Warlord of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
On the River Iss
Under the Mountains
The Temple of the Sun
The Secret Tower
On the Kaolian Road
A Hero in Kaol
Through the Carrion Caves
With the Yellow Men
The Pit of Plenty
"Follow the Rope!"
The Magnet Switch
The Tide of Battle
The New Ruler
ON THE RIVER ISS
In the shadows of the forest that flanks the crimson plain by the
side of the Lost Sea of Korus in the Valley Dor, beneath the hurtling
moons of Mars, speeding their meteoric way close above the bosom of
the dying planet, I crept stealthily along the trail of a shadowy
form that hugged the darker places with a persistency that proclaimed
the sinister nature of its errand.
For six long Martian months I had haunted the vicinity of the
hateful Temple of the Sun, within whose slow-revolving shaft, far
beneath the surface of Mars, my princess lay entombed—but whether
alive or dead I knew not. Had Phaidor's slim blade found that
beloved heart? Time only would reveal the truth.
Six hundred and eighty-seven Martian days must come and go before
the cell's door would again come opposite the tunnel's end where
last I had seen my ever-beautiful Dejah Thoris.
Half of them had passed, or would on the morrow, yet vivid in my
memory, obliterating every event that had come before or after,
there remained the last scene before the gust of smoke blinded my
eyes and the narrow slit that had given me sight of the interior
of her cell closed between me and the Princess of Helium for a long
As if it were yesterday, I still saw the beautiful face of Phaidor,
daughter of Matai Shang, distorted with jealous rage and hatred as
she sprang forward with raised dagger upon the woman I loved.
I saw the red girl, Thuvia of Ptarth, leap forward to prevent the
The smoke from the burning temple had come then to blot out the
tragedy, but in my ears rang the single shriek as the knife fell.
Then silence, and when the smoke had cleared, the revolving temple
had shut off all sight or sound from the chamber in which the three
beautiful women were imprisoned.
Much there had been to occupy my attention since that terrible moment;
but never for an instant had the memory of the thing faded, and
all the time that I could spare from the numerous duties that had
devolved upon me in the reconstruction of the government of the
First Born since our victorious fleet and land forces had overwhelmed
them, had been spent close to the grim shaft that held the mother
of my boy, Carthoris of Helium.
The race of blacks that for ages had worshiped Issus, the false
deity of Mars, had been left in a state of chaos by my revealment
of her as naught more than a wicked old woman. In their rage they
had torn her to pieces.
From the high pinnacle of their egotism the First Born had been
plunged to the depths of humiliation. Their deity was gone, and
with her the whole false fabric of their religion. Their vaunted
navy had fallen in defeat before the superior ships and fighting
men of the red men of Helium.
Fierce green warriors from the ocher sea bottoms of outer Mars had
ridden their wild thoats across the sacred gardens of the Temple
of Issus, and Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, fiercest of them all,
had sat upon the throne of Issus and ruled the First Born while
the allies were deciding the conquered nation's fate.
Almost unanimous was the request that I ascend the ancient throne
of the black men, even the First Born themselves concurring in it;
but I would have none of it. My heart could never be with the race
that had heaped indignities upon my princess and my son.
At my suggestion Xodar became Jeddak of the First Born. He had
been a dator, or prince, until Issus had degraded him, so that his
fitness for the high office bestowed was unquestioned.
The peace of the Valley Dor thus assured, the green warriors dispersed
to their desolate sea bottoms, while we of Helium returned to our
own country. Here again was a throne offered me, since no word
had been received from the missing Jeddak of Helium, Tardos Mors,
grandfather of Dejah Thoris, or his son, Mors Kajak, Jed of Helium,
Over a year had elapsed since they had set out to explore the northern
hemisphere in search of Carthoris, and at last their disheartened
people had accepted as truth the vague rumors of their death that
had filtered in from the frozen region of the pole.
Once again I refused a throne, for I would not believe that the
mighty Tardos Mors, or his no less redoubtable son, was dead.
"Let one of their own blood rule you until they return," I said
to the assembled nobles of Helium, as I addressed them from the
Pedestal of Truth beside the Throne of Righteousness in the Temple
of Reward, from the very spot where I had stood a year before when
Zat Arras pronounced the sentence of death upon me.
As I spoke I stepped forward and laid my hand upon the shoulder of
Carthoris where he stood in the front rank of the circle of nobles
As one, the nobles and the people lifted their voices in a long
cheer of approbation. Ten thousand swords sprang on high from as
many scabbards, and the glorious fighting men of ancient Helium
hailed Carthoris Jeddak of Helium.
His tenure of office was to be for life or until his great-grandfather,
or grandfather, should return. Having thus satisfactorily arranged
this important duty for Helium, I started the following day for
the Valley Dor that I might remain close to the Temple of the Sun
until the fateful day that should see the opening of the prison
cell where my lost love lay buried.
Hor Vastus and Kantos Kan, with my other noble lieutenants, I left
with Carthoris at Helium, that he might have the benefit of their
wisdom, bravery, and loyalty in the performance of the arduous
duties which had devolved upon him. Only Woola, my Martian hound,
At my heels tonight the faithful beast moved softly in my tracks.
As large as a Shetland pony, with hideous head and frightful fangs,
he was indeed an awesome spectacle, as he crept after me on his
ten short, muscular legs; but to me he was the embodiment of love
The figure ahead was that of the black dator of the First Born,
Thurid, whose undying enmity I had earned that time I laid him low
with my bare hands in the courtyard of the Temple of Issus, and
bound him with his own harness before the noble men and women who
had but a moment before been extolling his prowess.
Like many of his fellows, he had apparently accepted the new order
of things with good grace, and had sworn fealty to Xodar, his new
ruler; but I knew that he hated me, and I was sure that in his heart
he envied and hated Xodar, so I had kept a watch upon his comings
and goings, to the end that of late I had become convinced that he
was occupied with some manner of intrigue.
Several times I had observed him leaving the walled city of the
First Born after dark, taking his way out into the cruel and horrible
Valley Dor, where no honest business could lead any man.
Tonight he moved quickly along the edge of the forest until well
beyond sight or sound of the city, then he turned across the crimson
sward toward the shore of the Lost Sea of Korus.
The rays of the nearer moon, swinging low across the valley, touched
his jewel-incrusted harness with a thousand changing lights and
glanced from the glossy ebony of his smooth hide. Twice he turned
his head back toward the forest, after the manner of one who is upon
an evil errand, though he must have felt quite safe from pursuit.
I did not dare follow him there beneath the moonlight, since it
best suited my plans not to interrupt his—I wished him to reach
his destination unsuspecting, that I might learn just where that
destination lay and the business that awaited the night prowler
So it was that I remained hidden until after Thurid had disappeared
over the edge of the steep bank beside the sea a quarter of a mile
away. Then, with Woola following, I hastened across the open after
the black dator.
The quiet of the tomb lay upon the mysterious valley of death,
crouching deep in its warm nest within the sunken area at the south
pole of the dying planet. In the far distance the Golden Cliffs
raised their mighty barrier faces far into the starlit heavens,
the precious metals and scintillating jewels that composed them
sparkling in the brilliant light of Mars's two gorgeous moons.
At my back was the forest, pruned and trimmed like the sward to
parklike symmetry by the browsing of the ghoulish plant men.
Before me lay the Lost Sea of Korus, while farther on I caught the
shimmering ribbon of Iss, the River of Mystery, where it wound out
from beneath the Golden Cliffs to empty into Korus, to which for
countless ages had been borne the deluded and unhappy Martians of
the outer world upon the voluntary pilgrimage to this false heaven.
The plant men, with their blood-sucking hands, and the monstrous
white apes that make Dor hideous by day, were hidden in their lairs
for the night.
There was no longer a Holy Thern upon the balcony in the Golden
Cliffs above the Iss to summon them with weird cry to the victims
floating down to their maws upon the cold, broad bosom of ancient
The navies of Helium and the First Born had cleared the fortresses
and the temples of the therns when they had refused to surrender and
accept the new order of things that had swept their false religion
from long-suffering Mars.
In a few isolated countries they still retained their age-old power;
but Matai Shang, their hekkador, Father of Therns, had been driven
from his temple. Strenuous had been our endeavors to capture
him; but with a few of the faithful he had escaped, and was in
hiding—where we knew not.
As I came cautiously to the edge of the low cliff overlooking the
Lost Sea of Korus I saw Thurid pushing out upon the bosom of the
shimmering water in a small skiff—one of those strangely wrought craft
of unthinkable age which the Holy Therns, with their organization
of priests and lesser therns, were wont to distribute along the
banks of the Iss, that the long journey of their victims might be
Drawn up on the beach below me were a score of similar boats, each
with its long pole, at one end of which was a pike, at the other
a paddle. Thurid was hugging the shore, and as he passed out of
sight round a near-by promontory I shoved one of the boats into
the water and, calling Woola into it, pushed out from shore.
The pursuit of Thurid carried me along the edge of the sea toward
the mouth of the Iss. The farther moon lay close to the horizon,
casting a dense shadow beneath the cliffs that fringed the water.
Thuria, the nearer moon, had set, nor would it rise again for near
four hours, so that I was ensured concealing darkness for that
length of time at least.
On and on went the black warrior. Now he was opposite the mouth
of the Iss. Without an instant's hesitation he turned up the grim
river, paddling hard against the strong current.
After him came Woola and I, closer now, for the man was too intent
upon forcing his craft up the river to have any eyes for what might
be transpiring behind him. He hugged the shore where the current
was less strong.
Presently he came to the dark cavernous portal in the face of the
Golden Cliffs, through which the river poured. On into the Stygian
darkness beyond he urged his craft.
It seemed hopeless to attempt to follow him here where I could not
see my hand before my face, and I was almost on the point of giving
up the pursuit and drifting back to the mouth of the river, there
to await his return, when a sudden bend showed a faint luminosity
My quarry was plainly visible again, and in the increasing light
from the phosphorescent rock that lay embedded in great patches
in the roughly arched roof of the cavern I had no difficulty in
It was my first trip upon the bosom of Iss, and the things I saw
there will live forever in my memory.
Terrible as they were, they could not have commenced to approximate
the horrible conditions which must have obtained before Tars Tarkas,
the great green warrior, Xodar, the black dator, and I brought
the light of truth to the outer world and stopped the mad rush of
millions upon the voluntary pilgrimage to what they believed would
end in a beautiful valley of peace and happiness and love.
Even now the low islands which dotted the broad stream were choked
with the skeletons and half devoured carcasses of those who, through
fear or a sudden awakening to the truth, had halted almost at the
completion of their journey.
