Part 2 out of 4
The isolation of the Kaolians is rendered almost complete by the
fact that no waterway connects their land with that of any other
nation, nor have they any need of a waterway since the low, swampy
land which comprises the entire area of their domain self-waters
their abundant tropical crops.
For great distances in all directions rugged hills and arid
stretches of dead sea bottom discourage intercourse with them, and
since there is practically no such thing as foreign commerce upon
warlike Barsoom, where each nation is sufficient to itself, really
little has been known relative to the court of the Jeddak of Kaol
and the numerous strange, but interesting, people over whom he
Occasional hunting parties have traveled to this out-of-the-way
corner of the globe, but the hostility of the natives has usually
brought disaster upon them, so that even the sport of hunting the
strange and savage creatures which haunt the jungle fastnesses of
Kaol has of later years proved insufficient lure even to the most
It was upon the verge of the land of the Kaols that I now knew
myself to be, but in what direction to search for Dejah Thoris, or
how far into the heart of the great forest I might have to penetrate
I had not the faintest idea.
But not so Woola.
Scarcely had I disentangled him than he raised his head high in air
and commenced circling about at the edge of the forest. Presently
he halted, and, turning to see if I were following, set off straight
into the maze of trees in the direction we had been going before
Thurid's shot had put an end to our flier.
As best I could, I stumbled after him down a steep declivity
beginning at the forest's edge.
Immense trees reared their mighty heads far above us, their broad
fronds completely shutting off the slightest glimpse of the sky.
It was easy to see why the Kaolians needed no navy; their cities,
hidden in the midst of this towering forest, must be entirely
invisible from above, nor could a landing be made by any but the
smallest fliers, and then only with the greatest risk of accident.
How Thurid and Matai Shang were to land I could not imagine, though
later I was to learn that to the level of the forest top there rises
in each city of Kaol a slender watchtower which guards the Kaolians
by day and by night against the secret approach of a hostile fleet.
To one of these the hekkador of the Holy Therns had no difficulty
in approaching, and by its means the party was safely lowered to
As Woola and I approached the bottom of the declivity the ground
became soft and mushy, so that it was with the greatest difficulty
that we made any headway whatever.
Slender purple grasses topped with red and yellow fern-like fronds
grew rankly all about us to the height of several feet above my
Myriad creepers hung festooned in graceful loops from tree to tree,
and among them were several varieties of the Martian "man-flower,"
whose blooms have eyes and hands with which to see and seize the
insects which form their diet.
The repulsive calot tree was, too, much in evidence. It is a
carnivorous plant of about the bigness of a large sage-brush such
as dots our western plains. Each branch ends in a set of strong
jaws, which have been known to drag down and devour large and
formidable beasts of prey.
Both Woola and I had several narrow escapes from these greedy,
Occasional areas of firm sod gave us intervals of rest from the
arduous labor of traversing this gorgeous, twilight swamp, and it
was upon one of these that I finally decided to make camp for the
night which my chronometer warned me would soon be upon us.
Many varieties of fruit grew in abundance about us; and as Martian
calots are omnivorous, Woola had no difficulty in making a square
meal after I had brought down the viands for him. Then, having
eaten, too, I lay down with my back to that of my faithful hound,
and dropped into a deep and dreamless sleep.
The forest was shrouded in impenetrable darkness when a low growl
from Woola awakened me. All about us I could hear the stealthy
movement of great, padded feet, and now and then the wicked gleam
of green eyes upon us. Arising, I drew my long-sword and waited.
Suddenly a deep-toned, horrid roar burst from some savage throat
almost at my side. What a fool I had been not to have found safer
lodgings for myself and Woola among the branches of one of the
countless trees that surrounded us!
By daylight it would have been comparatively easy to have hoisted
Woola aloft in one manner or another, but now it was too late. There
was nothing for it but to stand our ground and take our medicine,
though, from the hideous racket which now assailed our ears, and
for which that first roar had seemed to be the signal, I judged
that we must be in the midst of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
the fierce, man-eating denizens of the Kaolian jungle.
All the balance of the night they kept up their infernal din, but
why they did not attack us I could not guess, nor am I sure to this
day, unless it is that none of them ever venture upon the patches
of scarlet sward which dot the swamp.
When morning broke they were still there, walking about as in
a circle, but always just beyond the edge of the sward. A more
terrifying aggregation of fierce and blood-thirsty monsters it
would be difficult to imagine.
Singly and in pairs they commenced wandering off into the jungle
shortly after sunrise, and when the last of them had departed Woola
and I resumed our journey.
Occasionally we caught glimpses of horrid beasts all during the
day; but, fortunately, we were never far from a sward island, and
when they saw us their pursuit always ended at the verge of the
Toward noon we stumbled upon a well-constructed road running
in the general direction we had been pursuing. Everything about
this highway marked it as the work of skilled engineers, and I was
confident, from the indications of antiquity which it bore, as well
as from the very evident signs of its being still in everyday use,
that it must lead to one of the principal cities of Kaol.
Just as we entered it from one side a huge monster emerged from
the jungle upon the other, and at sight of us charged madly in our
Imagine, if you can, a bald-faced hornet of your earthly experience
grown to the size of a prize Hereford bull, and you will have some
faint conception of the ferocious appearance and awesome formidability
of the winged monster that bore down upon me.
Frightful jaws in front and mighty, poisoned sting behind made my
relatively puny long-sword seem a pitiful weapon of defense indeed.
Nor could I hope to escape the lightning-like movements or hide
from those myriad facet eyes which covered three-fourths of the
hideous head, permitting the creature to see in all directions at
one and the same time.
Even my powerful and ferocious Woola was as helpless as a kitten
before that frightful thing. But to flee were useless, even had
it ever been to my liking to turn my back upon a danger; so I stood
my ground, Woola snarling at my side, my only hope to die as I had
The creature was upon us now, and at the instant there seemed to
me a single slight chance for victory. If I could but remove the
terrible menace of certain death hidden in the poison sacs that
fed the sting the struggle would be less unequal.
At the thought I called to Woola to leap upon the creature's head
and hang there, and as his mighty jaws closed upon that fiendish
face, and glistening fangs buried themselves in the bone and
cartilage and lower part of one of the huge eyes, I dived beneath
the great body as the creature rose, dragging Woola from the ground,
that it might bring its sting beneath and pierce the body of the
thing hanging to its head.
To put myself in the path of that poison-laden lance was to court
instant death, but it was the only way; and as the thing shot
lightning-like toward me I swung my long-sword in a terrific cut
that severed the deadly member close to the gorgeously marked body.
Then, like a battering-ram, one of the powerful hind legs caught
me full in the chest and hurled me, half stunned and wholly winded,
clear across the broad highway and into the underbrush of the jungle
that fringes it.
Fortunately, I passed between the boles of trees; had I struck one
of them I should have been badly injured, if not killed, so swiftly
had I been catapulted by that enormous hind leg.
Dazed though I was, I stumbled to my feet and staggered back to
Woola's assistance, to find his savage antagonist circling ten feet
above the ground, beating madly at the clinging calot with all six
Even during my sudden flight through the air I had not once released
my grip upon my long-sword, and now I ran beneath the two battling
monsters, jabbing the winged terror repeatedly with its sharp point.
The thing might easily have risen out of my reach, but evidently it
knew as little concerning retreat in the face of danger as either
Woola or I, for it dropped quickly toward me, and before I could
escape had grasped my shoulder between its powerful jaws.
Time and again the now useless stub of its giant sting struck futilely
against my body, but the blows alone were almost as effective as
the kick of a horse; so that when I say futilely, I refer only to
the natural function of the disabled member--eventually the thing
would have hammered me to a pulp. Nor was it far from accomplishing
this when an interruption occurred that put an end forever to its
From where I hung a few feet above the road I could see along the
highway a few hundred yards to where it turned toward the east,
and just as I had about given up all hope of escaping the perilous
position in which I now was I saw a red warrior come into view from
around the bend.
He was mounted on a splendid thoat, one of the smaller species used
by red men, and in his hand was a wondrous long, light lance.
His mount was walking sedately when I first perceived them, but the
instant that the red man's eyes fell upon us a word to the thoat
brought the animal at full charge down upon us. The long lance
of the warrior dipped toward us, and as thoat and rider hurtled
beneath, the point passed through the body of our antagonist.
With a convulsive shudder the thing stiffened, the jaws relaxed,
dropping me to the ground, and then, careening once in mid air,
the creature plunged headforemost to the road, full upon Woola,
who still clung tenaciously to its gory head.
By the time I had regained my feet the red man had turned and ridden
back to us. Woola, finding his enemy inert and lifeless, released
his hold at my command and wriggled from beneath the body that had
covered him, and together we faced the warrior looking down upon
I started to thank the stranger for his timely assistance, but he
cut me off peremptorily.
"Who are you," he asked, "who dare enter the land of Kaol and hunt
in the royal forest of the jeddak?"
Then, as he noted my white skin through the coating of grime and
blood that covered me, his eyes went wide and in an altered tone
he whispered: "Can it be that you are a Holy Thern?"
I might have deceived the fellow for a time, as I had deceived
others, but I had cast away the yellow wig and the holy diadem in
the presence of Matai Shang, and I knew that it would not be long
ere my new acquaintance discovered that I was no thern at all.
"I am not a thern," I replied, and then, flinging caution to the
winds, I said: "I am John Carter, Prince of Helium, whose name
may not be entirely unknown to you."
If his eyes had gone wide when he thought that I was a Holy Thern,
they fairly popped now that he knew that I was John Carter. I
grasped my long-sword more firmly as I spoke the words which I was
sure would precipitate an attack, but to my surprise they precipitated
nothing of the kind.
