many men of Helium he has blasphemed against the
Sacred Iss, and against the Valley Dor, and the Lost Sea of Korus,
and the Holy Therns themselves, and even against Issus, Goddess
of Death, and of Life Eternal. And know you further by witness
of thine own eyes that see him here now upon the Pedestal of Truth
that he has indeed returned from these sacred precincts in the
face of our ancient customs, and in violation of the sanctity of
our ancient religion.
"He who be once dead may not live again. He who attempts it must
be made dead for ever. Judges, your duty lies plain before you--here
can be no testimony in contravention of truth. What reward shall
be meted to John Carter in accordance with the acts he has committed?"
"Death!" shouted one of the judges.
And then a man sprang to his feet in the audience, and raising his
hand on high, cried: "Justice! Justice! Justice!" It was Kantos
Kan, and as all eyes turned toward him he leaped past the Zodangan
soldiery and sprang upon the platform.
"What manner of justice be this?" he cried to Zat Arras. "The
defendant has not been heard, nor has he had an opportunity to
call others in his behalf. In the name of the people of Helium I
demand fair and impartial treatment for the Prince of Helium."
A great cry arose from the audience then: "Justice! Justice!
Justice!" and Zat Arras dared not deny them.
"Speak, then," he snarled, turning to me; "but blaspheme not against
the things that are sacred upon Barsoom."
"Men of Helium," I cried, turning to the spectators, and speaking
over the heads of my judges, "how can John Carter expect justice
from the men of Zodanga? He cannot nor does he ask it. It is to
the men of Helium that he states his case; nor does he appeal for
mercy to any. It is not in his own cause that he speaks now--it is
in thine. In the cause of your wives and daughters, and of wives
and daughters yet unborn. It is to save them from the unthinkably
atrocious indignities that I have seen heaped upon the fair women
of Barsoom in the place men call the Temple of Issus. It is to save
them from the sucking embrace of the plant men, from the fangs of
the great white apes of Dor, from the cruel lust of the Holy Therns,
from all that the cold, dead Iss carries them to from homes of love
and life and happiness.
"Sits there no man here who does not know the history of John
Carter. How he came among you from another world and rose from a
prisoner among the green men, through torture and persecution, to
a place high among the highest of Barsoom. Nor ever did you know
John Carter to lie in his own behalf, or to say aught that might
harm the people of Barsoom, or to speak lightly of the strange
religion which he respected without understanding.
"There be no man here, or elsewhere upon Barsoom to-day who does
not owe his life directly to a single act of mine, in which I
sacrificed myself and the happiness of my Princess that you might
live. And so, men of Helium, I think that I have the right to
demand that I be heard, that I be believed, and that you let me
serve you and save you from the false hereafter of Dor and Issus
as I saved you from the real death that other day.
"It is to you of Helium that I speak now. When I am done let the
men of Zodanga have their will with me. Zat Arras has taken my
sword from me, so the men of Zodanga no longer fear me. Will you
"Speak, John Carter, Prince of Helium," cried a great noble from
the audience, and the multitude echoed his permission, until the
building rocked with the noise of their demonstration.
Zat Arras knew better than to interfere with such a sentiment
as was expressed that day in the Temple of Reward, and so for two
hours I talked with the people of Helium.
But when I had finished, Zat Arras arose and, turning to the judges,
said in a low tone: "My nobles, you have heard John Carter's plea;
every opportunity has been given him to prove his innocence if he
be not guilty; but instead he has but utilized the time in further
blasphemy. What, gentlemen, is your verdict?"
"Death to the blasphemer!" cried one, springing to his feet, and
in an instant the entire thirty-one judges were on their feet with
upraised swords in token of the unanimity of their verdict.
If the people did not hear Zat Arras' charge, they certainly did
hear the verdict of the tribunal. A sullen murmur rose louder
and louder about the packed coliseum, and then Kantos Kan, who had
not left the platform since first he had taken his place near me,
raised his hand for silence. When he could be heard he spoke to
the people in a cool and level voice.