In the awful stench of these frightful charnel isles haggard maniacs
screamed and gibbered and fought among the torn remnants of their
grisly feasts; while on those which contained but clean-picked
bones they battled with one another, the weaker furnishing sustenance
for the stronger; or with clawlike hands clutched at the bloated
bodies that drifted down with the current.
Thurid paid not the slightest attention to the screaming things
that either menaced or pleaded with him as the mood directed
them—evidently he was familiar with the horrid sights that
surrounded him. He continued up the river for perhaps a mile; and
then, crossing over to the left bank, drew his craft up on a low
ledge that lay almost on a level with the water.
I dared not follow across the stream, for he most surely would have
seen me. Instead I stopped close to the opposite wall beneath an
overhanging mass of rock that cast a dense shadow beneath it. Here
I could watch Thurid without danger of discovery.
The black was standing upon the ledge beside his boat, looking up
the river, as though he were awaiting one whom he expected from
As I lay there beneath the dark rocks I noticed that a strong
current seemed to flow directly toward the center of the river, so
that it was difficult to hold my craft in its position. I edged
farther into the shadow that I might find a hold upon the bank;
but, though I proceeded several yards, I touched nothing; and
then, finding that I would soon reach a point from where I could
no longer see the black man, I was compelled to remain where I was,
holding my position as best I could by paddling strongly against
the current which flowed from beneath the rocky mass behind me.
I could not imagine what might cause this strong lateral flow, for
the main channel of the river was plainly visible to me from where
I sat, and I could see the rippling junction of it and the mysterious
current which had aroused my curiosity.
While I was still speculating upon the phenomenon, my attention
was suddenly riveted upon Thurid, who had raised both palms forward
above his head in the universal salute of Martians, and a moment
later his "Kaor!" the Barsoomian word of greeting, came in low but
I turned my eyes up the river in the direction that his were bent,
and presently there came within my limited range of vision a long
boat, in which were six men. Five were at the paddles, while the
sixth sat in the seat of honor.
The white skins, the flowing yellow wigs which covered their bald
pates, and the gorgeous diadems set in circlets of gold about their
heads marked them as Holy Therns.
As they drew up beside the ledge upon which Thurid awaited them,
he in the bow of the boat arose to step ashore, and then I saw that
it was none other than Matai Shang, Father of Therns.
The evident cordiality with which the two men exchanged greetings
filled me with wonder, for the black and white men of Barsoom were
hereditary enemies—nor ever before had I known of two meeting
other than in battle.
Evidently the reverses that had recently overtaken both peoples had
resulted in an alliance between these two individuals—at least
against the common enemy—and now I saw why Thurid had come so
often out into the Valley Dor by night, and that the nature of his
conspiring might be such as to strike very close to me or to my
I wished that I might have found a point closer to the two men
from which to have heard their conversation; but it was out of the
question now to attempt to cross the river, and so I lay quietly
watching them, who would have given so much to have known how close
I lay to them, and how easily they might have overcome and killed
me with their superior force.
Several times Thurid pointed across the river in my direction, but
that his gestures had any reference to me I did not for a moment
believe. Presently he and Matai Shang entered the latter's boat,
which turned out into the river and, swinging round, forged steadily
across in my direction.
As they advanced I moved my boat farther and farther in beneath the
overhanging wall, but at last it became evident that their craft
was holding the same course. The five paddlers sent the larger
boat ahead at a speed that taxed my energies to equal.
Every instant I expected to feel my prow crash against solid rock.
The light from the river was no longer visible, but ahead I saw
the faint tinge of a distant radiance, and still the water before
me was open.
At last the truth dawned upon me—I was following a subterranean
river which emptied into the Iss at the very point where I had
The rowers were now quite close to me. The noise of their
own paddles drowned the sound of mine, but in another instant the
growing light ahead would reveal me to them.
There was no time to be lost. Whatever action I was to take must
be taken at once. Swinging the prow of my boat toward the right,
I sought the river's rocky side, and there I lay while Matai Shang
and Thurid approached up the center of the stream, which was much
narrower than the Iss.
As they came nearer I heard the voices of Thurid and the Father of
Therns raised in argument.
"I tell you, Thern," the black dator was saying, "that I wish only
vengeance upon John Carter, Prince of Helium. I am leading you
into no trap. What could I gain by betraying you to those who have
ruined my nation and my house?"
"Let us stop here a moment that I may hear your plans," replied the
hekkador, "and then we may proceed with a better understanding of
our duties and obligations."
To the rowers he issued the command that brought their boat in
toward the bank not a dozen paces beyond the spot where I lay.
Had they pulled in below me they must surely have seen me against
the faint glow of light ahead, but from where they finally came to
rest I was as secure from detection as though miles separated us.
The few words I had already overheard whetted my curiosity, and I
was anxious to learn what manner of vengeance Thurid was planning
against me. Nor had I long to wait. I listened intently.
"There are no obligations, Father of Therns," continued the First
Born. "Thurid, Dator of Issus, has no price. When the thing has
been accomplished I shall be glad if you will see to it that I am
well received, as is befitting my ancient lineage and noble rank,
at some court that is yet loyal to thy ancient faith, for I cannot
return to the Valley Dor or elsewhere within the power of the Prince
of Helium; but even that I do not demand—it shall be as your own
desire in the matter directs."
"It shall be as you wish, Dator," replied Matai Shang; "nor is that
all—power and riches shall be yours if you restore my daughter,
Phaidor, to me, and place within my power Dejah Thoris, Princess
"Ah," he continued with a malicious snarl, "but the Earth man shall
suffer for the indignities he has put upon the holy of holies, nor
shall any vileness be too vile to inflict upon his princess. Would
that it were in my power to force him to witness the humiliation
and degradation of the red woman."
"You shall have your way with her before another day has passed,
Matai Shang," said Thurid, "if you but say the word."
"I have heard of the Temple of the Sun, Dator," replied Matai Shang,
"but never have I heard that its prisoners could be released before
the allotted year of their incarceration had elapsed. How, then,
may you accomplish the impossible?"
"Access may be had to any cell of the temple at any time," replied
Thurid. "Only Issus knew this; nor was it ever Issus' way to
divulge more of her secrets than were necessary. By chance, after
her death, I came upon an ancient plan of the temple, and there I
found, plainly writ, the most minute directions for reaching the
cells at any time.
"And more I learned—that many men had gone thither for Issus in the
past, always on errands of death and torture to the prisoners; but
those who thus learned the secret way were wont to die mysteriously
immediately they had returned and made their reports to cruel
"Let us proceed, then," said Matai Shang at last. "I must trust
you, yet at the same time you must trust me, for we are six to your
"I do not fear," replied Thurid, "nor need you. Our hatred of
the common enemy is sufficient bond to insure our loyalty to each
other, and after we have defiled the Princess of Helium there will
be still greater reason for the maintenance of our allegiance—unless
I greatly mistake the temper of her lord."
Matai Shang spoke to the paddlers. The boat moved on up the
It was with difficulty that I restrained myself from rushing upon
them and slaying the two vile plotters; but quickly I saw the mad
rashness of such an act, which would cut down the only man who could
lead the way to Dejah Thoris' prison before the long Martian year
had swung its interminable circle.
If he should lead Matai Shang to that hallowed spot, then, too,
should he lead John Carter, Prince of Helium.
With silent paddle I swung slowly into the wake of the larger craft.
UNDER THE MOUNTAINS
As we advanced up the river which winds beneath the Golden Cliffs
out of the bowels of the Mountains of Otz to mingle its dark waters
with the grim and mysterious Iss the faint glow which had appeared
before us grew gradually into an all-enveloping radiance.
The river widened until it presented the aspect of a large lake
whose vaulted dome, lighted by glowing phosphorescent rock, was
splashed with the vivid rays of the diamond, the sapphire, the ruby,
and the countless, nameless jewels of Barsoom which lay incrusted
in the virgin gold which forms the major portion of these magnificent
Beyond the lighted chamber of the lake was darkness—what lay behind
the darkness I could not even guess.
To have followed the thern boat across the gleaming water would
have been to invite instant detection, and so, though I was loath
to permit Thurid to pass even for an instant beyond my sight, I
was forced to wait in the shadows until the other boat had passed
from my sight at the far extremity of the lake.
Then I paddled out upon the brilliant surface in the direction they
When, after what seemed an eternity, I reached the shadows at the
upper end of the lake I found that the river issued from a low
aperture, to pass beneath which it was necessary that I compel
Woola to lie flat in the boat, and I, myself, must need bend double
before the low roof cleared my head.
Immediately the roof rose again upon the other side, but no longer was
the way brilliantly lighted. Instead only a feeble glow emanated
from small and scattered patches of phosphorescent rock in wall
Directly before me the river ran into this smaller chamber through
three separate arched openings.
Thurid and the therns were nowhere to be seen—into which of the
dark holes had they disappeared? There was no means by which I
might know, and so I chose the center opening as being as likely
to lead me in the right direction as another.
Here the way was through utter darkness. The stream was narrow—so
narrow that in the blackness I was constantly bumping first one
rock wall and then another as the river wound hither and thither
along its flinty bed.
Far ahead I presently heard a deep and sullen roar which increased
in volume as I advanced, and then broke upon my ears with all the
intensity of its mad fury as I swung round a sharp curve into a
dimly lighted stretch of water.
Directly before me the river thundered down from above in a mighty
waterfall that filled the narrow gorge from side to side, rising
far above me several hundred feet—as magnificent a spectacle as
I ever had seen.
But the roar—the awful, deafening roar of those tumbling waters
penned in the rocky, subterranean vault! Had the fall not entirely
blocked my further passage and shown me that I had followed the
wrong course I believe that I should have fled anyway before the
Thurid and the therns could not have come this way. By stumbling
upon the wrong course I had lost the trail, and they had gained so
much ahead of me that now I might not be able to find them before
it was too late, if, in fact, I could find them at all.
It had taken several hours to force my way up to the falls against
the strong current, and other hours would be required for the
descent, although the pace would be much swifter.
With a sigh I turned the prow of my craft down stream, and with
mighty strokes hastened with reckless speed through the dark and
tortuous channel until once again I came to the chamber into which
flowed the three branches of the river.
Two unexplored channels still remained from which to choose; nor
was there any means by which I could judge which was the more likely
to lead me to the plotters.
Never in my life, that I can recall, have I suffered such an agony
of indecision. So much depended upon a correct choice; so much
depended upon haste.
The hours that I had already lost might seal the fate of the
incomparable Dejah Thoris were she not already dead—to sacrifice
other hours, and maybe days in a fruitless exploration of another
blind lead would unquestionably prove fatal.