"John Carter, Prince of Helium," he repeated slowly, as though he
could not quite grasp the truth of the statement. "John Carter,
the mightiest warrior of Barsoom!"
And then he dismounted and placed his hand upon my shoulder after
the manner of most friendly greeting upon Mars.
"It is my duty, and it should be my pleasure, to kill you, John
Carter," he said, "but always in my heart of hearts have I admired
your prowess and believed in your sincerity the while I have
questioned and disbelieved the therns and their religion.
"It would mean my instant death were my heresy to be suspected in
the court of Kulan Tith, but if I may serve you, Prince, you have
but to command Torkar Bar, Dwar of the Kaolian Road."
Truth and honesty were writ large upon the warrior's noble countenance,
so that I could not but have trusted him, enemy though he should
have been. His title of Captain of the Kaolian Road explained
his timely presence in the heart of the savage forest, for every
highway upon Barsoom is patrolled by doughty warriors of the noble
class, nor is there any service more honorable than this lonely
and dangerous duty in the less frequented sections of the domains
of the red men of Barsoom.
"Torkar Bar has already placed a great debt of gratitude upon my
shoulders," I replied, pointing to the carcass of the creature from
whose heart he was dragging his long spear.
The red man smiled.
"It was fortunate that I came when I did," he said. "Only this
poisoned spear pricking the very heart of a sith can kill it quickly
enough to save its prey. In this section of Kaol we are all armed
with a long sith spear, whose point is smeared with the poison of
the creature it is intended to kill; no other virus acts so quickly
upon the beast as its own.
"Look," he continued, drawing his dagger and making an incision
in the carcass a foot above the root of the sting, from which he
presently drew forth two sacs, each of which held fully a gallon
of the deadly liquid.
"Thus we maintain our supply, though were it not for certain commercial
uses to which the virus is put, it would scarcely be necessary to
add to our present store, since the sith is almost extinct.
"Only occasionally do we now run upon one. Of old, however, Kaol
was overrun with the frightful monsters that often came in herds
of twenty or thirty, darting down from above into our cities and
carrying away women, children, and even warriors."
As he spoke I had been wondering just how much I might safely tell
this man of the mission which brought me to his land, but his next
words anticipated the broaching of the subject on my part, and
rendered me thankful that I had not spoken too soon.
"And now as to yourself, John Carter," he said, "I shall not ask
your business here, nor do I wish to hear it. I have eyes and ears
and ordinary intelligence, and yesterday morning I saw the party
that came to the city of Kaol from the north in a small flier. But
one thing I ask of you, and that is: the word of John Carter that
he contemplates no overt act against either the nation of Kaol or
"You may have my word as to that, Torkar Bar," I replied.
"My way leads along the Kaolian road, away from the city of Kaol,"
he continued. "I have seen no one--John Carter least of all. Nor
have you seen Torkar Bar, nor ever heard of him. You understand?"
"Perfectly," I replied.
He laid his hand upon my shoulder.
"This road leads directly into the city of Kaol," he said. "I wish
you fortune," and vaulting to the back of his thoat he trotted away
without even a backward glance.
It was after dark when Woola and I spied through the mighty forest
the great wall which surrounds the city of Kaol.
We had traversed the entire way without mishap or adventure, and
though the few we had met had eyed the great calot wonderingly,
none had pierced the red pigment with which I had smoothly smeared
every square inch of my body.
But to traverse the surrounding country, and to enter the guarded
city of Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol, were two very different things.
No man enters a Martian city without giving a very detailed and
satisfactory account of himself, nor did I delude myself with the
belief that I could for a moment impose upon the acumen of the
officers of the guard to whom I should be taken the moment I applied
at any one of the gates.
My only hope seemed to lie in entering the city surreptitiously
under cover of the darkness, and once in, trust to my own wits to
hide myself in some crowded quarter where detection would be less
liable to occur.
With this idea in view I circled the great wall, keeping within the
fringe of the forest, which is cut away for a short distance from
the wall all about the city, that no enemy may utilize the trees
as a means of ingress.
Several times I attempted to scale the barrier at different points,
but not even my earthly muscles could overcome that cleverly
constructed rampart. To a height of thirty feet the face of the
wall slanted outward, and then for almost an equal distance it was
perpendicular, above which it slanted in again for some fifteen
feet to the crest.
And smooth! Polished glass could not be more so. Finally I had
to admit that at last I had discovered a Barsoomian fortification
which I could not negotiate.
Discouraged, I withdrew into the forest beside a broad highway which
entered the city from the east, and with Woola beside me lay down
A HERO IN KAOL
It was daylight when I was awakened by the sound of stealthy movement
As I opened my eyes Woola, too, moved and, coming up to his haunches,
stared through the intervening brush toward the road, each hair
upon his neck stiffly erect.
At first I could see nothing, but presently I caught a glimpse of
a bit of smooth and glossy green moving among the scarlet and purple
and yellow of the vegetation.
Motioning Woola to remain quietly where he was, I crept forward to
investigate, and from behind the bole of a great tree I saw a long
line of the hideous green warriors of the dead sea bottoms hiding
in the dense jungle beside the road.
As far as I could see, the silent line of destruction and death
stretched away from the city of Kaol. There could be but one
explanation. The green men were expecting an exodus of a body of
red troops from the nearest city gate, and they were lying there
in ambush to leap upon them.
I owed no fealty to the Jeddak of Kaol, but he was of the same race
of noble red men as my own princess, and I would not stand supinely
by and see his warriors butchered by the cruel and heartless demons
of the waste places of Barsoom.
Cautiously I retraced my steps to where I had left Woola, and warning
him to silence, signaled him to follow me. Making a considerable
detour to avoid the chance of falling into the hands of the green
men, I came at last to the great wall.
A hundred yards to my right was the gate from which the troops
were evidently expected to issue, but to reach it I must pass the
flank of the green warriors within easy sight of them, and, fearing
that my plan to warn the Kaolians might thus be thwarted, I decided
upon hastening toward the left, where another gate a mile away
would give me ingress to the city.
I knew that the word I brought would prove a splendid passport to
Kaol, and I must admit that my caution was due more to my ardent
desire to make my way into the city than to avoid a brush with the
green men. As much as I enjoy a fight, I cannot always indulge
myself, and just now I had more weighty matters to occupy my time
than spilling the blood of strange warriors.
Could I but win beyond the city's wall, there might be opportunity
in the confusion and excitement which were sure to follow my
announcement of an invading force of green warriors to find my way
within the palace of the jeddak, where I was sure Matai Shang and
his party would be quartered.
But scarcely had I taken a hundred steps in the direction of the
farther gate when the sound of marching troops, the clank of metal,
and the squealing of thoats just within the city apprised me of the
fact that the Kaolians were already moving toward the other gate.
There was no time to be lost. In another moment the gate would be
opened and the head of the column pass out upon the death-bordered
Turning back toward the fateful gate, I ran rapidly along the edge
of the clearing, taking the ground in the mighty leaps that had
first made me famous upon Barsoom. Thirty, fifty, a hundred feet
at a bound are nothing for the muscles of an athletic Earth man
As I passed the flank of the waiting green men they saw my eyes
turned upon them, and in an instant, knowing that all secrecy was
at an end, those nearest me sprang to their feet in an effort to
cut me off before I could reach the gate.
At the same instant the mighty portal swung wide and the head of
the Kaolian column emerged. A dozen green warriors had succeeded
in reaching a point between me and the gate, but they had but little
idea who it was they had elected to detain.
I did not slacken my speed an iota as I dashed among them, and as
they fell before my blade I could not but recall the happy memory
of those other battles when Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, mightiest
of Martian green men, had stood shoulder to shoulder with me through
long, hot Martian days, as together we hewed down our enemies until
the pile of corpses about us rose higher than a tall man's head.
When several pressed me too closely, there before the carved gateway
of Kaol, I leaped above their heads, and fashioning my tactics
after those of the hideous plant men of Dor, struck down upon my
enemies' heads as I passed above them.
From the city the red warriors were rushing toward us, and from
the jungle the savage horde of green men were coming to meet them.
In a moment I was in the very center of as fierce and bloody a
battle as I had ever passed through.
These Kaolians are most noble fighters, nor are the green men of
the equator one whit less warlike than their cold, cruel cousins of
the temperate zone. There were many times when either side might
have withdrawn without dishonor and thus ended hostilities, but
from the mad abandon with which each invariably renewed hostilities
I soon came to believe that what need not have been more than a
trifling skirmish would end only with the complete extermination
of one force or the other.
With the joy of battle once roused within me, I took keen delight
in the fray, and that my fighting was noted by the Kaolians was
often evidenced by the shouts of applause directed at me.
If I sometimes seem to take too great pride in my fighting ability, it
must be remembered that fighting is my vocation. If your vocation
be shoeing horses, or painting pictures, and you can do one or
the other better than your fellows, then you are a fool if you are
not proud of your ability. And so I am very proud that upon two
planets no greater fighter has ever lived than John Carter, Prince
And I outdid myself that day to impress the fact upon the natives
of Kaol, for I wished to win a way into their hearts--and their
city. Nor was I to be disappointed in my desire.
All day we fought, until the road was red with blood and clogged
with corpses. Back and forth along the slippery highway the tide
of battle surged, but never once was the gateway to Kaol really in
There were breathing spells when I had a chance to converse with
the red men beside whom I fought, and once the jeddak, Kulan Tith
himself, laid his hand upon my shoulder and asked my name.