"You have heard the fate that the men of Zodanga would mete to
Helium's noblest hero. It may be the duty of the men of Helium
to accept the verdict as final. Let each man act according to his
own heart. Here is the answer of Kantos Kan, head of the navy of
Helium, to Zat Arras and his judges," and with that he unbuckled
his scabbard and threw his sword at my feet.
In an instant soldiers and citizens, officers and nobles were
crowding past the soldiers of Zodanga and forcing their way to the
Throne of Righteousness. A hundred men surged upon the platform,
and a hundred blades rattled and clanked to the floor at my feet.
Zat Arras and his officers were furious, but they were helpless.
One by one I raised the swords to my lips and buckled them again
upon their owners.
"Come," sand Kantos Kan, "we will escort John Carter and his party
to his own palace," and they formed about us and started toward
the stairs leading to the Aisle of Hope.
"Stop!" cried Zat Arras. "Soldiers of Helium, let no prisoner
leave the Throne of Righteousness."
The soldiery from Zodanga were the only organized body of Heliumetic
troops within the temple, so Zat Arras was confident that his
orders would be obeyed, but I do not think that he looked for the
opposition that was raised the moment the soldiers advanced toward
From every quarter of the coliseum swords flashed and men rushed
threateningly upon the Zodangans. Some one raised a cry: "Tardos
Mors is dead--a thousand years to John Carter, Jeddak of Helium."
As I heard that and saw the ugly attitude of the men of Helium
toward the soldiers of Zat Arras, I knew that only a miracle could
avert a clash that would end in civil war.
"Hold!" I cried, leaping to the Pedestal of Truth once more. "Let
no man move till I am done. A single sword thrust here to-day may
plunge Helium into a bitter and bloody war the results of which
none can foresee. It will turn brother against brother and father
against son. No man's life is worth that sacrifice. Rather would
I submit to the biased judgment of Zat Arras than be the cause of
civil strife in Helium.
"Let us each give in a point to the other, and let this entire
matter rest until Tardos Mors returns, or Mors Kajak, his son. If
neither be back at the end of a year a second trial may be held--the
thing has a precedent." And then turning to Zat Arras, I said in
a low voice: "Unless you be a bigger fool than I take you to be,
you will grasp the chance I am offering you ere it is too late.
Once that multitude of swords below is drawn against your soldiery
no man upon Barsoom--not even Tardos Mors himself--can avert the
consequences. What say you? Speak quickly."
The Jed of Zodangan Helium raised his voice to the angry sea beneath
"Stay your hands, men of Helium," he shouted, his voice trembling
with rage. "The sentence of the court is passed, but the day
of retribution has not been set. I, Zat Arras, Jed of Zodanga,
appreciating the royal connections of the prisoner and his past
services to Helium and Barsoom, grant a respite of one year, or
until the return of Mors Kajak, or Tardos Mors to Helium. Disperse
quietly to your houses. Go."
No one moved. Instead, they stood in tense silence with their eyes
fastened upon me, as though waiting for a signal to attack.
"Clear the temple," commanded Zat Arras, in a low tone to one of
Fearing the result of an attempt to carry out this order by force,
I stepped to the edge of the platform and, pointing toward the main
entrance, bid them pass out. As one man they turned at my request
and filed, silent and threatening, past the soldiers of Zat Arras,
Jed of Zodanga, who stood scowling in impotent rage.
Kantos Kan with the others who had sworn allegiance to me still
stood upon the Throne of Righteousness with me.
"Come," said Kantos Kan to me, "we will escort you to your palace,
my Prince. Come, Carthoris and Xodar. Come, Tars Tarkas." And
with a haughty sneer for Zat Arras upon his handsome lips, he turned
and strode to the throne steps and up the Aisle of Hope. We four
and the hundred loyal ones followed behind him, nor was a hand
raised to stay us, though glowering eyes followed our triumphal
march through the temple.