Several times I essayed the right-hand entrance only to turn back
as though warned by some strange intuitive sense that this was not
the way. At last, convinced by the oft-recurring phenomenon, I
cast my all upon the left-hand archway; yet it was with a lingering
doubt that I turned a parting look at the sullen waters which
rolled, dark and forbidding, from beneath the grim, low archway on
And as I looked there came bobbing out upon the current from the
Stygian darkness of the interior the shell of one of the great,
succulent fruits of the sorapus tree.
I could scarce restrain a shout of elation as this silent, insensate
messenger floated past me, on toward the Iss and Korus, for it told
me that journeying Martians were above me on that very stream.
They had eaten of this marvelous fruit which nature concentrates
within the hard shell of the sorapus nut, and having eaten had
cast the husk overboard. It could have come from no others than
the party I sought.
Quickly I abandoned all thought of the left-hand passage, and a
moment later had turned into the right. The stream soon widened,
and recurring areas of phosphorescent rock lighted my way.
I made good time, but was convinced that I was nearly a day behind
those I was tracking. Neither Woola nor I had eaten since the
previous day, but in so far as he was concerned it mattered but
little, since practically all the animals of the dead sea bottoms
of Mars are able to go for incredible periods without nourishment.
Nor did I suffer. The water of the river was sweet and cold, for
it was unpolluted by decaying bodies—like the Iss—and as for
food, why the mere thought that I was nearing my beloved princess
raised me above every material want.
As I proceeded, the river became narrower and the current swift
and turbulent—so swift in fact that it was with difficulty that
I forced my craft upward at all. I could not have been making to
exceed a hundred yards an hour when, at a bend, I was confronted
by a series of rapids through which the river foamed and boiled at
a terrific rate.
My heart sank within me. The sorapus nutshell had proved a false
prophet, and, after all, my intuition had been correct—it was the
left-hand channel that I should have followed.
Had I been a woman I should have wept. At my right was a great,
slow-moving eddy that circled far beneath the cliff's overhanging
side, and to rest my tired muscles before turning back I let my
boat drift into its embrace.
I was almost prostrated by disappointment. It would mean another
half-day's loss of time to retrace my way and take the only passage
that yet remained unexplored. What hellish fate had led me to
select from three possible avenues the two that were wrong?
As the lazy current of the eddy carried me slowly about the periphery
of the watery circle my boat twice touched the rocky side of the
river in the dark recess beneath the cliff. A third time it struck,
gently as it had before, but the contact resulted in a different
sound—the sound of wood scraping upon wood.
In an instant I was on the alert, for there could be no wood
within that buried river that had not been man brought. Almost
coincidentally with my first apprehension of the noise, my hand shot
out across the boat's side, and a second later I felt my fingers
gripping the gunwale of another craft.
As though turned to stone I sat in tense and rigid silence, straining
my eyes into the utter darkness before me in an effort to discover
if the boat were occupied.
It was entirely possible that there might be men on board it
who were still ignorant of my presence, for the boat was scraping
gently against the rocks upon one side, so that the gentle touch
of my boat upon the other easily could have gone unnoticed.
Peer as I would I could not penetrate the darkness, and then I
listened intently for the sound of breathing near me; but except
for the noise of the rapids, the soft scraping of the boats, and the
lapping of the water at their sides I could distinguish no sound.
As usual, I thought rapidly.
A rope lay coiled in the bottom of my own craft. Very softly I
gathered it up, and making one end fast to the bronze ring in the
prow I stepped gingerly into the boat beside me. In one hand I
grasped the rope, in the other my keen long-sword.
For a full minute, perhaps, I stood motionless after entering the
strange craft. It had rocked a trifle beneath my weight, but it
had been the scraping of its side against the side of my own boat
that had seemed most likely to alarm its occupants, if there were
But there was no answering sound, and a moment later I had felt
from stem to stern and found the boat deserted.
Groping with my hands along the face of the rocks to which the
craft was moored, I discovered a narrow ledge which I knew must be
the avenue taken by those who had come before me. That they could
be none other than Thurid and his party I was convinced by the size
and build of the boat I had found.
Calling to Woola to follow me I stepped out upon the ledge. The
great, savage brute, agile as a cat, crept after me.
As he passed through the boat that had been occupied by Thurid and
the therns he emitted a single low growl, and when he came beside
me upon the ledge and my hand rested upon his neck I felt his short
mane bristling with anger. I think he sensed telepathically the
recent presence of an enemy, for I had made no effort to impart to
him the nature of our quest or the status of those we tracked.
This omission I now made haste to correct, and, after the manner
of green Martians with their beasts, I let him know partially by
the weird and uncanny telepathy of Barsoom and partly by word of
mouth that we were upon the trail of those who had recently occupied
the boat through which we had just passed.
A soft purr, like that of a great cat, indicated that Woola
understood, and then, with a word to him to follow, I turned to
the right along the ledge, but scarcely had I done so than I felt
his mighty fangs tugging at my leathern harness.
As I turned to discover the cause of his act he continued to pull
me steadily in the opposite direction, nor would he desist until
I had turned about and indicated that I would follow him voluntarily.
Never had I known him to be in error in a matter of tracking, so
it was with a feeling of entire security that I moved cautiously in
the huge beast's wake. Through Cimmerian darkness he moved along
the narrow ledge beside the boiling rapids.
As we advanced, the way led from beneath the overhanging cliffs
out into a dim light, and then it was that I saw that the trail
had been cut from the living rock, and that it ran up along the
river's side beyond the rapids.
For hours we followed the dark and gloomy river farther and farther
into the bowels of Mars. From the direction and distance I knew
that we must be well beneath the Valley Dor, and possibly beneath
the Sea of Omean as well—it could not be much farther now to the
Temple of the Sun.
Even as my mind framed the thought, Woola halted suddenly before a
narrow, arched doorway in the cliff by the trail's side. Quickly
he crouched back away from the entrance, at the same time turning
his eyes toward me.
Words could not have more plainly told me that danger of some sort
lay near by, and so I pressed quietly forward to his side, and
passing him looked into the aperture at our right.
Before me was a fair-sized chamber that, from its appointments, I
knew must have at one time been a guardroom. There were racks for
weapons, and slightly raised platforms for the sleeping silks and
furs of the warriors, but now its only occupants were two of the
therns who had been of the party with Thurid and Matai Shang.
The men were in earnest conversation, and from their tones it was
apparent that they were entirely unaware that they had listeners.
"I tell you," one of them was saying, "I do not trust the black
one. There was no necessity for leaving us here to guard the way.
Against what, pray, should we guard this long-forgotten, abysmal
path? It was but a ruse to divide our numbers.
"He will have Matai Shang leave others elsewhere on some pretext or
other, and then at last he will fall upon us with his confederates
and slay us all."
"I believe you, Lakor," replied the other, "there can never be
aught else than deadly hatred between thern and First Born. And
what think you of the ridiculous matter of the light? 'Let the
light shine with the intensity of three radium units for fifty
tals, and for one xat let it shine with the intensity of one radium
unit, and then for twenty-five tals with nine units.' Those were
his very words, and to think that wise old Matai Shang should listen
to such foolishness."
"Indeed, it is silly," replied Lakor. "It will open nothing other
than the way to a quick death for us all. He had to make some
answer when Matai Shang asked him flatly what he should do when he
came to the Temple of the Sun, and so he made his answer quickly
from his imagination—I would wager a hekkador's diadem that he
could not now repeat it himself."
"Let us not remain here longer, Lakor," spoke the other thern.
"Perchance if we hasten after them we may come in time to rescue
Matai Shang, and wreak our own vengeance upon the black dator.
What say you?"
"Never in a long life," answered Lakor, "have I disobeyed a single
command of the Father of Therns. I shall stay here until I rot if
he does not return to bid me elsewhere."
Lakor's companion shook his head.
"You are my superior," he said; "I cannot do other than you sanction,
though I still believe that we are foolish to remain."
I, too, thought that they were foolish to remain, for I saw from
Woola's actions that the trail led through the room where the two
therns held guard. I had no reason to harbor any considerable love
for this race of self-deified demons, yet I would have passed them
by were it possible without molesting them.
It was worth trying anyway, for a fight might delay us considerably,
or even put an end entirely to my search—better men than I have
gone down before fighters of meaner ability than that possessed by
the fierce thern warriors.
Signaling Woola to heel I stepped suddenly into the room before the
two men. At sight of me their long-swords flashed from the harness
at their sides, but I raised my hand in a gesture of restraint.
"I seek Thurid, the black dator," I said. "My quarrel is with him,
not with you. Let me pass then in peace, for if I mistake not he
is as much your enemy as mine, and you can have no cause to protect
They lowered their swords and Lakor spoke.
"I know not whom you may be, with the white skin of a thern and
the black hair of a red man; but were it only Thurid whose safety
were at stake you might pass, and welcome, in so far as we be
"Tell us who you be, and what mission calls you to this unknown
world beneath the Valley Dor, then maybe we can see our way to let
you pass upon the errand which we should like to undertake would
our orders permit."
I was surprised that neither of them had recognized me, for I
thought that I was quite sufficiently well known either by personal
experience or reputation to every thern upon Barsoom as to make my
identity immediately apparent in any part of the planet. In fact,
I was the only white man upon Mars whose hair was black and whose
eyes were gray, with the exception of my son, Carthoris.
To reveal my identity might be to precipitate an attack, for every
thern upon Barsoom knew that to me they owed the fall of their
age-old spiritual supremacy. On the other hand my reputation as
a fighting man might be sufficient to pass me by these two were
their livers not of the right complexion to welcome a battle to
To be quite candid I did not attempt to delude myself with any such
sophistry, since I knew well that upon war-like Mars there are few
cowards, and that every man, whether prince, priest, or peasant,
glories in deadly strife. And so I gripped my long-sword the
tighter as I replied to Lakor.
"I believe that you will see the wisdom of permitting me to pass
unmolested," I said, "for it would avail you nothing to die uselessly
in the rocky bowels of Barsoom merely to protect a hereditary enemy,
such as Thurid, Dator of the First Born.
"That you shall die should you elect to oppose me is evidenced by
the moldering corpses of all the many great Barsoomian warriors
who have gone down beneath this blade—I am John Carter, Prince of
For a moment that name seemed to paralyze the two men; but only
for a moment, and then the younger of them, with a vile name upon
his lips, rushed toward me with ready sword.
He had been standing a little behind his companion, Lakor, during
our parley, and now, ere he could engage me, the older man grasped
his harness and drew him back.
"Hold!" commanded Lakor. "There will be plenty of time to fight if
we find it wise to fight at all. There be good reasons why every
thern upon Barsoom should yearn to spill the blood of the blasphemer,
the sacrilegist; but let us mix wisdom with our righteous hate.