"I am Dotar Sojat," I replied, recalling a name given me by the
Tharks many years before, from the surnames of the first two of
their warriors I had killed, which is the custom among them.
"You are a mighty warrior, Dotar Sojat," he replied, "and when
this day is done I shall speak with you again in the great audience
And then the fight surged upon us once more and we were separated,
but my heart's desire was attained, and it was with renewed vigor
and a joyous soul that I laid about me with my long-sword until
the last of the green men had had enough and had withdrawn toward
their distant sea bottom.
Not until the battle was over did I learn why the red troops had
sallied forth that day. It seemed that Kulan Tith was expecting
a visit from a mighty jeddak of the north--a powerful and the only
ally of the Kaolians, and it had been his wish to meet his guest
a full day's journey from Kaol.
But now the march of the welcoming host was delayed until the
following morning, when the troops again set out from Kaol. I had
not been bidden to the presence of Kulan Tith after the battle,
but he had sent an officer to find me and escort me to comfortable
quarters in that part of the palace set aside for the officers of
the royal guard.
There, with Woola, I had spent a comfortable night, and rose much
refreshed after the arduous labors of the past few days. Woola
had fought with me through the battle of the previous day, true to
the instincts and training of a Martian war dog, great numbers of
which are often to be found with the savage green hordes of the
dead sea bottoms.
Neither of us had come through the conflict unscathed, but the
marvelous, healing salves of Barsoom had sufficed, overnight, to
make us as good as new.
I breakfasted with a number of the Kaolian officers, whom I found
as courteous and delightful hosts as even the nobles of Helium, who
are renowned for their ease of manners and excellence of breeding.
The meal was scarcely concluded when a messenger arrived from Kulan
Tith summoning me before him.
As I entered the royal presence the jeddak rose, and stepping from
the dais which supported his magnificent throne, came forward to
meet me--a mark of distinction that is seldom accorded to other
than a visiting ruler.
"Kaor, Dotar Sojat!" he greeted me. "I have summoned you to receive
the grateful thanks of the people of Kaol, for had it not been for
your heroic bravery in daring fate to warn us of the ambuscade we
must surely have fallen into the well-laid trap. Tell me more of
yourself--from what country you come, and what errand brings you
to the court of Kulan Tith."
"I am from Hastor," I said, for in truth I had a small palace in
that southern city which lies within the far-flung dominions of
the Heliumetic nation.
"My presence in the land of Kaol is partly due to accident, my
flier being wrecked upon the southern fringe of your great forest.
It was while seeking entrance to the city of Kaol that I discovered
the green horde lying in wait for your troops."
If Kulan Tith wondered what business brought me in a flier to the
very edge of his domain he was good enough not to press me further
for an explanation, which I should indeed have had difficulty in
During my audience with the jeddak another party entered the
chamber from behind me, so that I did not see their faces until
Kulan Tith stepped past me to greet them, commanding me to follow
and be presented.
As I turned toward them it was with difficulty that I controlled
my features, for there, listening to Kulan Tith's eulogistic words
concerning me, stood my arch-enemies, Matai Shang and Thurid.
"Holy Hekkador of the Holy Therns," the jeddak was saying, "shower
thy blessings upon Dotar Sojat, the valorous stranger from distant
Hastor, whose wondrous heroism and marvelous ferocity saved the
day for Kaol yesterday."
Matai Shang stepped forward and laid his hand upon my shoulder.
No slightest indication that he recognized me showed upon his
countenance--my disguise was evidently complete.
He spoke kindly to me and then presented me to Thurid. The black,
too, was evidently entirely deceived. Then Kulan Tith regaled
them, much to my amusement, with details of my achievements upon
the field of battle.
The thing that seemed to have impressed him most was my remarkable
agility, and time and again he described the wondrous way in which
I had leaped completely over an antagonist, cleaving his skull wide
open with my long-sword as I passed above him.
I thought that I saw Thurid's eyes widen a bit during the narrative,
and several times I surprised him gazing intently into my face
through narrowed lids. Was he commencing to suspect? And then
Kulan Tith told of the savage calot that fought beside me, and
after that I saw suspicion in the eyes of Matai Shang--or did I
but imagine it?
At the close of the audience Kulan Tith announced that he would
have me accompany him upon the way to meet his royal guest, and
as I departed with an officer who was to procure proper trappings
and a suitable mount for me, both Matai Shang and Thurid seemed most
sincere in professing their pleasure at having had an opportunity
to know me. It was with a sigh of relief that I quitted the chamber,
convinced that nothing more than a guilty conscience had prompted
my belief that either of my enemies suspected my true identity.
A half-hour later I rode out of the city gate with the column that
accompanied Kulan Tith upon the way to meet his friend and ally.
Though my eyes and ears had been wide open during my audience with
the jeddak and my various passages through the palace, I had seen
or heard nothing of Dejah Thoris or Thuvia of Ptarth. That they
must be somewhere within the great rambling edifice I was positive,
and I should have given much to have found a way to remain behind
during Kulan Tith's absence, that I might search for them.
Toward noon we came in touch with the head of the column we had
set out to meet.
It was a gorgeous train that accompanied the visiting jeddak, and
for miles it stretched along the wide, white road to Kaol. Mounted
troops, their trappings of jewel and metal-incrusted leather
glistening in the sunlight, formed the vanguard of the body, and
then came a thousand gorgeous chariots drawn by huge zitidars.
These low, commodious wagons moved two abreast, and on either side
of them marched solid ranks of mounted warriors, for in the chariots
were the women and children of the royal court. Upon the back
of each monster zitidar rode a Martian youth, and the whole scene
carried me back to my first days upon Barsoom, now twenty-two years
in the past, when I had first beheld the gorgeous spectacle of a
caravan of the green horde of Tharks.
Never before today had I seen zitidars in the service of red men.
These brutes are huge mastodonian animals that tower to an immense
height even beside the giant green men and their giant thoats;
but when compared to the relatively small red man and his breed
of thoats they assume Brobdingnagian proportions that are truly
The beasts were hung with jeweled trappings and saddlepads of gay
silk, embroidered in fanciful designs with strings of diamonds,
pearls, rubies, emeralds, and the countless unnamed jewels of Mars,
while from each chariot rose a dozen standards from which streamers,
flags, and pennons fluttered in the breeze.
Just in front of the chariots the visiting jeddak rode alone upon
a pure white thoat--another unusual sight upon Barsoom--and after
them came interminable ranks of mounted spearmen, riflemen, and
swordsmen. It was indeed a most imposing sight.
Except for the clanking of accouterments and the occasional squeal
of an angry thoat or the low guttural of a zitidar, the passage of
the cavalcade was almost noiseless, for neither thoat nor zitidar
is a hoofed animal, and the broad tires of the chariots are of an
elastic composition, which gives forth no sound.
Now and then the gay laughter of a woman or the chatter of children
could be heard, for the red Martians are a social, pleasure-loving
people--in direct antithesis to the cold and morbid race of green
The forms and ceremonials connected with the meeting of the two
jeddaks consumed an hour, and then we turned and retraced our way
toward the city of Kaol, which the head of the column reached just
before dark, though it must have been nearly morning before the
rear guard passed through the gateway.
Fortunately, I was well up toward the head of the column, and after
the great banquet, which I attended with the officers of the royal
guard, I was free to seek repose. There was so much activity and
bustle about the palace all during the night with the constant
arrival of the noble officers of the visiting jeddak's retinue
that I dared not attempt to prosecute a search for Dejah Thoris,
and so, as soon as it was seemly for me to do so, I returned to my
As I passed along the corridors between the banquet hall and the
apartments that had been allotted me, I had a sudden feeling that
I was under surveillance, and, turning quickly in my tracks, caught
a glimpse of a figure which darted into an open doorway the instant
I wheeled about.
Though I ran quickly back to the spot where the shadower had
disappeared I could find no trace of him, yet in the brief glimpse
that I had caught I could have sworn that I had seen a white face
surmounted by a mass of yellow hair.
The incident gave me considerable food for speculation, since if I
were right in the conclusion induced by the cursory glimpse I had
had of the spy, then Matai Shang and Thurid must suspect my identity,
and if that were true not even the service I had rendered Kulan
Tith could save me from his religious fanaticism.
But never did vague conjecture or fruitless fears for the future
lie with sufficient weight upon my mind to keep me from my rest,
and so tonight I threw myself upon my sleeping silks and furs and
passed at once into dreamless slumber.
Calots are not permitted within the walls of the palace proper,
and so I had had to relegate poor Woola to quarters in the stables
where the royal thoats are kept. He had comfortable, even luxurious
apartments, but I would have given much to have had him with me;
and if he had been, the thing which happened that night would not
have come to pass.
I could not have slept over a quarter of an hour when I was suddenly
awakened by the passing of some cold and clammy thing across my
forehead. Instantly I sprang to my feet, clutching in the direction I
thought the presence lay. For an instant my hand touched against
human flesh, and then, as I lunged headforemost through the
darkness to seize my nocturnal visitor, my foot became entangled
in my sleeping silks and I fell sprawling to the floor.
By the time I had resumed my feet and found the button which
controlled the light my caller had disappeared. Careful search of
the room revealed nothing to explain either the identity or business
of the person who had thus secretly sought me in the dead of night.
That the purpose might be theft I could not believe, since thieves
are practically unknown upon Barsoom. Assassination, however, is
rampant, but even this could not have been the motive of my stealthy
friend, for he might easily have killed me had he desired.
I had about given up fruitless conjecture and was on the point
of returning to sleep when a dozen Kaolian guardsmen entered my
apartment. The officer in charge was one of my genial hosts of
the morning, but now upon his face was no sign of friendship.