In the avenues we found a press of people, but they opened a pathway
for us, and many were the swords that were flung at my feet as I
passed through the city of Helium toward my palace upon the outskirts.
Here my old slaves fell upon their knees and kissed my hands as I
greeted them. They cared not where I had been. It was enough that
I had returned to them.
"Ah, master," cried one, "if our divine Princess were but here this
would be a day indeed."
Tears came to my eyes, so that I was forced to turn away that I
might hide my emotions. Carthoris wept openly as the slaves pressed
about him with expressions of affection, and words of sorrow for
our common loss. It was now that Tars Tarkas for the first time
learned that his daughter, Sola, had accompanied Dejah Thoris upon
the last long pilgrimage. I had not had the heart to tell him what
Kantos Kan had told me. With the stoicism of the green Martian
he showed no sign of suffering, yet I knew that his grief was
as poignant as my own. In marked contrast to his kind, he had in
well-developed form the kindlier human characteristics of love,
friendship, and charity.
It was a sad and sombre party that sat at the feast of welcome in
the great dining hall of the palace of the Prince of Helium that
day. We were over a hundred strong, not counting the members of
my little court, for Dejah Thoris and I had maintained a household
consistent with our royal rank.
The board, according to red Martian custom, was triangular, for
there were three in our family. Carthoris and I presided in the
centre of our sides of the table--midway of the third side Dejah
Thoris' high-backed, carven chair stood vacant except for her
gorgeous wedding trappings and jewels which were draped upon it.
Behind stood a slave as in the days when his mistress had occupied
her place at the board, ready to do her bidding. It was the way
upon Barsoom, so I endured the anguish of it, though it wrung my
heart to see that silent chair where should have been my laughing
and vivacious Princess keeping the great hall ringing with her
At my right sat Kantos Kan, while to the right of Dejah Thoris'
empty place Tars Tarkas sat in a huge chair before a raised section
of the board which years ago I had had constructed to meet the
requirements of his mighty bulk. The place of honour at a Martian
hoard is always at the hostess's right, and this place was ever
reserved by Dejah Thoris for the great Thark upon the occasions
that he was in Helium.
Hor Vastus sat in the seat of honour upon Carthoris' side of the
table. There was little general conversation. It was a quiet and
saddened party. The loss of Dejah Thoris was still fresh in the
minds of all, and to this was added fear for the safety of Tardos
Mors and Mors Kajak, as well as doubt and uncertainty as to the fate
of Helium, should it prove true that she was permanently deprived
of her great Jeddak.
Suddenly our attention was attracted by the sound of distant shouting,
as of many people raising their voices at once, but whether in
anger or rejoicing, we could not tell. Nearer and nearer came the
tumult. A slave rushed into the dining hall to cry that a great
concourse of people was swarming through the palace gates. A
second burst upon the heels of the first alternately laughing and
shrieking as a madman.
"Dejah Thoris is found!" he cried. "A messenger from Dejah Thoris!"
I waited to hear no more. The great windows of the dining hall
overlooked the avenue leading to the main gates--they were upon
the opposite side of the hall from me with the table intervening.
I did not waste time in circling the great board--with a single
leap I cleared table and diners and sprang upon the balcony beyond.
Thirty feet below lay the scarlet sward of the lawn and beyond were
many people crowding about a great thoat which bore a rider headed
toward the palace. I vaulted to the ground below and ran swiftly
toward the advancing party.
As I came near to them I saw that the figure on the thoat was Sola.
"Where is the Princess of Helium?" I cried.
The green girl slid from her mighty mount and ran toward me.
"O my Prince! My Prince!" she cried. "She is gone for ever. Even
now she may be a captive upon the lesser moon. The black pirates
of Barsoom have stolen her."
Once within the palace, I drew Sola to the dining hall, and, when
she had greeted her father after the formal manner of the green men,
she told the story of the pilgrimage and capture of Dejah Thoris.