The Prince of Helium is bound upon an errand which we ourselves,
but a moment since, were wishing that we might undertake.
"Let him go then and slay the black. When he returns we shall still
be here to bar his way to the outer world, and thus we shall have
rid ourselves of two enemies, nor have incurred the displeasure of
the Father of Therns."
As he spoke I could not but note the crafty glint in his evil
eyes, and while I saw the apparent logic of his reasoning I felt,
subconsciously perhaps, that his words did but veil some sinister
intent. The other thern turned toward him in evident surprise, but
when Lakor had whispered a few brief words into his ear he, too,
drew back and nodded acquiescence to his superior's suggestion.
"Proceed, John Carter," said Lakor; "but know that if Thurid does
not lay you low there will be those awaiting your return who will
see that you never pass again into the sunlight of the upper world.
During our conversation Woola had been growling and bristling
close to my side. Occasionally he would look up into my face with
a low, pleading whine, as though begging for the word that would
send him headlong at the bare throats before him. He, too, sensed
the villainy behind the smooth words.
Beyond the therns several doorways opened off the guardroom, and
toward the one upon the extreme right Lakor motioned.
"That way leads to Thurid," he said.
But when I would have called Woola to follow me there the beast
whined and held back, and at last ran quickly to the first opening
at the left, where he stood emitting his coughing bark, as though
urging me to follow him upon the right way.
I turned a questioning look upon Lakor.
"The brute is seldom wrong," I said, "and while I do not doubt your
superior knowledge, Thern, I think that I shall do well to listen
to the voice of instinct that is backed by love and loyalty."
As I spoke I smiled grimly that he might know without words that
I distrusted him.
"As you will," the fellow replied with a shrug. "In the end it
shall be all the same."
I turned and followed Woola into the left-hand passage, and though
my back was toward my enemies, my ears were on the alert; yet
I heard no sound of pursuit. The passageway was dimly lighted by
occasional radium bulbs, the universal lighting medium of Barsoom.
These same lamps may have been doing continuous duty in these
subterranean chambers for ages, since they require no attention
and are so compounded that they give off but the minutest of their
substance in the generation of years of luminosity.
We had proceeded for but a short distance when we commenced to pass
the mouths of diverging corridors, but not once did Woola hesitate.
It was at the opening to one of these corridors upon my right that
I presently heard a sound that spoke more plainly to John Carter,
fighting man, than could the words of my mother tongue—it was the
clank of metal—the metal of a warrior's harness—and it came from
a little distance up the corridor upon my right.
Woola heard it, too, and like a flash he had wheeled and stood
facing the threatened danger, his mane all abristle and all his
rows of glistening fangs bared by snarling, backdrawn lips. With
a gesture I silenced him, and together we drew aside into another
corridor a few paces farther on.
Here we waited; nor did we have long to wait, for presently we saw
the shadows of two men fall upon the floor of the main corridor
athwart the doorway of our hiding place. Very cautiously they
were moving now—the accidental clank that had alarmed me was not
Presently they came opposite our station; nor was I surprised to
see that the two were Lakor and his companion of the guardroom.
They walked very softly, and in the right hand of each gleamed a
keen long-sword. They halted quite close to the entrance of our
retreat, whispering to each other.
"Can it be that we have distanced them already?" said Lakor.
"Either that or the beast has led the man upon a wrong trail,"
replied the other, "for the way which we took is by far the shorter
to this point—for him who knows it. John Carter would have found
it a short road to death had he taken it as you suggested to him."
"Yes," said Lakor, "no amount of fighting ability would have saved
him from the pivoted flagstone. He surely would have stepped upon
it, and by now, if the pit beneath it has a bottom, which Thurid
denies, he should have been rapidly approaching it. Curses on that
calot of his that warned him toward the safer avenue!"
"There be other dangers ahead of him, though," spoke Lakor's fellow,
"which he may not so easily escape—should he succeed in escaping
our two good swords. Consider, for example, what chance he will
have, coming unexpectedly into the chamber of—"
I would have given much to have heard the balance of that conversation
that I might have been warned of the perils that lay ahead, but
fate intervened, and just at the very instant of all other instants
that I would not have elected to do it, I sneezed.
THE TEMPLE OF THE SUN
There was nothing for it now other than to fight; nor did I have
any advantage as I sprang, sword in hand, into the corridor before
the two therns, for my untimely sneeze had warned them of my presence
and they were ready for me.
There were no words, for they would have been a waste of breath.
The very presence of the two proclaimed their treachery. That
they were following to fall upon me unawares was all too plain,
and they, of course, must have known that I understood their plan.
In an instant I was engaged with both, and though I loathe the very
name of thern, I must in all fairness admit that they are mighty
swordsmen; and these two were no exception, unless it were that
they were even more skilled and fearless than the average among
While it lasted it was indeed as joyous a conflict as I ever had
experienced. Twice at least I saved my breast from the mortal
thrust of piercing steel only by the wondrous agility with which
my earthly muscles endow me under the conditions of lesser gravity
and air pressure upon Mars.
Yet even so I came near to tasting death that day in the gloomy
corridor beneath Mars's southern pole, for Lakor played a trick
upon me that in all my experience of fighting upon two planets I
never before had witnessed the like of.
The other thern was engaging me at the time, and I was forcing
him back—touching him here and there with my point until he was
bleeding from a dozen wounds, yet not being able to penetrate his
marvelous guard to reach a vulnerable spot for the brief instant
that would have been sufficient to send him to his ancestors.
It was then that Lakor quickly unslung a belt from his harness,
and as I stepped back to parry a wicked thrust he lashed one end
of it about my left ankle so that it wound there for an instant,
while he jerked suddenly upon the other end, throwing me heavily
upon my back.
Then, like leaping panthers, they were upon me; but they
had reckoned without Woola, and before ever a blade touched me, a
roaring embodiment of a thousand demons hurtled above my prostrate
form and my loyal Martian calot was upon them.
Imagine, if you can, a huge grizzly with ten legs armed with mighty
talons and an enormous froglike mouth splitting his head from ear
to ear, exposing three rows of long, white tusks. Then endow this
creature of your imagination with the agility and ferocity of a
half-starved Bengal tiger and the strength of a span of bulls, and
you will have some faint conception of Woola in action.
Before I could call him off he had crushed Lakor into a jelly with
a single blow of one mighty paw, and had literally torn the other
thern to ribbons; yet when I spoke to him sharply he cowed sheepishly
as though he had done a thing to deserve censure and chastisement.
Never had I had the heart to punish Woola during the long years
that had passed since that first day upon Mars when the green jed
of the Tharks had placed him on guard over me, and I had won his
love and loyalty from the cruel and loveless masters of his former
life, yet I believe he would have submitted to any cruelty that I
might have inflicted upon him, so wondrous was his affection for
The diadem in the center of the circlet of gold upon the brow of
Lakor proclaimed him a Holy Thern, while his companion, not thus
adorned, was a lesser thern, though from his harness I gleaned that
he had reached the Ninth Cycle, which is but one below that of the
As I stood for a moment looking at the gruesome havoc Woola had
wrought, there recurred to me the memory of that other occasion
upon which I had masqueraded in the wig, diadem, and harness of
Sator Throg, the Holy Thern whom Thuvia of Ptarth had slain, and now
it occurred to me that it might prove of worth to utilize Lakor's
trappings for the same purpose.
A moment later I had torn his yellow wig from his bald pate and
transferred it and the circlet, as well as all his harness, to my
Woola did not approve of the metamorphosis. He sniffed at me and
growled ominously, but when I spoke to him and patted his huge head
he at length became reconciled to the change, and at my command
trotted off along the corridor in the direction we had been going
when our progress had been interrupted by the therns.
We moved cautiously now, warned by the fragment of conversation
I had overheard. I kept abreast of Woola that we might have the
benefit of all our eyes for what might appear suddenly ahead to
menace us, and well it was that we were forewarned.
At the bottom of a flight of narrow steps the corridor turned sharply
back upon itself, immediately making another turn in the original
direction, so that at that point it formed a perfect letter S,
the top leg of which debouched suddenly into a large chamber, illy
lighted, and the floor of which was completely covered by venomous
snakes and loathsome reptiles.
To have attempted to cross that floor would have been to court
instant death, and for a moment I was almost completely discouraged.
Then it occurred to me that Thurid and Matai Shang with their party
must have crossed it, and so there was a way.
Had it not been for the fortunate accident by which I overheard
even so small a portion of the therns' conversation we should
have blundered at least a step or two into that wriggling mass of
destruction, and a single step would have been all-sufficient to
have sealed our doom.
These were the only reptiles I had ever seen upon Barsoom, but I
knew from their similarity to the fossilized remains of supposedly
extinct species I had seen in the museums of Helium that they
comprised many of the known prehistoric reptilian genera, as well
as others undiscovered.
A more hideous aggregation of monsters had never before assailed my
vision. It would be futile to attempt to describe them to Earth
men, since substance is the only thing which they possess in
common with any creature of the past or present with which you are
familiar—even their venom is of an unearthly virulence that, by
comparison, would make the cobra de capello seem quite as harmless
as an angleworm.
As they spied me there was a concerted rush by those nearest the
entrance where we stood, but a line of radium bulbs inset along the
threshold of their chamber brought them to a sudden halt—evidently
they dared not cross that line of light.
I had been quite sure that they would not venture beyond the room
in which I had discovered them, though I had not guessed at what
deterred them. The simple fact that we had found no reptiles in
the corridor through which we had just come was sufficient assurance
that they did not venture there.
I drew Woola out of harm's way, and then began a careful survey
of as much of the Chamber of Reptiles as I could see from where
I stood. As my eyes became accustomed to the dim light of its
interior I gradually made out a low gallery at the far end of the
apartment from which opened several exits.
Coming as close to the threshold as I dared, I followed this
gallery with my eyes, discovering that it circled the room as far
as I could see. Then I glanced above me along the upper edge of
the entrance to which we had come, and there, to my delight, I saw
an end of the gallery not a foot above my head. In an instant I
had leaped to it and called Woola after me.
Here there were no reptiles—the way was clear to the opposite side
of the hideous chamber—and a moment later Woola and I dropped down
to safety in the corridor beyond.
Not ten minutes later we came into a vast circular apartment
of white marble, the walls of which were inlaid with gold in the
strange hieroglyphics of the First Born.
From the high dome of this mighty apartment a huge circular column
extended to the floor, and as I watched I saw that it slowly
I had reached the base of the Temple of the Sun!