"Kulan Tith commands your presence before him," he said. "Come!"
Surrounded by guardsmen I marched back along the corridors of the
palace of Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol, to the great audience chamber
in the center of the massive structure.
As I entered the brilliantly lighted apartment, filled with the
nobles of Kaol and the officers of the visiting jeddak, all eyes
were turned upon me. Upon the great dais at the end of the chamber
stood three thrones, upon which sat Kulan Tith and his two guests,
Matai Shang, and the visiting jeddak.
Up the broad center aisle we marched beneath deadly silence, and
at the foot of the thrones we halted.
"Prefer thy charge," said Kulan Tith, turning to one who stood
among the nobles at his right; and then Thurid, the black dator of
the First Born, stepped forward and faced me.
"Most noble Jeddak," he said, addressing Kulan Tith, "from the first
I suspected this stranger within thy palace. Your description of
his fiendish prowess tallied with that of the arch-enemy of truth
"But that there might be no mistake I despatched a priest of your
own holy cult to make the test that should pierce his disguise and
reveal the truth. Behold the result!" and Thurid pointed a rigid
finger at my forehead.
All eyes followed the direction of that accusing digit--I alone
seemed at a loss to guess what fatal sign rested upon my brow.
The officer beside me guessed my perplexity; and as the brows of
Kulan Tith darkened in a menacing scowl as his eyes rested upon
me, the noble drew a small mirror from his pocket-pouch and held
it before my face.
One glance at the reflection it gave back to me was sufficient.
From my forehead the hand of the sneaking thern had reached out
through the concealing darkness of my bed-chamber and wiped away a
patch of the disguising red pigment as broad as my palm. Beneath
showed the tanned texture of my own white skin.
For a moment Thurid ceased speaking, to enhance, I suspect, the
dramatic effect of his disclosure. Then he resumed.
"Here, O Kulan Tith," he cried, "is he who has desecrated the temples of
the Gods of Mars, who has violated the persons of the Holy Therns
themselves and turned a world against its age-old religion. Before
you, in your power, Jeddak of Kaol, Defender of the Holies, stands
John Carter, Prince of Helium!"
Kulan Tith looked toward Matai Shang as though for corroboration
of these charges. The Holy Thern nodded his head.
"It is indeed the arch-blasphemer," he said. "Even now he has
followed me to the very heart of thy palace, Kulan Tith, for the
sole purpose of assassinating me. He--"
"He lies!" I cried. "Kulan Tith, listen that you may know the
truth. Listen while I tell you why John Carter has followed Matai
Shang to the heart of thy palace. Listen to me as well as to them,
and then judge if my acts be not more in accord with true Barsoomian
chivalry and honor than those of these revengeful devotees of the
spurious creeds from whose cruel bonds I have freed your planet."
"Silence!" roared the jeddak, leaping to his feet and laying his
hand upon the hilt of his sword. "Silence, blasphemer! Kulan Tith
need not permit the air of his audience chamber to be defiled by
the heresies that issue from your polluted throat to judge you.
"You stand already self-condemned. It but remains to determine
the manner of your death. Even the service that you rendered the
arms of Kaol shall avail you naught; it was but a base subterfuge
whereby you might win your way into my favor and reach the side
of this holy man whose life you craved. To the pits with him!" he
concluded, addressing the officer of my guard.
Here was a pretty pass, indeed! What chance had I against a whole
nation? What hope for me of mercy at the hands of the fanatical
Kulan Tith with such advisers as Matai Shang and Thurid. The black
grinned malevolently in my face.
"You shall not escape this time, Earth man," he taunted.
The guards closed toward me. A red haze blurred my vision. The
fighting blood of my Virginian sires coursed hot through my veins.
The lust of battle in all its mad fury was upon me.
With a leap I was beside Thurid, and ere the devilish smirk had
faded from his handsome face I had caught him full upon the mouth
with my clenched fist; and as the good, old American blow landed,
the black dator shot back a dozen feet, to crumple in a heap at
the foot of Kulan Tith's throne, spitting blood and teeth from his
Then I drew my sword and swung round, on guard, to face a nation.
In an instant the guardsmen were upon me, but before a blow had
been struck a mighty voice rose above the din of shouting warriors,
and a giant figure leaped from the dais beside Kulan Tith and, with
drawn long-sword, threw himself between me and my adversaries.
It was the visiting jeddak.
"Hold!" he cried. "If you value my friendship, Kulan Tith, and the
age-old peace that has existed between our peoples, call off your
swordsmen; for wherever or against whomsoever fights John Carter,
Prince of Helium, there beside him and to the death fights Thuvan
Dihn, Jeddak of Ptarth."
The shouting ceased and the menacing points were lowered as a
thousand eyes turned first toward Thuvan Dihn in surprise and then
toward Kulan Tith in question. At first the Jeddak of Kaol went
white in rage, but before he spoke he had mastered himself, so
that his tone was calm and even as befitted intercourse between
two great jeddaks.
"Thuvan Dihn," he said slowly, "must have great provocation thus
to desecrate the ancient customs which inspire the deportment of
a guest within the palace of his host. Lest I, too, should forget
myself as has my royal friend, I should prefer to remain silent
until the Jeddak of Ptarth has won from me applause for his action
by relating the causes which provoked it."
I could see that the Jeddak of Ptarth was of half a mind to throw
his metal in Kulan Tith's face, but he controlled himself even as
well as had his host.
"None knows better than Thuvan Dihn," he said, "the laws which govern
the acts of men in the domains of their neighbors; but Thuvan Dihn
owes allegiance to a higher law than these--the law of gratitude.
Nor to any man upon Barsoom does he owe a greater debt of gratitude
than to John Carter, Prince of Helium.
"Years ago, Kulan Tith," he continued, "upon the occasion of your
last visit to me, you were greatly taken with the charms and graces
of my only daughter, Thuvia. You saw how I adored her, and later
you learned that, inspired by some unfathomable whim, she had
taken the last, long, voluntary pilgrimage upon the cold bosom of
the mysterious Iss, leaving me desolate.
"Some months ago I first heard of the expedition which John Carter
had led against Issus and the Holy Therns. Faint rumors of the
atrocities reported to have been committed by the therns upon those
who for countless ages have floated down the mighty Iss came to my
"I heard that thousands of prisoners had been released, few of
whom dared to return to their own countries owing to the mandate of
terrible death which rests against all who return from the Valley
"For a time I could not believe the heresies which I heard, and
I prayed that my daughter Thuvia might have died before she ever
committed the sacrilege of returning to the outer world. But then
my father's love asserted itself, and I vowed that I would prefer
eternal damnation to further separation from her if she could be
"So I sent emissaries to Helium, and to the court of Xodar, Jeddak
of the First Born, and to him who now rules those of the thern
nation that have renounced their religion; and from each and all
I heard the same story of unspeakable cruelties and atrocities
perpetrated upon the poor defenseless victims of their religion by
the Holy Therns.
"Many there were who had seen or known my daughter, and from therns
who had been close to Matai Shang I learned of the indignities that
he personally heaped upon her; and I was glad when I came here to
find that Matai Shang was also your guest, for I should have sought
him out had it taken a lifetime.
"More, too, I heard, and that of the chivalrous kindness that John
Carter had accorded my daughter. They told me how he fought for
her and rescued her, and how he spurned escape from the savage
Warhoons of the south, sending her to safety upon his own thoat
and remaining upon foot to meet the green warriors.
"Can you wonder, Kulan Tith, that I am willing to jeopardize
my life, the peace of my nation, or even your friendship, which I
prize more than aught else, to champion the Prince of Helium?"
For a moment Kulan Tith was silent. I could see by the expression
of his face that he was sore perplexed. Then he spoke.
"Thuvan Dihn," he said, and his tone was friendly though sad,
"who am I to judge my fellow-man? In my eyes the Father of Therns
is still holy, and the religion which he teaches the only true
religion, but were I faced by the same problem that has vexed you
I doubt not that I should feel and act precisely as you have.
"In so far as the Prince of Helium is concerned I may act, but between
you and Matai Shang my only office can be one of conciliation. The
Prince of Helium shall be escorted in safety to the boundary of
my domain ere the sun has set again, where he shall be free to go
whither he will; but upon pain of death must he never again enter
the land of Kaol.
"If there be a quarrel between you and the Father of Therns, I
need not ask that the settlement of it be deferred until both have
passed beyond the limits of my power. Are you satisfied, Thuvan
The Jeddak of Ptarth nodded his assent, but the ugly scowl that he
bent upon Matai Shang harbored ill for that pasty-faced godling.
"The Prince of Helium is far from satisfied," I cried, breaking
rudely in upon the beginnings of peace, for I had no stomach for
peace at the price that had been named.
"I have escaped death in a dozen forms to follow Matai Shang and
overtake him, and I do not intend to be led, like a decrepit thoat
to the slaughter, from the goal that I have won by the prowess of
my sword arm and the might of my muscles.
"Nor will Thuvan Dihn, Jeddak of Ptarth, be satisfied when he has
heard me through. Do you know why I have followed Matai Shang and
Thurid, the black dator, from the forests of the Valley Dor across
half a world through almost insurmountable difficulties?
"Think you that John Carter, Prince of Helium, would stoop to
assassination? Can Kulan Tith be such a fool as to believe that
lie, whispered in his ear by the Holy Thern or Dator Thurid?
"I do not follow Matai Shang to kill him, though the God of mine
own planet knows that my hands itch to be at his throat. I follow
him, Thuvan Dihn, because with him are two prisoners--my wife, Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium, and your daughter, Thuvia of Ptarth.