"Seven days ago, after her audience with Zat Arras, Dejah Thoris
attempted to slip from the palace in the dead of night. Although
I had not heard the outcome of her interview with Zat Arras I knew
that something had occurred then to cause her the keenest mental
agony, and when I discovered her creeping from the palace I did
not need to be told her destination.
"Hastily arousing a dozen of her most faithful guards, I explained
my fears to them, and as one they enlisted with me to follow our
beloved Princess in her wanderings, even to the Sacred Iss and the
Valley Dor. We came upon her but a short distance from the palace.
With her was faithful Woola the hound, but none other. When we
overtook her she feigned anger, and ordered us back to the palace,
but for once we disobeyed her, and when she found that we would
not let her go upon the last long pilgrimage alone, she wept and
embraced us, and together we went out into the night toward the
"The following day we came upon a herd of small thoats, and
thereafter we were mounted and made good time. We travelled very
fast and very far due south until the morning of the fifth day
we sighted a great fleet of battleships sailing north. They saw
us before we could seek shelter, and soon we were surrounded by a
horde of black men. The Princess's guard fought nobly to the end,
but they were soon overcome and slain. Only Dejah Thoris and I
"When she realized that she was in the clutches of the black pirates,
she attempted to take her own life, but one of the blacks tore her
dagger from her, and then they bound us both so that we could not
use our hands.
"The fleet continued north after capturing us. There were about
twenty large battleships in all, besides a number of small swift
cruisers. That evening one of the smaller cruisers that had been
far in advance of the fleet returned with a prisoner--a young red
woman whom they had picked up in a range of hills under the very
noses, they said, of a fleet of three red Martian battleships.
"From scraps of conversation which we overheard it was evident that
the black pirates were searching for a party of fugitives that had
escaped them several days prior. That they considered the capture
of the young woman important was evident from the long and earnest
interview the commander of the fleet held with her when she was
brought to him. Later she was bound and placed in the compartment
with Dejah Thoris and myself.
"The new captive was a very beautiful girl. She told Dejah Thoris
that many years ago she had taken the voluntary pilgrimage from
the court of her father, the Jeddak of Ptarth. She was Thuvia,
the Princess of Ptarth. And then she asked Dejah Thoris who she
might be, and when she heard she fell upon her knees and kissed
Dejah Thoris' fettered hands, and told her that that very morning
she had been with John Carter, Prince of Helium, and Carthoris,
"Dejah Thoris could not believe her at first, but finally when
the girl had narrated all the strange adventures that had befallen
her since she had met John Carter, and told her of the things John
Carter, and Carthoris, and Xodar had narrated of their adventures
in the Land of the First Born, Dejah Thoris knew that it could be
none other than the Prince of Helium; 'For who,' she said, 'upon
all Barsoom other than John Carter could have done the deeds you
tell of.' And when Thuvia told Dejah Thoris of her love for John
Carter, and his loyalty and devotion to the Princess of his choice,
Dejah Thoris broke down and wept--cursing Zat Arras and the cruel
fate that had driven her from Helium but a few brief days before
the return of her beloved lord.
"'I do not blame you for loving him, Thuvia,' she said; 'and that
your affection for him is pure and sincere I can well believe from
the candour of your avowal of it to me.'
"The fleet continued north nearly to Helium, but last night they
evidently realized that John Carter had indeed escaped them and
so they turned toward the south once more. Shortly thereafter a
guard entered our compartment and dragged me to the deck.
"'There is no place in the Land of the First Born for a green one,'
he said, and with that he gave me a terrific shove that carried me
toppling from the deck of the battleship. Evidently this seemed
to him the easiest way of ridding the vessel of my presence and
killing me at the same time.
"But a kind fate intervened, and by a miracle I escaped with but
slight bruises. The ship was moving slowly at the time, and as I
lunged overboard into the darkness beneath I shuddered at the awful
plunge I thought awaited me, for all day the fleet had sailed thousands
of feet above the ground; but to my utter surprise I struck upon a
soft mass of vegetation not twenty feet from the deck of the ship.