Somewhere above me lay Dejah Thoris, and with her were Phaidor,
daughter of Matai Shang, and Thuvia of Ptarth. But how to reach
them, now that I had found the only vulnerable spot in their mighty
prison, was still a baffling riddle.
Slowly I circled the great shaft, looking for a means of ingress.
Part way around I found a tiny radium flash torch, and as I examined
it in mild curiosity as to its presence there in this almost
inaccessible and unknown spot, I came suddenly upon the insignia
of the house of Thurid jewel-inset in its metal case.
I am upon the right trail, I thought, as I slipped the bauble into
the pocket-pouch which hung from my harness. Then I continued
my search for the entrance, which I knew must be somewhere about;
nor had I long to search, for almost immediately thereafter I came
upon a small door so cunningly inlaid in the shaft's base that it
might have passed unnoticed by a less keen or careful observer.
There was the door that would lead me within the prison, but where
was the means to open it? No button or lock were visible. Again
and again I went carefully over every square inch of its surface,
but the most that I could find was a tiny pinhole a little above
and to the right of the door's center—a pinhole that seemed only
an accident of manufacture or an imperfection of material.
Into this minute aperture I attempted to peer, but whether it was
but a fraction of an inch deep or passed completely through the door
I could not tell—at least no light showed beyond it. I put my ear
to it next and listened, but again my efforts brought negligible
During these experiments Woola had been standing at my side gazing
intently at the door, and as my glance fell upon him it occurred
to me to test the correctness of my hypothesis, that this portal
had been the means of ingress to the temple used by Thurid, the
black dator, and Matai Shang, Father of Therns.
Turning away abruptly, I called to him to follow me. For a moment
he hesitated, and then leaped after me, whining and tugging at my
harness to draw me back. I walked on, however, some distance from
the door before I let him have his way, that I might see precisely
what he would do. Then I permitted him to lead me wherever he
Straight back to that baffling portal he dragged me, again taking
up his position facing the blank stone, gazing straight at its
shining surface. For an hour I worked to solve the mystery of the
combination that would open the way before me.
Carefully I recalled every circumstance of my pursuit of Thurid,
and my conclusion was identical with my original belief—that Thurid
had come this way without other assistance than his own knowledge
and passed through the door that barred my progress, unaided from
within. But how had he accomplished it?
I recalled the incident of the Chamber of Mystery in the Golden
Cliffs that time I had freed Thuvia of Ptarth from the dungeon of
the therns, and she had taken a slender, needle-like key from the
keyring of her dead jailer to open the door leading back into the
Chamber of Mystery where Tars Tarkas fought for his life with the
great banths. Such a tiny keyhole as now defied me had opened the
way to the intricate lock in that other door.
Hastily I dumped the contents of my pocket-pouch upon the ground
before me. Could I but find a slender bit of steel I might yet
fashion a key that would give me ingress to the temple prison.
As I examined the heterogeneous collection of odds and ends that
is always to be found in the pocket-pouch of a Martian warrior my
hand fell upon the emblazoned radium flash torch of the black dator.
As I was about to lay the thing aside as of no value in my present
predicament my eyes chanced upon a few strange characters roughly
and freshly scratched upon the soft gold of the case.
Casual curiosity prompted me to decipher them, but what I read
carried no immediate meaning to my mind. There were three sets of
characters, one below another:
3 |—| 50 T
1 |—| 1 X
9 |—| 25 T
For only an instant my curiosity was piqued, and then I replaced
the torch in my pocket-pouch, but my fingers had not unclasped
from it when there rushed to my memory the recollection of the
conversation between Lakor and his companion when the lesser thern
had quoted the words of Thurid and scoffed at them: "And what
think you of the ridiculous matter of the light? Let the light
shine with the intensity of three radium units for fifty tals"—ah,
there was the first line of characters upon the torch's metal
case—3—50 T; "and for one xat let it shine with the intensity
of one radium unit"—there was the second line; "and then for
twenty-five tals with nine units."
The formula was complete; but—what did it mean?
I thought I knew, and, seizing a powerful magnifying glass from the
litter of my pocket-pouch, I applied myself to a careful examination
of the marble immediately about the pinhole in the door. I could
have cried aloud in exultation when my scrutiny disclosed the almost
invisible incrustation of particles of carbonized electrons which
are thrown off by these Martian torches.
It was evident that for countless ages radium torches had been
applied to this pinhole, and for what purpose there could be but
a single answer—the mechanism of the lock was actuated by light
rays; and I, John Carter, Prince of Helium, held the combination
in my hand—scratched by the hand of my enemy upon his own torch
In a cylindrical bracelet of gold about my wrist was my Barsoomian
chronometer—a delicate instrument that records the tals and xats
and zodes of Martian time, presenting them to view beneath a strong
crystal much after the manner of an earthly odometer.
Timing my operations carefully, I held the torch to the small aperture
in the door, regulating the intensity of the light by means of the
thumb-lever upon the side of the case.
For fifty tals I let three units of light shine full in the pinhole,
then one unit for one xat, and for twenty-five tals nine units.
Those last twenty-five tals were the longest twenty-five seconds
of my life. Would the lock click at the end of those seemingly
interminable intervals of time?
Twenty-three! Twenty-four! Twenty-five!
I shut off the light with a snap. For seven tals I waited—there
had been no appreciable effect upon the lock's mechanism. Could
it be that my theory was entirely wrong?
Hold! Had the nervous strain resulted in a hallucination, or did
the door really move? Slowly the solid stone sank noiselessly back
into the wall—there was no hallucination here.
Back and back it slid for ten feet until it had disclosed at its
right a narrow doorway leading into a dark and narrow corridor that
paralleled the outer wall. Scarcely was the entrance uncovered
than Woola and I had leaped through—then the door slipped quietly
back into place.
Down the corridor at some distance I saw the faint reflection of
a light, and toward this we made our way. At the point where the
light shone was a sharp turn, and a little distance beyond this a
brilliantly lighted chamber.
Here we discovered a spiral stairway leading up from the center of
the circular room.
Immediately I knew that we had reached the center of the base of
the Temple of the Sun—the spiral runway led upward past the inner
walls of the prison cells. Somewhere above me was Dejah Thoris,
unless Thurid and Matai Shang had already succeeded in stealing
We had scarcely started up the runway when Woola suddenly displayed
the wildest excitement. He leaped back and forth, snapping at my
legs and harness, until I thought that he was mad, and finally when
I pushed him from me and started once more to ascend he grasped my
sword arm between his jaws and dragged me back.
No amount of scolding or cuffing would suffice to make him release
me, and I was entirely at the mercy of his brute strength unless
I cared to use my dagger upon him with my left hand; but, mad or
no, I had not the heart to run the sharp blade into that faithful
Down into the chamber he dragged me, and across it to the side
opposite that at which we had entered. Here was another doorway
leading into a corridor which ran directly down a steep incline.
Without a moment's hesitation Woola jerked me along this rocky
Presently he stopped and released me, standing between me and the
way we had come, looking up into my face as though to ask if I would
now follow him voluntarily or if he must still resort to force.
Looking ruefully at the marks of his great teeth upon my bare arm
I decided to do as he seemed to wish me to do. After all, his strange
instinct might be more dependable than my faulty human judgment.
And well it was that I had been forced to follow him. But a
short distance from the circular chamber we came suddenly into a
brilliantly lighted labyrinth of crystal glass partitioned passages.
At first I thought it was one vast, unbroken chamber, so clear and
transparent were the walls of the winding corridors, but after I
had nearly brained myself a couple of times by attempting to pass
through solid vitreous walls I went more carefully.
We had proceeded but a few yards along the corridor that had given
us entrance to this strange maze when Woola gave mouth to a most
frightful roar, at the same time dashing against the clear partition
at our left.
The resounding echoes of that fearsome cry were still reverberating
through the subterranean chambers when I saw the thing that had
startled it from the faithful beast.
Far in the distance, dimly through the many thicknesses of intervening
crystal, as in a haze that made them seem unreal and ghostly, I
discerned the figures of eight people—three females and five men.
At the same instant, evidently startled by Woola's fierce cry, they
halted and looked about. Then, of a sudden, one of them, a woman,
held her arms out toward me, and even at that great distance I could
see that her lips moved—it was Dejah Thoris, my ever beautiful
and ever youthful Princess of Helium.
With her were Thuvia of Ptarth, Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang,
and Thurid, and the Father of Therns, and the three lesser therns
that had accompanied them.
Thurid shook his fist at me, and then two of the therns grasped
Dejah Thoris and Thuvia roughly by their arms and hurried them on.
A moment later they had disappeared into a stone corridor beyond
the labyrinth of glass.
They say that love is blind; but so great a love as that of Dejah
Thoris that knew me even beneath the thern disguise I wore and across
the misty vista of that crystal maze must indeed be far from blind.
THE SECRET TOWER
I have no stomach to narrate the monotonous events of the tedious
days that Woola and I spent ferreting our way across the labyrinth
of glass, through the dark and devious ways beyond that led beneath
the Valley Dor and Golden Cliffs to emerge at last upon the flank
of the Otz Mountains just above the Valley of Lost Souls—that
pitiful purgatory peopled by the poor unfortunates who dare not
continue their abandoned pilgrimage to Dor, or return to the various
lands of the outer world from whence they came.
Here the trail of Dejah Thoris' abductors led along the mountains'
base, across steep and rugged ravines, by the side of appalling
precipices, and sometimes out into the valley, where we found
fighting aplenty with the members of the various tribes that make
up the population of this vale of hopelessness.
But through it all we came at last to where the way led up a narrow
gorge that grew steeper and more impracticable at every step until
before us loomed a mighty fortress buried beneath the side of an
Here was the secret hiding place of Matai Shang, Father of Therns.
Here, surrounded by a handful of the faithful, the hekkador of
the ancient faith, who had once been served by millions of vassals
and dependents, dispensed the spiritual words among the half dozen
nations of Barsoom that still clung tenaciously to their false and
Darkness was just falling as we came in sight of the seemingly
impregnable walls of this mountain stronghold, and lest we be seen
I drew back with Woola behind a jutting granite promontory, into
a clump of the hardy, purple scrub that thrives upon the barren
sides of Otz.
Here we lay until the quick transition from daylight to darkness
had passed. Then I crept out to approach the fortress walls in
search of a way within.
Either through carelessness or over-confidence in the supposed
inaccessibility of their hiding place, the triple-barred gate stood
ajar. Beyond were a handful of guards, laughing and talking over
one of their incomprehensible Barsoomian games.