"Now think you that I shall permit myself to be led beyond the
walls of Kaol unless the mother of my son accompanies me, and thy
daughter be restored?"
Thuvan Dihn turned upon Kulan Tith. Rage flamed in his keen eyes;
but by the masterfulness of his self-control he kept his tones
level as he spoke.
"Knew you this thing, Kulan Tith?" he asked. "Knew you that my
daughter lay a prisoner in your palace?"
"He could not know it," interrupted Matai Shang, white with what
I am sure was more fear than rage. "He could not know it, for it
is a lie."
I would have had his life for that upon the spot, but even as I
sprang toward him Thuvan Dihn laid a heavy hand upon my shoulder.
"Wait," he said to me, and then to Kulan Tith. "It is not a lie.
This much have I learned of the Prince of Helium--he does not lie.
Answer me, Kulan Tith--I have asked you a question."
"Three women came with the Father of Therns," replied Kulan Tith.
"Phaidor, his daughter, and two who were reported to be her slaves.
If these be Thuvia of Ptarth and Dejah Thoris of Helium I did not
know it--I have seen neither. But if they be, then shall they be
returned to you on the morrow."
As he spoke he looked straight at Matai Shang, not as a devotee
should look at a high priest, but as a ruler of men looks at one
to whom he issues a command.
It must have been plain to the Father of Therns, as it was to me,
that the recent disclosures of his true character had done much
already to weaken the faith of Kulan Tith, and that it would require
but little more to turn the powerful jeddak into an avowed enemy;
but so strong are the seeds of superstition that even the great
Kaolian still hesitated to cut the final strand that bound him to
his ancient religion.
Matai Shang was wise enough to seem to accept the mandate of his
follower, and promised to bring the two slave women to the audience
chamber on the morrow.
"It is almost morning now," he said, "and I should dislike to break
in upon the slumber of my daughter, or I would have them fetched
at once that you might see that the Prince of Helium is mistaken,"
and he emphasized the last word in an effort to affront me so
subtlety that I could not take open offense.
I was about to object to any delay, and demand that the Princess
of Helium be brought to me forthwith, when Thuvan Dihn made such
insistence seem unnecessary.
"I should like to see my daughter at once," he said, "but if Kulan
Tith will give me his assurance that none will be permitted to
leave the palace this night, and that no harm shall befall either
Dejah Thoris or Thuvia of Ptarth between now and the moment they
are brought into our presence in this chamber at daylight I shall
"None shall leave the palace tonight," replied the Jeddak of Kaol,
"and Matai Shang will give us assurance that no harm will come to
the two women?"
The thern assented with a nod. A few moments later Kulan Tith
indicated that the audience was at an end, and at Thuvan Dihn's
invitation I accompanied the Jeddak of Ptarth to his own apartments,
where we sat until daylight, while he listened to the account of
my experiences upon his planet and to all that had befallen his
daughter during the time that we had been together.
I found the father of Thuvia a man after my own heart, and that
night saw the beginning of a friendship which has grown until it
is second only to that which obtains between Tars Tarkas, the green
Jeddak of Thark, and myself.
The first burst of Mars's sudden dawn brought messengers from Kulan
Tith, summoning us to the audience chamber where Thuvan Dihn was
to receive his daughter after years of separation, and I was to
be reunited with the glorious daughter of Helium after an almost
unbroken separation of twelve years.
My heart pounded within my bosom until I looked about me in
embarrassment, so sure was I that all within the room must hear.
My arms ached to enfold once more the divine form of her whose
eternal youth and undying beauty were but outward manifestations
of a perfect soul.
At last the messenger despatched to fetch Matai Shang returned. I
craned my neck to catch the first glimpse of those who should be
following, but the messenger was alone.
Halting before the throne he addressed his jeddak in a voice that
was plainly audible to all within the chamber.
"O Kulan Tith, Mightiest of Jeddaks," he cried, after the fashion
of the court, "your messenger returns alone, for when he reached
the apartments of the Father of Therns he found them empty, as were
those occupied by his suite."
Kulan Tith went white.
A low groan burst from the lips of Thuvan Dihn who stood next me,
not having ascended the throne which awaited him beside his host.
For a moment the silence of death reigned in the great audience
chamber of Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol. It was he who broke the
Rising from his throne he stepped down from the dais to the side
of Thuvan Dihn. Tears dimmed his eyes as he placed both his hands
upon the shoulders of his friend.
"O Thuvan Dihn," he cried, "that this should have happened in the
palace of thy best friend! With my own hands would I have wrung
the neck of Matai Shang had I guessed what was in his foul heart.
Last night my life-long faith was weakened--this morning it has
been shattered; but too late, too late.
"To wrest your daughter and the wife of this royal warrior from the
clutches of these archfiends you have but to command the resources
of a mighty nation, for all Kaol is at your disposal. What may be
done? Say the word!"
"First," I suggested, "let us find those of your people who
be responsible for the escape of Matai Shang and his followers.
Without assistance on the part of the palace guard this thing could
not have come to pass. Seek the guilty, and from them force an
explanation of the manner of their going and the direction they
Before Kulan Tith could issue the commands that would initiate the
investigation a handsome young officer stepped forward and addressed
"O Kulan Tith, Mightiest of Jeddaks," he said, "I alone be responsible
for this grievous error. Last night it was I who commanded the
palace guard. I was on duty in other parts of the palace during the
audience of the early morning, and knew nothing of what transpired
then, so that when the Father of Therns summoned me and explained
that it was your wish that his party be hastened from the city
because of the presence here of a deadly enemy who sought the Holy
Hekkador's life I did only what a lifetime of training has taught
me was the proper thing to do--I obeyed him whom I believed to be
the ruler of us all, mightier even than thou, mightiest of jeddaks.
"Let the consequences and the punishment fall on me alone, for I
alone am guilty. Those others of the palace guard who assisted in
the flight did so under my instructions."
Kulan Tith looked first at me and then at Thuvan Dihn, as though
to ask our judgment upon the man, but the error was so evidently
excusable that neither of us had any mind to see the young officer
suffer for a mistake that any might readily have made.
"How left they," asked Thuvan Dihn, "and what direction did they
"They left as they came," replied the officer, "upon their own
flier. For some time after they had departed I watched the vessel's
lights, which vanished finally due north."
"Where north could Matai Shang find an asylum?" asked Thuvan Dihn
of Kulan Tith.
For some moments the Jeddak of Kaol stood with bowed head, apparently
deep in thought. Then a sudden light brightened his countenance.
"I have it!" he cried. "Only yesterday Matai Shang let drop a hint
of his destination, telling me of a race of people unlike ourselves
who dwell far to the north. They, he said, had always been known
to the Holy Therns and were devout and faithful followers of the
ancient cult. Among them would he find a perpetual haven of refuge,
where no `lying heretics' might seek him out. It is there that
Matai Shang has gone."
"And in all Kaol there be no flier wherein to follow," I cried.
"Nor nearer than Ptarth," replied Thuvan Dihn.
"Wait!" I exclaimed, "beyond the southern fringe of this great
forest lies the wreck of the thern flier which brought me that far
upon my way. If you will loan me men to fetch it, and artificers
to assist me, I can repair it in two days, Kulan Tith."
I had been more than half suspicious of the seeming sincerity of
the Kaolian jeddak's sudden apostasy, but the alacrity with which
he embraced my suggestion, and the despatch with which a force of
officers and men were placed at my disposal entirely removed the
last vestige of my doubts.
Two days later the flier rested upon the top of the watchtower,
ready to depart. Thuvan Dihn and Kulan Tith had offered me the
entire resources of two nations--millions of fighting men were at
my disposal; but my flier could hold but one other than myself and
As I stepped aboard her, Thuvan Dihn took his place beside me. I
cast a look of questioning surprise upon him. He turned to the
highest of his own officers who had accompanied him to Kaol.
"To you I entrust the return of my retinue to Ptarth," he said.
"There my son rules ably in my absence. The Prince of Helium shall
not go alone into the land of his enemies. I have spoken. Farewell!"
THROUGH THE CARRION CAVES
Straight toward the north, day and night, our destination compass
led us after the fleeing flier upon which it had remained set since
I first attuned it after leaving the thern fortress.
Early in the second night we noticed the air becoming perceptibly
colder, and from the distance we had come from the equator were
assured that we were rapidly approaching the north arctic region.
My knowledge of the efforts that had been made by countless
expeditions to explore that unknown land bade me to caution, for
never had flier returned who had passed to any considerable distance
beyond the mighty ice-barrier that fringes the southern hem of the
What became of them none knew--only that they passed forever out
of the sight of man into that grim and mysterious country of the
The distance from the barrier to the pole was no more than a swift
flier should cover in a few hours, and so it was assumed that some
frightful catastrophe awaited those who reached the "forbidden land,"
as it had come to be called by the Martians of the outer world.
Thus it was that I went more slowly as we approached the barrier,
for it was my intention to move cautiously by day over the ice-pack
that I might discover, before I had run into a trap, if there
really lay an inhabited country at the north pole, for there only
could I imagine a spot where Matai Shang might feel secure from
John Carter, Prince of Helium.
We were flying at a snail's pace but a few feet above the
ground--literally feeling our way along through the darkness, for
both moons had set, and the night was black with the clouds that
are to be found only at Mars's two extremities.
Suddenly a towering wall of white rose directly in our path, and
though I threw the helm hard over, and reversed our engine, I was
too late to avoid collision. With a sickening crash we struck the
high looming obstacle three-quarters on.
The flier reeled half over; the engine stopped; as one, the patched
buoyancy tanks burst, and we plunged, headforemost, to the ground
twenty feet beneath.