In fact, the keel of the vessel must have been grazing the surface
of the ground at the time.
"I lay all night where I had fallen and the next morning brought
an explanation of the fortunate coincidence that had saved me from
a terrible death. As the sun rose I saw a vast panorama of sea
bottom and distant hills lying far below me. I was upon the highest
peak of a lofty range. The fleet in the darkness of the preceding
night had barely grazed the crest of the hills, and in the brief
span that they hovered close to the surface the black guard had
pitched me, as he supposed, to my death.
"A few miles west of me was a great waterway. When I reached it I
found to my delight that it belonged to Helium. Here a thoat was
procured for me--the rest you know."
For many minutes none spoke. Dejah Thoris in the clutches of the
First Born! I shuddered at the thought, but of a sudden the old
fire of unconquerable self-confidence surged through me. I sprang
to my feet, and with back-thrown shoulders and upraised sword took
a solemn vow to reach, rescue, and revenge my Princess.
A hundred swords leaped from a hundred scabbards, and a hundred
fighting-men sprang to the table-top and pledged me their lives and
fortunes to the expedition. Already my plans were formulated. I
thanked each loyal friend, and leaving Carthoris to entertain them,
withdrew to my own audience chamber with Kantos Kan, Tars Tarkas,
Xodar, and Hor Vastus.
Here we discussed the details of our expedition until long after
dark. Xodar was positive that Issus would choose both Dejah Thoris
and Thuvia to serve her for a year.
"For that length of time at least they will be comparatively safe,"
he said, "and we will at least know where to look for them."
In the matter of equipping a fleet to enter Omean the details
were left to Kantos Kan and Xodar. The former agreed to take such
vessels as we required into dock as rapidly as possible, where
Xodar would direct their equipment with water propellers.
For many years the black had been in charge of the refitting of
captured battleships that they might navigate Omean, and so was
familiar with the construction of the propellers, housings, and
the auxiliary gearing required.
It was estimated that it would require six months to complete our
preparations in view of the fact that the utmost secrecy must be
maintained to keep the project from the ears of Zat Arras. Kantos
Kan was confident now that the man's ambitions were fully aroused
and that nothing short of the title of Jeddak of Helium would
"I doubt," he said, "if he would even welcome Dejah Thoris' return,
for it would mean another nearer the throne than he. With you and
Carthoris out of the way there would be little to prevent him from
assuming the title of Jeddak, and you may rest assured that so long
as he is supreme here there is no safety for either of you."
"There is a way," cried Hor Vastus, "to thwart him effectually and
"What?" I asked.
"I shall whisper it here, but some day I shall stand upon the dome
of the Temple of Reward and shout it to cheering multitudes below."
"What do you mean?" asked Kantos Kan.
"John Carter, Jeddak of Helium," said Hor Vastus in a low voice.
The eyes of my companions lighted, and grim smiles of pleasure and
anticipation overspread their faces, as each eye turned toward me
questioningly. But I shook my head.
"No, my friends," I said, smiling, "I thank you, but it cannot be.
Not yet, at least. When we know that Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak
are gone to return no more; if I be here, then I shall join you
all to see that the people of Helium are permitted to choose fairly
their next Jeddak. Whom they choose may count upon the loyalty
of my sword, nor shall I seek the honour for myself. Until then
Tardos Mors is Jeddak of Helium, and Zat Arras is his representative."
"As you will, John Carter," said Hor Vastus, "but--What was that?"
he whispered, pointing toward the window overlooking the gardens.
The words were scarce out of his mouth ere he had sprung to the
"There he goes!" he cried excitedly. "The guards! Below there!
We were close behind him, and all saw the figure of a man run
quickly across a little piece of sward and disappear in the shrubbery
"He was on the balcony when I first saw him," cried Hor Vastus.
"Quick! Let us follow him!"
Together we ran to the gardens, but even though we scoured the
grounds with the entire guard for hours, no trace could we find of
the night marauder.