I saw that none of the guardsmen had been of the party that
accompanied Thurid and Matai Shang; and so, relying entirely upon
my disguise, I walked boldly through the gateway and up to the
The men stopped their game and looked up at me, but there was no
sign of suspicion. Similarly they looked at Woola, growling at my
"Kaor!" I said in true Martian greeting, and the warriors arose and
saluted me. "I have but just found my way hither from the Golden
Cliffs," I continued, "and seek audience with the hekkador, Matai
Shang, Father of Therns. Where may he be found?"
"Follow me," said one of the guard, and, turning, led me across
the outer courtyard toward a second buttressed wall.
Why the apparent ease with which I seemingly deceived them did
not rouse my suspicions I know not, unless it was that my mind was
still so full of that fleeting glimpse of my beloved princess that
there was room in it for naught else. Be that as it may, the fact
is that I marched buoyantly behind my guide straight into the jaws
Afterward I learned that thern spies had been aware of my coming
for hours before I reached the hidden fortress.
The gate had been purposely left ajar to tempt me on. The guards
had been schooled well in their part of the conspiracy; and I,
more like a schoolboy than a seasoned warrior, ran headlong into
At the far side of the outer court a narrow door let into the
angle made by one of the buttresses with the wall. Here my guide
produced a key and opened the way within; then, stepping back, he
motioned me to enter.
"Matai Shang is in the temple court beyond," he said; and as Woola
and I passed through, the fellow closed the door quickly upon us.
The nasty laugh that came to my ears through the heavy planking of
the door after the lock clicked was my first intimation that all
was not as it should be.
I found myself in a small, circular chamber within the buttress.
Before me a door opened, presumably, upon the inner court beyond.
For a moment I hesitated, all my suspicions now suddenly, though
tardily, aroused; then, with a shrug of my shoulders, I opened the
door and stepped out into the glare of torches that lighted the
Directly opposite me a massive tower rose to a height of three
hundred feet. It was of the strangely beautiful modern Barsoomian
style of architecture, its entire surface hand carved in bold
relief with intricate and fanciful designs. Thirty feet above
the courtyard and overlooking it was a broad balcony, and there,
indeed, was Matai Shang, and with him were Thurid and Phaidor,
Thuvia, and Dejah Thoris—the last two heavily ironed. A handful
of thern warriors stood just behind the little party.
As I entered the enclosure the eyes of those in the balcony were
full upon me.
An ugly smile distorted the cruel lips of Matai Shang. Thurid
hurled a taunt at me and placed a familiar hand upon the shoulder
of my princess. Like a tigress she turned upon him, striking the
beast a heavy blow with the manacles upon her wrist.
He would have struck back had not Matai Shang interfered, and then
I saw that the two men were not over-friendly; for the manner of
the thern was arrogant and domineering as he made it plain to the
First Born that the Princess of Helium was the personal property
of the Father of Therns. And Thurid's bearing toward the ancient
hekkador savored not at all of liking or respect.
When the altercation in the balcony had subsided Matai Shang turned
again to me.
"Earth man," he cried, "you have earned a more ignoble death than
now lies within our weakened power to inflict upon you; but that the
death you die tonight may be doubly bitter, know you that when you
have passed, your widow becomes the wife of Matai Shang, Hekkador
of the Holy Therns, for a Martian year.
"At the end of that time, as you know, she shall be discarded,
as is the law among us, but not, as is usual, to lead a quiet and
honored life as high priestess of some hallowed shrine. Instead,
Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, shall become the plaything of
my lieutenants—perhaps of thy most hated enemy, Thurid, the black
As he ceased speaking he awaited in silence evidently for some
outbreak of rage upon my part—something that would have added to
the spice of his revenge. But I did not give him the satisfaction
that he craved.
Instead, I did the one thing of all others that might rouse his
anger and increase his hatred of me; for I knew that if I died
Dejah Thoris, too, would find a way to die before they could heap
further tortures or indignities upon her.
Of all the holy of holies which the thern venerates and worships
none is more revered than the yellow wig which covers his bald pate,
and next thereto comes the circlet of gold and the great diadem,
whose scintillant rays mark the attainment of the Tenth Cycle.
And, knowing this, I removed the wig and circlet from my head,
tossing them carelessly upon the flagging of the court. Then I
wiped my feet upon the yellow tresses; and as a groan of rage arose
from the balcony I spat full upon the holy diadem.
Matai Shang went livid with anger, but upon the lips of Thurid I
could see a grim smile of amusement, for to him these things were
not holy; so, lest he should derive too much amusement from my
act, I cried: "And thus did I with the holies of Issus, Goddess
of Life Eternal, ere I threw Issus herself to the mob that once
had worshiped her, to be torn to pieces in her own temple."
That put an end to Thurid's grinning, for he had been high in the
favor of Issus.
"Let us have an end to this blaspheming!" he cried, turning to the
Father of Therns.
Matai Shang rose and, leaning over the edge of the balcony, gave
voice to the weird call that I had heard from the lips of the
priests upon the tiny balcony upon the face of the Golden Cliffs
overlooking the Valley Dor, when, in times past, they called
the fearsome white apes and the hideous plant men to the feast of
victims floating down the broad bosom of the mysterious Iss toward
the silian-infested waters of the Lost Sea of Korus. "Let loose
the death!" he cried, and immediately a dozen doors in the base of
the tower swung open, and a dozen grim and terrible banths sprang
into the arena.
This was not the first time that I had faced the ferocious Barsoomian
lion, but never had I been pitted, single-handed, against a full
dozen of them. Even with the assistance of the fierce Woola, there
could be but a single outcome to so unequal a struggle.
For a moment the beasts hesitated beneath the brilliant glare
of the torches; but presently their eyes, becoming accustomed to
the light, fell upon Woola and me, and with bristling manes and
deep-throated roars they advanced, lashing their tawny sides with
their powerful tails.
In the brief interval of life that was left me I shot a last,
parting glance toward my Dejah Thoris. Her beautiful face was set
in an expression of horror; and as my eyes met hers she extended
both arms toward me as, struggling with the guards who now held
her, she endeavored to cast herself from the balcony into the pit
beneath, that she might share my death with me. Then, as the banths
were about to close upon me, she turned and buried her dear face
in her arms.
Suddenly my attention was drawn toward Thuvia of Ptarth. The
beautiful girl was leaning far over the edge of the balcony, her
eyes bright with excitement.
In another instant the banths would be upon me, but I could not
force my gaze from the features of the red girl, for I knew that
her expression meant anything but the enjoyment of the grim tragedy
that would so soon be enacted below her; there was some deeper,
hidden meaning which I sought to solve.
For an instant I thought of relying on my earthly muscles and
agility to escape the banths and reach the balcony, which I could
easily have done, but I could not bring myself to desert the
faithful Woola and leave him to die alone beneath the cruel fangs
of the hungry banths; that is not the way upon Barsoom, nor was it
ever the way of John Carter.
Then the secret of Thuvia's excitement became apparent as from her
lips there issued the purring sound I had heard once before; that
time that, within the Golden Cliffs, she called the fierce banths
about her and led them as a shepherdess might lead her flock of
meek and harmless sheep.
At the first note of that soothing sound the banths halted in their
tracks, and every fierce head went high as the beasts sought the
origin of the familiar call. Presently they discovered the red
girl in the balcony above them, and, turning, roared out their
recognition and their greeting.
Guards sprang to drag Thuvia away, but ere they had succeeded she
had hurled a volley of commands at the listening brutes, and as
one they turned and marched back into their dens.
"You need not fear them now, John Carter!" cried Thuvia, before
they could silence her. "Those banths will never harm you now,
nor Woola, either."
It was all I cared to know. There was naught to keep me from that
balcony now, and with a long, running leap I sprang far aloft until
my hands grasped its lowest sill.
In an instant all was wild confusion. Matai Shang shrank back.
Thurid sprang forward with drawn sword to cut me down.
Again Dejah Thoris wielded her heavy irons and fought him back.
Then Matai Shang grasped her about the waist and dragged her away
through a door leading within the tower.
For an instant Thurid hesitated, and then, as though fearing that
the Father of Therns would escape him with the Princess of Helium,
he, too, dashed from the balcony in their wake.
Phaidor alone retained her presence of mind. Two of the guards she
ordered to bear away Thuvia of Ptarth; the others she commanded to
remain and prevent me from following. Then she turned toward me.
"John Carter," she cried, "for the last time I offer you the love
of Phaidor, daughter of the Holy Hekkador. Accept and your princess
shall be returned to the court of her grandfather, and you shall
live in peace and happiness. Refuse and the fate that my father
has threatened shall fall upon Dejah Thoris.
"You cannot save her now, for by this time they have reached a
place where even you may not follow. Refuse and naught can save
you; for, though the way to the last stronghold of the Holy Therns
was made easy for you, the way hence hath been made impossible.
What say you?"
"You knew my answer, Phaidor," I replied, "before ever you spoke.
Make way," I cried to the guards, "for John Carter, Prince of
Helium, would pass!"
With that I leaped over the low baluster that surrounded the balcony,
and with drawn long-sword faced my enemies.
There were three of them; but Phaidor must have guessed what the
outcome of the battle would be, for she turned and fled from the
balcony the moment she saw that I would have none of her proposition.
The three guardsmen did not wait for my attack. Instead, they
rushed me—the three of them simultaneously; and it was that which
gave me an advantage, for they fouled one another in the narrow
precincts of the balcony, so that the foremost of them stumbled
full upon my blade at the first onslaught.
The red stain upon my point roused to its full the old blood-lust
of the fighting man that has ever been so strong within my breast,
so that my blade flew through the air with a swiftness and deadly
accuracy that threw the two remaining therns into wild despair.
When at last the sharp steel found the heart of one of them the
other turned to flee, and, guessing that his steps would lead him
along the way taken by those I sought, I let him keep ever far
enough ahead to think that he was safely escaping my sword.
Through several inner chambers he raced until he came to a spiral
runway. Up this he dashed, I in close pursuit. At the upper end
we came out into a small chamber, the walls of which were blank
except for a single window overlooking the slopes of Otz and the
Valley of Lost Souls beyond.
Here the fellow tore frantically at what appeared to be but a
piece of the blank wall opposite the single window. In an instant
I guessed that it was a secret exit from the room, and so I paused
that he might have an opportunity to negotiate it, for I cared
nothing to take the life of this poor servitor—all I craved was
a clear road in pursuit of Dejah Thoris, my long-lost princess.
But, try as he would, the panel would yield neither to cunning nor
force, so that eventually he gave it up and turned to face me.
"Go thy way, Thern," I said to him, pointing toward the entrance
to the runway up which we had but just come. "I have no quarrel
with you, nor do I crave your life. Go!"