Fortunately none of us was injured, and when we had disentangled
ourselves from the wreckage, and the lesser moon had burst again from
below the horizon, we found that we were at the foot of a mighty
ice-barrier, from which outcropped great patches of the granite
hills which hold it from encroaching farther toward the south.
What fate! With the journey all but completed to be thus wrecked
upon the wrong side of that precipitous and unscalable wall of rock
I looked at Thuvan Dihn. He but shook his head dejectedly.
The balance of the night we spent shivering in our inadequate
sleeping silks and furs upon the snow that lies at the foot of the
With daylight my battered spirits regained something of their
accustomed hopefulness, though I must admit that there was little
enough for them to feed upon.
"What shall we do?" asked Thuvan Dihn. "How may we pass that which
"First we must disprove its impassability," I replied. "Nor shall
I admit that it is impassable before I have followed its entire
circle and stand again upon this spot, defeated. The sooner we
start, the better, for I see no other way, and it will take us more
than a month to travel the weary, frigid miles that lie before us."
For five days of cold and suffering and privation we traversed the
rough and frozen way which lies at the foot of the ice-barrier.
Fierce, fur-bearing creatures attacked us by daylight and by dark.
Never for a moment were we safe from the sudden charge of some huge
demon of the north.
The apt was our most consistent and dangerous foe.
It is a huge, white-furred creature with six limbs, four of which,
short and heavy, carry it swiftly over the snow and ice; while the
other two, growing forward from its shoulders on either side of
its long, powerful neck, terminate in white, hairless hands, with
which it seizes and holds its prey.
Its head and mouth are more similar in appearance to those of a
hippopotamus than to any other earthly animal, except that from
the sides of the lower jawbone two mighty horns curve slightly
downward toward the front.
Its two huge eyes inspired my greatest curiosity. They extend in
two vast, oval patches from the center of the top of the cranium
down either side of the head to below the roots of the horns, so
that these weapons really grow out from the lower part of the eyes,
which are composed of several thousand ocelli each.
This eye structure seemed remarkable in a beast whose haunts were
upon a glaring field of ice and snow, and though I found upon
minute examination of several that we killed that each ocellus is
furnished with its own lid, and that the animal can at will close
as many of the facets of his huge eyes as he chooses, yet I was
positive that nature had thus equipped him because much of his life
was to be spent in dark, subterranean recesses.
Shortly after this we came upon the hugest apt that we had seen.
The creature stood fully eight feet at the shoulder, and was so
sleek and clean and glossy that I could have sworn that he had but
recently been groomed.
He stood head-on eyeing us as we approached him, for we had found
it a waste of time to attempt to escape the perpetual bestial rage
which seems to possess these demon creatures, who rove the dismal
north attacking every living thing that comes within the scope of
their far-seeing eyes.
Even when their bellies are full and they can eat no more, they
kill purely for the pleasure which they derive from taking life,
and so when this particular apt failed to charge us, and instead
wheeled and trotted away as we neared him, I should have been greatly
surprised had I not chanced to glimpse the sheen of a golden collar
about its neck.
Thuvan Dihn saw it, too, and it carried the same message of hope
to us both. Only man could have placed that collar there, and as
no race of Martians of which we knew aught ever had attempted to
domesticate the ferocious apt, he must belong to a people of the
north of whose very existence we were ignorant--possibly to the
fabled yellow men of Barsoom; that once powerful race which was
supposed to be extinct, though sometimes, by theorists, thought
still to exist in the frozen north.
Simultaneously we started upon the trail of the great beast.
Woola was quickly made to understand our desires, so that it was
unnecessary to attempt to keep in sight of the animal whose swift
flight over the rough ground soon put him beyond our vision.
For the better part of two hours the trail paralleled the barrier,
and then suddenly turned toward it through the roughest and seemingly
most impassable country I ever had beheld.
Enormous granite boulders blocked the way on every hand; deep rifts
in the ice threatened to engulf us at the least misstep; and from
the north a slight breeze wafted to our nostrils an unspeakable
stench that almost choked us.
For another two hours we were occupied in traversing a few hundred
yards to the foot of the barrier.
Then, turning about the corner of a wall-like outcropping of granite,
we came upon a smooth area of two or three acres before the base
of the towering pile of ice and rock that had baffled us for days,
and before us beheld the dark and cavernous mouth of a cave.
From this repelling portal the horrid stench was emanating, and
as Thuvan Dihn espied the place he halted with an exclamation of
"By all my ancestors!" he ejaculated. "That I should have lived to
witness the reality of the fabled Carrion Caves! If these indeed
be they, we have found a way beyond the ice-barrier.
"The ancient chronicles of the first historians of Barsoom--so
ancient that we have for ages considered them mythology--record
the passing of the yellow men from the ravages of the green hordes
that overran Barsoom as the drying up of the great oceans drove
the dominant races from their strongholds.
"They tell of the wanderings of the remnants of this once powerful
race, harassed at every step, until at last they found a way through
the ice-barrier of the north to a fertile valley at the pole.
"At the opening to the subterranean passage that led to their haven
of refuge a mighty battle was fought in which the yellow men were
victorious, and within the caves that gave ingress to their new
home they piled the bodies of the dead, both yellow and green, that
the stench might warn away their enemies from further pursuit.
"And ever since that long-gone day have the dead of this fabled
land been carried to the Carrion Caves, that in death and decay they
might serve their country and warn away invading enemies. Here,
too, is brought, so the fable runs, all the waste stuff of the
nation--everything that is subject to rot, and that can add to the
foul stench that assails our nostrils.
"And death lurks at every step among rotting dead, for here the fierce
apts lair, adding to the putrid accumulation with the fragments of
their own prey which they cannot devour. It is a horrid avenue to
our goal, but it is the only one."
"You are sure, then, that we have found the way to the land of the
yellow men?" I cried.
"As sure as may be," he replied; "having only ancient legend to
support my belief. But see how closely, so far, each detail tallies
with the world-old story of the hegira of the yellow race. Yes,
I am sure that we have discovered the way to their ancient hiding
"If it be true, and let us pray that such may be the case," I said,
"then here may we solve the mystery of the disappearance of Tardos
Mors, Jeddak of Helium, and Mors Kajak, his son, for no other spot
upon Barsoom has remained unexplored by the many expeditions and
the countless spies that have been searching for them for nearly
two years. The last word that came from them was that they sought
Carthoris, my own brave son, beyond the ice-barrier."
As we talked we had been approaching the entrance to the cave, and
as we crossed the threshold I ceased to wonder that the ancient
green enemies of the yellow men had been halted by the horrors of
that awful way.
The bones of dead men lay man high upon the broad floor of the first
cave, and over all was a putrid mush of decaying flesh, through
which the apts had beaten a hideous trail toward the entrance to
the second cave beyond.
The roof of this first apartment was low, like all that we traversed
subsequently, so that the foul odors were confined and condensed
to such an extent that they seemed to possess tangible substance.
One was almost tempted to draw his short-sword and hew his way
through in search of pure air beyond.
"Can man breathe this polluted air and live?" asked Thuvan Dihn,
"Not for long, I imagine," I replied; "so let us make haste. I
will go first, and you bring up the rear, with Woola between.
Come," and with the words I dashed forward, across the fetid mass
It was not until we had passed through seven caves of different sizes
and varying but little in the power and quality of their stenches
that we met with any physical opposition. Then, within the eighth
cave, we came upon a lair of apts.
A full score of the mighty beasts were disposed about the chamber.
Some were sleeping, while others tore at the fresh-killed carcasses
of new-brought prey, or fought among themselves in their love-making.
Here in the dim light of their subterranean home the value of
their great eyes was apparent, for these inner caves are shrouded
in perpetual gloom that is but little less than utter darkness.
To attempt to pass through the midst of that fierce herd seemed,
even to me, the height of folly, and so I proposed to Thuvan Dihn
that he return to the outer world with Woola, that the two might
find their way to civilization and come again with a sufficient
force to overcome not only the apts, but any further obstacles that
might lie between us and our goal.
"In the meantime," I continued, "I may discover some means of
winning my way alone to the land of the yellow men, but if I am
unsuccessful one life only will have been sacrificed. Should we
all go on and perish, there will be none to guide a succoring party
to Dejah Thoris and your daughter."
"I shall not return and leave you here alone, John Carter," replied
Thuvan Dihn. "Whether you go on to victory or death, the Jeddak
of Ptarth remains at your side. I have spoken."
I knew from his tone that it were useless to attempt to argue the
question, and so I compromised by sending Woola back with a hastily
penned note enclosed in a small metal case and fastened about
his neck. I commanded the faithful creature to seek Carthoris at
Helium, and though half a world and countless dangers lay between
I knew that if the thing could be done Woola would do it.
Equipped as he was by nature with marvelous speed and endurance,
and with frightful ferocity that made him a match for any single
enemy of the way, his keen intelligence and wondrous instinct
should easily furnish all else that was needed for the successful
accomplishment of his mission.
It was with evident reluctance that the great beast turned to leave
me in compliance with my command, and ere he had gone I could not
resist the inclination to throw my arms about his great neck in a
parting hug. He rubbed his cheek against mine in a final caress,
and a moment later was speeding through the Carrion Caves toward
the outer world.
In my note to Carthoris I had given explicit directions for locating
the Carrion Caves, impressing upon him the necessity for making
entrance to the country beyond through this avenue, and not to attempt
under any circumstances to cross the ice-barrier with a fleet. I
told him that what lay beyond the eighth cave I could not even
guess; but I was sure that somewhere upon the other side of the
ice-barrier his mother lay in the power of Matai Shang, and that
possibly his grandfather and great-grandfather as well, if they
Further, I advised him to call upon Kulan Tith and the son of
Thuvan Dihn for warriors and ships that the expedition might be
sufficiently strong to insure success at the first blow.