"What do you make of it, Kantos Kan?" asked Tars Tarkas.
"A spy sent by Zat Arras," he replied. "It was ever his way."
"He will have something interesting to report to his master then,"
laughed Hor Vastus.
"I hope he heard only our references to a new Jeddak," I said. "If
he overheard our plans to rescue Dejah Thoris, it will mean civil
war, for he will attempt to thwart us, and in that I will not be
thwarted. There would I turn against Tardos Mors himself, were
it necessary. If it throws all Helium into a bloody conflict, I
shall go on with these plans to save my Princess. Nothing shall
stay me now short of death, and should I die, my friends, will you
take oath to prosecute the search for her and bring her back in
safety to her grandfather's court?"
Upon the hilt of his sword each of them swore to do as I had asked.
It was agreed that the battleships that were to be remodelled
should be ordered to Hastor, another Heliumetic city, far to the
south-west. Kantos Kan thought that the docks there, in addition
to their regular work, would accommodate at least six battleships
at a time. As he was commander-in-chief of the navy, it would be
a simple matter for him to order the vessels there as they could be
handled, and thereafter keep the remodelled fleet in remote parts
of the empire until we should be ready to assemble it for the dash
It was late that night before our conference broke up, but each
man there had his particular duties outlined, and the details of
the entire plan had been mapped out.
Kantos Kan and Xodar were to attend to the remodelling of the ships.
Tars Tarkas was to get into communication with Thark and learn the
sentiments of his people toward his return from Dor. If favourable,
he was to repair immediately to Thark and devote his time to the
assembling of a great horde of green warriors whom it was our plan
to send in transports directly to the Valley Dor and the Temple of
Issus, while the fleet entered Omean and destroyed the vessels of
the First Born.
Upon Hor Vastus devolved the delicate mission of organising a
secret force of fighting-men sworn to follow John Carter wherever
he might lead. As we estimated that it would require over a million
men to man the thousand great battleships we intended to use on
Omean and the transports for the green men as well as the ships
that were to convoy the transports, it was no trifling job that
Hor Vastus had before him.
After they had left I bid Carthoris good-night, for I was very
tired, and going to my own apartments, bathed and lay down upon my
sleeping silks and furs for the first good night's sleep I had had
an opportunity to look forward to since I had returned to Barsoom.
But even now I was to be disappointed.
How long I slept I do not know. When I awoke suddenly it was to
find a half-dozen powerful men upon me, a gag already in my mouth,
and a moment later my arms and legs securely bound. So quickly
had they worked and to such good purpose, that I was utterly beyond
the power to resist them by the time I was fully awake.
Never a word spoke they, and the gag effectually prevented me
speaking. Silently they lifted me and bore me toward the door of
my chamber. As they passed the window through which the farther
moon was casting its brilliant beams, I saw that each of the party
had his face swathed in layers of silk--I could not recognize one
When they had come into the corridor with me, they turned toward a
secret panel in the wall which led to the passage that terminated
in the pits beneath the palace. That any knew of this panel outside
my own household, I was doubtful. Yet the leader of the band did
not hesitate a moment. He stepped directly to the panel, touched
the concealed button, and as the door swung open he stood aside
while his companions entered with me. Then he closed the panel
behind him and followed us.
Down through the passageways to the pits we went. The leader
rapped upon it with the hilt of his sword--three quick, sharp blows,
a pause, then three more, another pause, and then two. A second
later the wall swung in, and I was pushed within a brilliantly
lighted chamber in which sat three richly trapped men.
One of them turned toward me with a sardonic smile upon his thin,
cruel lips--it was Zat Arras.
"Ah," said Zat Arras, "to what kindly circumstance am I indebted
for the pleasure of this unexpected visit from the Prince of Helium?"
While he was speaking, one of my guards had removed the gag from
my mouth, but I made no reply to Zat Arras: simply standing there
in silence with level gaze fixed upon the Jed of Zodanga. And I
doubt not that my expression was coloured by the contempt I felt
for the man.