For answer he sprang upon me with his sword, and so suddenly, at
that, that I was like to have gone down before his first rush. So
there was nothing for it but to give him what he sought, and that
as quickly as might be, that I might not be delayed too long in
this chamber while Matai Shang and Thurid made way with Dejah Thoris
and Thuvia of Ptarth.
The fellow was a clever swordsman—resourceful and extremely
tricky. In fact, he seemed never to have heard that there existed
such a thing as a code of honor, for he repeatedly outraged a dozen
Barsoomian fighting customs that an honorable man would rather die
He even went so far as to snatch his holy wig from his head and
throw it in my face, so as to blind me for a moment while he thrust
at my unprotected breast.
When he thrust, however, I was not there, for I had fought with
therns before; and while none had ever resorted to precisely that
same expedient, I knew them to be the least honorable and most
treacherous fighters upon Mars, and so was ever on the alert for
some new and devilish subterfuge when I was engaged with one of
But at length he overdid the thing; for, drawing his shortsword,
he hurled it, javelinwise, at my body, at the same instant rushing
upon me with his long-sword. A single sweeping circle of my own
blade caught the flying weapon and hurled it clattering against
the far wall, and then, as I sidestepped my antagonist's impetuous
rush, I let him have my point full in the stomach as he hurtled
Clear to the hilt my weapon passed through his body, and with a
frightful shriek he sank to the floor, dead.
Halting only for the brief instant that was required to wrench
my sword from the carcass of my late antagonist, I sprang across
the chamber to the blank wall beyond, through which the thern had
attempted to pass. Here I sought for the secret of its lock, but
all to no avail.
In despair I tried to force the thing, but the cold, unyielding
stone might well have laughed at my futile, puny endeavors. In fact,
I could have sworn that I caught the faint suggestion of taunting
laughter from beyond the baffling panel.
In disgust I desisted from my useless efforts and stepped to the
chamber's single window.
The slopes of Otz and the distant Valley of Lost Souls held nothing
to compel my interest then; but, towering far above me, the tower's
carved wall riveted my keenest attention.
Somewhere within that massive pile was Dejah Thoris. Above me I
could see windows. There, possibly, lay the only way by which I
could reach her. The risk was great, but not too great when the
fate of a world's most wondrous woman was at stake.
I glanced below. A hundred feet beneath lay jagged granite boulders
at the brink of a frightful chasm upon which the tower abutted; and
if not upon the boulders, then at the chasm's bottom, lay death,
should a foot slip but once, or clutching fingers loose their hold
for the fraction of an instant.
But there was no other way and with a shrug, which I must admit
was half shudder, I stepped to the window's outer sill and began
my perilous ascent.
To my dismay I found that, unlike the ornamentation upon most
Heliumetic structures, the edges of the carvings were quite generally
rounded, so that at best my every hold was most precarious.
Fifty feet above me commenced a series of projecting cylindrical
stones some six inches in diameter. These apparently circled the
tower at six-foot intervals, in bands six feet apart; and as each
stone cylinder protruded some four or five inches beyond the surface
of the other ornamentation, they presented a comparatively easy
mode of ascent could I but reach them.
Laboriously I climbed toward them by way of some windows which
lay below them, for I hoped that I might find ingress to the tower
through one of these, and thence an easier avenue along which to
prosecute my search.
At times so slight was my hold upon the rounded surfaces of the
carving's edges that a sneeze, a cough, or even a slight gust of
wind would have dislodged me and sent me hurtling to the depths
But finally I reached a point where my fingers could just clutch
the sill of the lowest window, and I was on the point of breathing
a sigh of relief when the sound of voices came to me from above
through the open window.
"He can never solve the secret of that lock." The voice was Matai
Shang's. "Let us proceed to the hangar above that we may be far
to the south before he finds another way—should that be possible."
"All things seem possible to that vile calot," replied another
voice, which I recognized as Thurid's.
"Then let us haste," said Matai Shang. "But to be doubly sure, I
will leave two who shall patrol this runway. Later they may follow
us upon another flier—overtaking us at Kaol."
My upstretched fingers never reached the window's sill. At the
first sound of the voices I drew back my hand and clung there to
my perilous perch, flattened against the perpendicular wall, scarce
daring to breathe.
What a horrible position, indeed, in which to be discovered by
Thurid! He had but to lean from the window to push me with his
sword's point into eternity.
Presently the sound of the voices became fainter, and once again
I took up my hazardous ascent, now more difficult, since more
circuitous, for I must climb so as to avoid the windows.
Matai Shang's reference to the hangar and the fliers indicated
that my destination lay nothing short of the roof of the tower,
and toward this seemingly distant goal I set my face.
The most difficult and dangerous part of the journey was accomplished
at last, and it was with relief that I felt my fingers close about
the lowest of the stone cylinders.
It is true that these projections were too far apart to make the
balance of the ascent anything of a sinecure, but I at least had
always within my reach a point of safety to which I might cling in
case of accident.
Some ten feet below the roof, the wall inclined slightly inward
possibly a foot in the last ten feet, and here the climbing was
indeed immeasurably easier, so that my fingers soon clutched the
As I drew my eyes above the level of the tower's top I saw a flier
all but ready to rise.
Upon her deck were Matai Shang, Phaidor, Dejah Thoris, Thuvia of
Ptarth, and a few thern warriors, while near her was Thurid in the
act of clambering aboard.
He was not ten paces from me, facing in the opposite direction;
and what cruel freak of fate should have caused him to turn about
just as my eyes topped the roof's edge I may not even guess.
But turn he did; and when his eyes met mine his wicked face lighted
with a malignant smile as he leaped toward me, where I was hastening
to scramble to the secure footing of the roof.
Dejah Thoris must have seen me at the same instant, for she screamed
a useless warning just as Thurid's foot, swinging in a mighty kick,
landed full in my face.
Like a felled ox, I reeled and tumbled backward over the tower's
ON THE KAOLIAN ROAD
If there be a fate that is sometimes cruel to me, there surely is
a kind and merciful Providence which watches over me.
As I toppled from the tower into the horrid abyss below I counted
myself already dead; and Thurid must have done likewise, for he
evidently did not even trouble himself to look after me, but must
have turned and mounted the waiting flier at once.
Ten feet only I fell, and then a loop of my tough, leathern harness
caught upon one of the cylindrical stone projections in the tower's
surface—and held. Even when I had ceased to fall I could not
believe the miracle that had preserved me from instant death, and
for a moment I hung there, cold sweat exuding from every pore of
But when at last I had worked myself back to a firm position
I hesitated to ascend, since I could not know that Thurid was not
still awaiting me above.
Presently, however, there came to my ears the whirring of the
propellers of a flier, and as each moment the sound grew fainter
I realized that the party had proceeded toward the south without
assuring themselves as to my fate.
Cautiously I retraced my way to the roof, and I must admit that
it was with no pleasant sensation that I raised my eyes once more
above its edge; but, to my relief, there was no one in sight, and
a moment later I stood safely upon its broad surface.
To reach the hangar and drag forth the only other flier which it
contained was the work of but an instant; and just as the two thern
warriors whom Matai Shang had left to prevent this very contingency
emerged upon the roof from the tower's interior, I rose above them
with a taunting laugh.
Then I dived rapidly to the inner court where I had last seen Woola,
and to my immense relief found the faithful beast still there.
The twelve great banths lay in the doorways of their lairs, eyeing
him and growling ominously, but they had not disobeyed Thuvia's
injunction; and I thanked the fate that had made her their keeper
within the Golden Cliffs, and endowed her with the kind and
sympathetic nature that had won the loyalty and affection of these
fierce beasts for her.
Woola leaped in frantic joy when he discovered me; and as the flier
touched the pavement of the court for a brief instant he bounded
to the deck beside me, and in the bearlike manifestation of his
exuberant happiness all but caused me to wreck the vessel against
the courtyard's rocky wall.
Amid the angry shouting of thern guardsmen we rose high above the
last fortress of the Holy Therns, and then raced straight toward
the northeast and Kaol, the destination which I had heard from the
lips of Matai Shang.
Far ahead, a tiny speck in the distance, I made out another flier
late in the afternoon. It could be none other than that which bore
my lost love and my enemies.
I had gained considerably on the craft by night; and then, knowing
that they must have sighted me and would show no lights after
dark, I set my destination compass upon her—that wonderful little
Martian mechanism which, once attuned to the object of destination,
points away toward it, irrespective of every change in its location.
All that night we raced through the Barsoomian void, passing over
low hills and dead sea bottoms; above long-deserted cities and
populous centers of red Martian habitation upon the ribbon-like
lines of cultivated land which border the globe-encircling waterways,
which Earth men call the canals of Mars.
Dawn showed that I had gained appreciably upon the flier ahead of
me. It was a larger craft than mine, and not so swift; but even
so, it had covered an immense distance since the flight began.
The change in vegetation below showed me that we were rapidly
nearing the equator. I was now near enough to my quarry to have
used my bow gun; but, though I could see that Dejah Thoris was not
on deck, I feared to fire upon the craft which bore her.
Thurid was deterred by no such scruples; and though it must have
been difficult for him to believe that it was really I who followed
them, he could not very well doubt the witness of his own eyes;
and so he trained their stern gun upon me with his own hands, and
an instant later an explosive radium projectile whizzed perilously
close above my deck.
The black's next shot was more accurate, striking my flier full
upon the prow and exploding with the instant of contact, ripping
wide open the bow buoyancy tanks and disabling the engine.
So quickly did my bow drop after the shot that I scarce had time
to lash Woola to the deck and buckle my own harness to a gunwale
ring before the craft was hanging stern up and making her last long
drop to ground.
Her stern buoyancy tanks prevented her dropping with great rapidity;
but Thurid was firing rapidly now in an attempt to burst these
also, that I might be dashed to death in the swift fall that would
instantly follow a successful shot.
Shot after shot tore past or into us, but by a miracle neither
Woola nor I was hit, nor were the after tanks punctured. This
good fortune could not last indefinitely, and, assured that Thurid
would not again leave me alive, I awaited the bursting of the next
shell that hit; and then, throwing my hands above my head, I let go
my hold and crumpled, limp and inert, dangling in my harness like
The ruse worked, and Thurid fired no more at us. Presently I heard
the diminishing sound of whirring propellers and realized that
again I was safe.
Slowly the stricken flier sank to the ground, and when I had freed
myself and Woola from the entangling wreckage I found that we were
upon the verge of a natural forest—so rare a thing upon the bosom
of dying Mars that, outside of the forest in the Valley Dor beside
the Lost Sea of Korus, I never before had seen its like upon the
From books and travelers I had learned something of the little-known
land of Kaol, which lies along the equator almost halfway round
the planet to the east of Helium.