"And," I concluded, "if there be time bring Tars Tarkas with you,
for if I live until you reach me I can think of few greater pleasures
than to fight once more, shoulder to shoulder, with my old friend."
When Woola had left us Thuvan Dihn and I, hiding in the seventh
cave, discussed and discarded many plans for crossing the eighth
chamber. From where we stood we saw that the fighting among the
apts was growing less, and that many that had been feeding had
ceased and lain down to sleep.
Presently it became apparent that in a short time all the ferocious
monsters might be peacefully slumbering, and thus a hazardous
opportunity be presented to us to cross through their lair.
One by one the remaining brutes stretched themselves upon the
bubbling decomposition that covered the mass of bones upon the
floor of their den, until but a single apt remained awake. This
huge fellow roamed restlessly about, nosing among his companion
and the abhorrent litter of the cave.
Occasionally he would stop to peer intently toward first one of
the exits from the chamber and then the other. His whole demeanor
was as of one who acts as sentry.
We were at last forced to the belief that he would not sleep
while the other occupants of the lair slept, and so cast about in
our minds for some scheme whereby we might trick him. Finally I
suggested a plan to Thuvan Dihn, and as it seemed as good as any
that we had discussed we decided to put it to the test.
To this end Thuvan Dihn placed himself close against the cave's
wall, beside the entrance to the eighth chamber, while I deliberately
showed myself to the guardian apt as he looked toward our retreat.
Then I sprang to the opposite side of the entrance, flattening my
body close to the wall.
Without a sound the great beast moved rapidly toward the seventh
cave to see what manner of intruder had thus rashly penetrated so
far within the precincts of his habitation.
As he poked his head through the narrow aperture that connects the
two caves a heavy long-sword was awaiting him upon either hand,
and before he had an opportunity to emit even a single growl his
severed head rolled at our feet.
Quickly we glanced into the eighth chamber--not an apt had moved.
Crawling over the carcass of the huge beast that blocked the doorway
Thuvan Dihn and I cautiously entered the forbidding and dangerous
Like snails we wound our silent and careful way among the huge,
recumbent forms. The only sound above our breathing was the sucking
noise of our feet as we lifted them from the ooze of decaying flesh
through which we crept.
Halfway across the chamber and one of the mighty beasts directly
before me moved restlessly at the very instant that my foot was
poised above his head, over which I must step.
Breathlessly I waited, balancing upon one foot, for I did not dare
move a muscle. In my right hand was my keen short-sword, the point
hovering an inch above the thick fur beneath which beat the savage
Finally the apt relaxed, sighing, as with the passing of a bad dream,
and resumed the regular respiration of deep slumber. I planted my
raised foot beyond the fierce head and an instant later had stepped
over the beast.
Thuvan Dihn followed directly after me, and another moment found
us at the further door, undetected.
The Carrion Caves consist of a series of twenty-seven connecting
chambers, and present the appearance of having been eroded by
running water in some far-gone age when a mighty river found its
way to the south through this single breach in the barrier of rock
and ice that hems the country of the pole.
Thuvan Dihn and I traversed the remaining nineteen caverns without
adventure or mishap.
We were afterward to learn that but once a month is it possible to
find all the apts of the Carrion Caves in a single chamber.
At other times they roam singly or in pairs in and out of the
caves, so that it would have been practically impossible for two
men to have passed through the entire twenty-seven chambers without
encountering an apt in nearly every one of them. Once a month
they sleep for a full day, and it was our good fortune to stumble
by accident upon one of these occasions.
Beyond the last cave we emerged into a desolate country of snow
and ice, but found a well-marked trail leading north. The way was
boulder-strewn, as had been that south of the barrier, so that we
could see but a short distance ahead of us at any time.
After a couple of hours we passed round a huge boulder to come to
a steep declivity leading down into a valley.
Directly before us we saw a half dozen men--fierce, black-bearded
fellows, with skins the color of a ripe lemon.
"The yellow men of Barsoom!" ejaculated Thuvan Dihn, as though
even now that he saw them he found it scarce possible to believe
that the very race we expected to find hidden in this remote and
inaccessible land did really exist.
We withdrew behind an adjacent boulder to watch the actions of
the little party, which stood huddled at the foot of another huge
rock, their backs toward us.
One of them was peering round the edge of the granite mass as though
watching one who approached from the opposite side.
Presently the object of his scrutiny came within the range of my
vision and I saw that it was another yellow man. All were clothed
in magnificent furs--the six in the black and yellow striped hide
of the orluk, while he who approached alone was resplendent in the
pure white skin of an apt.
The yellow men were armed with two swords, and a short javelin
was slung across the back of each, while from their left arms hung
cuplike shields no larger than a dinner plate, the concave sides
of which turned outward toward an antagonist.
They seemed puny and futile implements of safety against an even
ordinary swordsman, but I was later to see the purpose of them and
with what wondrous dexterity the yellow men manipulate them.
One of the swords which each of the warriors carried caught
my immediate attention. I call it a sword, but really it was a
sharp-edged blade with a complete hook at the far end.
The other sword was of about the same length as the hooked instrument,
and somewhere between that of my long-sword and my short-sword.
It was straight and two-edged. In addition to the weapons I have
enumerated each man carried a dagger in his harness.
As the white-furred one approached, the six grasped their swords
more firmly--the hooked instrument in the left hand, the straight
sword in the right, while above the left wrist the small shield
was held rigid upon a metal bracelet.
As the lone warrior came opposite them the six rushed out upon him
with fiendish yells that resembled nothing more closely than the
savage war cry of the Apaches of the South-west.
Instantly the attacked drew both his swords, and as the six fell
upon him I witnessed as pretty fighting as one might care to see.
With their sharp hooks the combatants attempted to take hold of
an adversary, but like lightning the cupshaped shield would spring
before the darting weapon and into its hollow the hook would plunge.
Once the lone warrior caught an antagonist in the side with his
hook, and drawing him close ran his sword through him.
But the odds were too unequal, and, though he who fought alone was
by far the best and bravest of them all, I saw that it was but a
question of time before the remaining five would find an opening
through his marvelous guard and bring him down.
Now my sympathies have ever been with the weaker side of an argument,
and though I knew nothing of the cause of the trouble I could not
stand idly by and see a brave man butchered by superior numbers.
As a matter of fact I presume I gave little attention to seeking an
excuse, for I love a good fight too well to need any other reason
for joining in when one is afoot.
So it was that before Thuvan Dihn knew what I was about he saw me
standing by the side of the white-clad yellow man, battling like
mad with his five adversaries.
WITH THE YELLOW MEN
Thuvan Dihn was not long in joining me; and, though we found the
hooked weapon a strange and savage thing with which to deal, the
three of us soon despatched the five black-bearded warriors who
When the battle was over our new acquaintance turned to me, and
removing the shield from his wrist, held it out. I did not know
the significance of his act, but judged that it was but a form of
expressing his gratitude to me.
I afterward learned that it symbolized the offering of a man's life
in return for some great favor done him; and my act of refusing,
which I had immediately done, was what was expected of me.
"Then accept from Talu, Prince of Marentina," said the yellow man,
"this token of my gratitude," and reaching beneath one of his wide
sleeves he withdrew a bracelet and placed it upon my arm. He then
went through the same ceremony with Thuvan Dihn.
Next he asked our names, and from what land we hailed. He seemed
quite familiar with the geography of the outerworld, and when I
said I was from Helium he raised his brows.
"Ah," he said, "you seek your ruler and his company?"
"Know you of them?" I asked.
"But little more than that they were captured by my uncle, Salensus
Oll, Jeddak of Jeddaks, Ruler of Okar, land of the yellow men of
Barsoom. As to their fate I know nothing, for I am at war with my
uncle, who would crush my power in the principality of Marentina.
"These from whom you have just saved me are warriors he has sent
out to find and slay me, for they know that often I come alone to
hunt and kill the sacred apt which Salensus Oll so much reveres.
It is partly because I hate his religion that Salensus Oll hates
me; but mostly does he fear my growing power and the great faction
which has arisen throughout Okar that would be glad to see me ruler
of Okar and Jeddak of Jeddaks in his place.
"He is a cruel and tyrannous master whom all hate, and were it not
for the great fear they have of him I could raise an army overnight
that would wipe out the few that might remain loyal to him. My
own people are faithful to me, and the little valley of Marentina
has paid no tribute to the court of Salensus Oll for a year.
"Nor can he force us, for a dozen men may hold the narrow way to
Marentina against a million. But now, as to thine own affairs.
How may I aid you? My palace is at your disposal, if you wish to
honor me by coming to Marentina."
"When our work is done we shall be glad to accept your invitation,"
I replied. "But now you can assist us most by directing us to the
court of Salensus Oll, and suggesting some means by which we may
gain admission to the city and the palace, or whatever other place
we find our friends to be confined."
Talu gazed ruefully at our smooth faces and at Thuvan Dihn's red
skin and my white one.
"First you must come to Marentina," he said, "for a great change
must be wrought in your appearance before you can hope to enter
any city in Okar. You must have yellow faces and black beards,
and your apparel and trappings must be those least likely to arouse
suspicion. In my palace is one who can make you appear as truly
yellow men as does Salensus Oll himself."
His counsel seemed wise; and as there was apparently no other way
to insure a successful entry to Kadabra, the capital city of Okar,
we set out with Talu, Prince of Marentina, for his little, rock-bound
The way was over some of the worst traveling I have ever seen, and
I do not wonder that in this land where there are neither thoats
nor fliers that Marentina is in little fear of invasion; but at
last we reached our destination, the first view of which I had from
a slight elevation a half-mile from the city.
Nestled in a deep valley lay a city of Martian concrete, whose
every street and plaza and open space was roofed with glass. All
about lay snow and ice, but there was none upon the rounded,
domelike, crystal covering that enveloped the whole city.
Then I saw how these people combated the rigors of the arctic, and
lived in luxury and comfort in the midst of a land of perpetual
ice. Their cities were veritable hothouses, and when I had come
within this one my respect and admiration for the scientific and
engineering skill of this buried nation was unbounded.
The moment we entered the city Talu threw off his outer garments
of fur, as did we, and I saw that his apparel differed but little
from that of the red races of Barsoom. Except for his leathern
harness, covered thick with jewels and metal, he was naked, nor could
one have comfortably worn apparel in that warm and humid atmosphere.
For three days we remained the guests of Prince Talu, and during
that time he showered upon us every attention and courtesy within
his power. He showed us all that was of interest in his great
The Marentina atmosphere plant will maintain life indefinitely in
the cities of the north pole after all life upon the balance of
dying Mars is extinct through the failure of the air supply, should
the great central plant again cease functioning as it did upon that
memorable occasion that gave me the opportunity of restoring life
and happiness to the strange world that I had already learned to
love so well.
He showed us the heating system that stores the sun's rays in great
reservoirs beneath the city, and how little is necessary to maintain
the perpetual summer heat of the glorious garden spot within this
Broad avenues of sod sewn with the seed of the ocher vegetation
of the dead sea bottoms carried the noiseless traffic of light and
airy ground fliers that are the only form of artificial transportation
used north of the gigantic ice-barrier.
The broad tires of these unique fliers are but rubber-like gas bags
filled with the eighth Barsoomian ray, or ray of propulsion--that
remarkable discovery of the Martians that has made possible the
great fleets of mighty airships that render the red man of the
outer world supreme. It is this ray which propels the inherent
or reflected light of the planet off into space, and when confined
gives to the Martian craft their airy buoyancy.
The ground fliers of Marentina contain just sufficient buoyancy in
their automobile-like wheels to give the cars traction for steering
purposes; and though the hind wheels are geared to the engine, and
aid in driving the machine, the bulk of this work is carried by a
small propeller at the stern.
I know of no more delightful sensation than that of riding in one
of these luxuriously appointed cars which skim, light and airy as
feathers, along the soft, mossy avenues of Marentina. They move
with absolute noiselessness between borders of crimson sward and
beneath arching trees gorgeous with the wondrous blooms that mark
so many of the highly cultivated varieties of Barsoomian vegetation.
By the end of the third day the court barber--I can think of no
other earthly appellation by which to describe him--had wrought
so remarkable a transformation in both Thuvan Dihn and myself that
our own wives would never have known us. Our skins were of the
same lemon color as his own, and great, black beards and mustaches
had been deftly affixed to our smooth faces. The trappings of
warriors of Okar aided in the deception; and for wear beyond the
hothouse cities we each had suits of the black- and yellow-striped
Talu gave us careful directions for the journey to Kadabra, the
capital city of the Okar nation, which is the racial name of the
yellow men. This good friend even accompanied us part way, and
then, promising to aid us in any way that he found possible, bade
On parting he slipped upon my finger a curiously wrought ring set
with a dead-black, lusterless stone, which appeared more like a
bit of bituminous coal than the priceless Barsoomian gem which in
reality it is.
"There had been but three others cut from the mother stone," he
said, "which is in my possession. These three are worn by nobles
high in my confidence, all of whom have been sent on secret missions
to the court of Salensus Oll.
"Should you come within fifty feet of any of these three you will
feel a rapid, pricking sensation in the finger upon which you wear
this ring. He who wears one of its mates will experience the same
feeling; it is caused by an electrical action that takes place the
moment two of these gems cut from the same mother stone come within
the radius of each other's power. By it you will know that a friend
is at hand upon whom you may depend for assistance in time of need.
"Should another wearer of one of these gems call upon you for aid
do not deny him, and should death threaten you swallow the ring
rather than let it fall into the hands of enemies. Guard it with
your life, John Carter, for some day it may mean more than life to
With this parting admonition our good friend turned back toward
Marentina, and we set our faces in the direction of the city of
Kadabra and the court of Salensus Oll, Jeddak of Jeddaks.
That very evening we came within sight of the walled and glass-roofed
city of Kadabra. It lies in a low depression near the pole,
surrounded by rocky, snow-clad hills. From the pass through which
we entered the valley we had a splendid view of this great city of
the north. Its crystal domes sparkled in the brilliant sunlight
gleaming above the frost-covered outer wall that circles the entire
one hundred miles of its circumference.
At regular intervals great gates give entrance to the city; but
even at the distance from which we looked upon the massive pile
we could see that all were closed, and, in accordance with Talu's
suggestion, we deferred attempting to enter the city until the
As he had said, we found numerous caves in the hillsides about
us, and into one of these we crept for the night. Our warm orluk
skins kept us perfectly comfortable, and it was only after a
most refreshing sleep that we awoke shortly after daylight on the
Already the city was astir, and from several of the gates we saw
parties of yellow men emerging. Following closely each detail
of the instructions given us by our good friend of Marentina, we
remained concealed for several hours until one party of some half
dozen warriors had passed along the trail below our hiding place
and entered the hills by way of the pass along which we had come
the previous evening.
After giving them time to get well out of sight of our cave, Thuvan
Dihn and I crept out and followed them, overtaking them when they
were well into the hills.
When we had come almost to them I called aloud to their leader, when
the whole party halted and turned toward us. The crucial test had
come. Could we but deceive these men the rest would be comparatively
"Kaor!" I cried as I came closer to them.
"Kaor!" responded the officer in charge of the party.
"We be from Illall," I continued, giving the name of the most remote
city of Okar, which has little or no intercourse with Kadabra.
"Only yesterday we arrived, and this morning the captain of the
gate told us that you were setting out to hunt orluks, which is
a sport we do not find in our own neighborhood. We have hastened
after you to pray that you allow us to accompany you."
The officer was entirely deceived, and graciously permitted us to
go with them for the day. The chance guess that they were bound
upon an orluk hunt proved correct, and Talu had said that the
chances were ten to one that such would be the mission of any party
leaving Kadabra by the pass through which we entered the valley,
since that way leads directly to the vast plains frequented by this
elephantine beast of prey.
In so far as the hunt was concerned, the day was a failure, for
we did not see a single orluk; but this proved more than fortunate
for us, since the yellow men were so chagrined by their misfortune
that they would not enter the city by the same gate by which they
had left it in the morning, as it seemed that they had made great
boasts to the captain of that gate about their skill at this
We, therefore, approached Kadabra at a point several miles from
that at which the party had quitted it in the morning, and so were
relieved of the danger of embarrassing questions and explanations
on the part of the gate captain, whom we had said had directed us
to this particular hunting party.
We had come quite close to the city when my attention was attracted
toward a tall, black shaft that reared its head several hundred
feet into the air from what appeared to be a tangled mass of junk
or wreckage, now partially snow-covered.
I did not dare venture an inquiry for fear of arousing suspicion
by evident ignorance of something which as a yellow man I should
have known; but before we reached the city gate I was to learn the
purpose of that grim shaft and the meaning of the mighty accumulation
We had come almost to the gate when one of the party called to
his fellows, at the same time pointing toward the distant southern
horizon. Following the direction he indicated, my eyes descried
the hull of a large flier approaching rapidly from above the crest
of the encircling hills.
"Still other fools who would solve the mysteries of the forbidden
north," said the officer, half to himself. "Will they never cease
their fatal curiosity?"
"Let us hope not," answered one of the warriors, "for then what
should we do for slaves and sport?"
"True; but what stupid beasts they are to continue to come to a
region from whence none of them ever has returned."
"Let us tarry and watch the end of this one," suggested one of the
The officer looked toward the city.
"The watch has seen him," he said; "we may remain, for we may be
I looked toward the city and saw several hundred warriors issuing
from the nearest gate. They moved leisurely, as though there were
no need for haste--nor was there, as I was presently to learn.
Then I turned my eyes once more toward the flier. She was moving
rapidly toward the city, and when she had come close enough I was
surprised to see that her propellers were idle.
Straight for that grim shaft she bore. At the last minute I saw
the great blades move to reverse her, yet on she came as though
drawn by some mighty, irresistible power.
Intense excitement prevailed upon her deck, where men were running
hither and thither, manning the guns and preparing to launch the
small, one-man fliers, a fleet of which is part of the equipment
of every Martian war vessel. Closer and closer to the black shaft
the ship sped. In another instant she must strike, and then I saw
the familiar signal flown that sends the lesser boats in a great
flock from the deck of the mother ship.
Instantly a hundred tiny fliers rose from her deck, like a swarm of
huge dragon flies; but scarcely were they clear of the battleship
than the nose of each turned toward the shaft, and they, too, rushed
on at frightful speed toward the same now seemingly inevitable end
that menaced the larger vessel.
A moment later the collision came. Men were hurled in every
direction from the ship's deck, while she, bent and crumpled, took
the last, long plunge to the scrap-heap at the shaft's base.
With her fell a shower of her own tiny fliers, for each of them
had come in violent collision with the solid shaft.
I noticed that the wrecked fliers scraped down the shaft's side,
and that their fall was not as rapid as might have been expected;