It comprises a sunken area of extreme tropical heat, and is inhabited
by a nation of red men varying but little in manners, customs, and
appearance from the balance of the red men of Barsoom.
I knew that they were among those of the outer world who still
clung tenaciously to the discredited religion of the Holy Therns,
and that Matai Shang would find a ready welcome and safe refuge
among them; while John Carter could look for nothing better than
an ignoble death at their hands.
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
subtlely 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 companions
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;
and then suddenly the secret of the shaft burst upon me, and with
it an explanation of the cause that prevented a flier that passed
too far across the ice-barrier ever returning.
The shaft was a mighty magnet, and when once a vessel came within
the radius of its powerful attraction for the aluminum steel that
enters so largely into the construction of all Barsoomian craft,
no power on earth could prevent such an end as we had just witnessed.
I afterward learned that the shaft rests directly over the magnetic
pole of Mars, but whether this adds in any way to its incalculable
power of attraction I do not know. I am a fighting man, not a
Here, at last, was an explanation of the long absence of Tardos Mors
and Mors Kajak. These valiant and intrepid warriors had dared the
mysteries and dangers of the frozen north to search for Carthoris,
whose long absence had bowed in grief the head of his beautiful
mother, Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium.
The moment that the last of the fliers came to rest at the base of
the shaft the black-bearded, yellow warriors swarmed over the mass
of wreckage upon which they lay, making prisoners of those who were
uninjured and occasionally despatching with a sword-thrust one of
the wounded who seemed prone to resent their taunts and insults.
A few of the uninjured red men battled bravely against their cruel
foes, but for the most part they seemed too overwhelmed by the
horror of the catastrophe that had befallen them to do more than
submit supinely to the golden chains with which they were manacled.
When the last of the prisoners had been confined, the party
returned to the city, at the gate of which we met a pack of fierce,
gold-collared apts, each of which marched between two warriors,
who held them with strong chains of the same metal as their collars.
Just beyond the gate the attendants loosened the whole terrible
herd, and as they bounded off toward the grim, black shaft I did
not need to ask to know their mission. Had there not been those
within the cruel city of Kadabra who needed succor far worse than
the poor unfortunate dead and dying out there in the cold upon the
bent and broken carcasses of a thousand fliers I could not have
restrained my desire to hasten back and do battle with those horrid
creatures that had been despatched to rend and devour them.
As it was I could but follow the yellow warriors, with bowed head,
and give thanks for the chance that had given Thuvan Dihn and me
such easy ingress to the capital of Salensus Oll.
Once within the gates, we had no difficulty in eluding our friends
of the morning, and presently found ourselves in a Martian hostelry.
The public houses of Barsoom, I have found, vary but little. There
is no privacy for other than married couples.
Men without their wives are escorted to a large chamber, the floor
of which is usually of white marble or heavy glass, kept scrupulously
clean. Here are many small, raised platforms for the guest's sleeping
silks and furs, and if he have none of his own clean, fresh ones
are furnished at a nominal charge.
Once a man's belongings have been deposited upon one of these
platforms he is a guest of the house, and that platform his own
until he leaves. No one will disturb or molest his belongings, as
there are no thieves upon Mars.
As assassination is the one thing to be feared, the proprietors
of the hostelries furnish armed guards, who pace back and forth
through the sleeping-rooms day and night. The number of guards and
gorgeousness of their trappings quite usually denote the status of
No meals are served in these houses, but generally a public eating
place adjoins them. Baths are connected with the sleeping chambers,
and each guest is required to bathe daily or depart from the hotel.
Usually on a second or third floor there is a large sleeping-room
for single women guests, but its appointments do not vary materially
from the chamber occupied by men. The guards who watch the women
remain in the corridor outside the sleeping chamber, while female
slaves pace back and forth among the sleepers within, ready to
notify the warriors should their presence be required.
I was surprised to note that all the guards with the hotel at which
we stopped were red men, and on inquiring of one of them I learned
that they were slaves purchased by the proprietors of the hotels from
the government. The man whose post was past my sleeping platform
had been commander of the navy of a great Martian nation; but fate
had carried his flagship across the ice-barrier within the radius
of power of the magnetic shaft, and now for many tedious years he
had been a slave of the yellow men.
He told me that princes, jeds, and even jeddaks of the outer
world, were among the menials who served the yellow race; but when
I asked him if he had heard of the fate of Mors Kajak or Tardos Mors
he shook his head, saying that he never had heard of their being
prisoners here, though he was very familiar with the reputations
and fame they bore in the outer world.
Neither had he heard any rumor of the coming of the Father of Therns
and the black dator of the First Born, but he hastened to explain
that he knew little of what took place within the palace. I could
see that he wondered not a little that a yellow man should be so
inquisitive about certain red prisoners from beyond the ice-barrier,
and that I should be so ignorant of customs and conditions among
my own race.
In fact, I had forgotten my disguise upon discovering a red man
pacing before my sleeping platform; but his growing expression of
surprise warned me in time, for I had no mind to reveal my identity
to any unless some good could come of it, and I did not see how
this poor fellow could serve me yet, though I had it in my mind
that later I might be the means of serving him and all the other
thousands of prisoners who do the bidding of their stern masters
Thuvan Dihn and I discussed our plans as we sat together among our
sleeping silks and furs that night in the midst of the hundreds
of yellow men who occupied the apartment with us. We spoke in low
whispers, but, as that is only what courtesy demands in a public
sleeping place, we roused no suspicion.
At last, determining that all must be but idle speculation until
after we had had a chance to explore the city and attempt to put
into execution the plan Talu had suggested, we bade each other good
night and turned to sleep.
After breakfasting the following morning we set out to see Kadabra,
and as, through the generosity of the prince of Marentina, we were
well supplied with the funds current in Okar we purchased a handsome
ground flier. Having learned to drive them while in Marentina, we
spent a delightful and profitable day exploring the city, and late
in the afternoon at the hour Talu told us we would find government
officials in their offices, we stopped before a magnificent building
on the plaza opposite the royal grounds and the palace.
Here we walked boldly in past the armed guard at the door, to be
met by a red slave within who asked our wishes.
"Tell Sorav, your master, that two warriors from Illall wish to
take service in the palace guard," I said.
Sorav, Talu had told us, was the commander of the forces of the
palace, and as men from the further cities of Okar—and especially
Illall—were less likely to be tainted with the germ of intrigue
which had for years infected the household of Salensus Oll, he was
sure that we would be welcomed and few questions asked us.
He had primed us with such general information as he thought would
be necessary for us to pass muster before Sorav, after which we would
have to undergo a further examination before Salensus Oll that he
might determine our physical fitness and our ability as warriors.
The little experience we had had with the strange hooked sword of
the yellow man and his cuplike shield made it seem rather unlikely
that either of us could pass this final test, but there was the
chance that we might be quartered in the palace of Salensus Oll
for several days after being accepted by Sorav before the Jeddak
of Jeddaks would find time to put us to the final test.
After a wait of several minutes in an ante-chamber we were summoned
into the private office of Sorav, where we were courteously greeted
by this ferocious-appearing, black-bearded officer. He asked us
our names and stations in our own city, and having received replies
that were evidently satisfactory to him, he put certain questions
to us that Talu had foreseen and prepared us for.
The interview could not have lasted over ten minutes when Sorav
summoned an aid whom he instructed to record us properly, and then
escort us to the quarters in the palace which are set aside for
aspirants to membership in the palace guard.
The aid took us to his own office first, where he measured and
weighed and photographed us simultaneously with a machine ingeniously
devised for that purpose, five copies being instantly reproduced in
five different offices of the government, two of which are located
in other cities miles distant. Then he led us through the palace
grounds to the main guardroom of the palace, there turning us over
to the officer in charge.
This individual again questioned us briefly, and finally despatched
a soldier to guide us to our quarters. These we found located upon
the second floor of the palace in a semi-detached tower at the rear
of the edifice.
When we asked our guide why we were quartered so far from the
guardroom he replied that the custom of the older members of the
guard of picking quarrels with aspirants to try their metal had
resulted in so many deaths that it was found difficult to maintain
the guard at its full strength while this custom prevailed. Salensus
Oll had, therefore, set apart these quarters for aspirants, and here
they were securely locked against the danger of attack by members
of the guard.
This unwelcome information put a sudden check to all our well-laid
plans, for it meant that we should virtually be prisoners in the
palace of Salensus Oll until the time that he should see fit to
give us the final examination for efficiency.
As it was this interval upon which we had banked to accomplish
so much in our search for Dejah Thoris and Thuvia of Ptarth, our
chagrin was unbounded when we heard the great lock click behind our
guide as he had quitted us after ushering us into the chambers we
were to occupy.
With a wry face I turned to Thuvan Dihn. My companion but shook
his head disconsolately and walked to one of the windows upon the
far side of the apartment.
Scarcely had he gazed beyond them than he called to me in a tone
of suppressed excitement and surprise. In an instant I was by his
"Look!" said Thuvan Dihn, pointing toward the courtyard below.
As my eyes followed the direction indicated I saw two women pacing
back and forth in an enclosed garden.
At the same moment I recognized them—they were Dejah Thoris and
Thuvia of Ptarth!
There were they whom I had trailed from one pole to another, the
length of a world. Only ten feet of space and a few metal bars
separated me from them.
With a cry I attracted their attention, and as Dejah Thoris looked
up full into my eyes I made the sign of love that the men of Barsoom
make to their women.
To my astonishment and horror her head went high, and as a look
of utter contempt touched her finely chiseled features she turned
her back full upon me. My body is covered with the scars of a
thousand conflicts, but never in all my long life have I suffered
such anguish from a wound, for this time the steel of a woman's
look had entered my heart.
With a groan I turned away and buried my face in my arms. I
heard Thuvan Dihn call aloud to Thuvia, but an instant later his
exclamation of surprise betokened that he, too, had been repulsed
by his own daughter.
"They will not even listen," he cried to me. "They have put their
hands over their ears and walked to the farther end of the garden.
Ever heard you of such mad work, John Carter? The two must be
Presently I mustered the courage to return to the window, for
even though she spurned me I loved her, and could not keep my eyes
from feasting upon her divine face and figure, but when she saw me
looking she again turned away.
I was at my wit's end to account for her strange actions, and that
Thuvia, too, had turned against her father seemed incredible. Could
it be that my incomparable princess still clung to the hideous faith
from which I had rescued her world? Could it be that she looked
upon me with loathing and contempt because I had returned from the
Valley Dor, or because I had desecrated the temples and persons of
the Holy Therns?
To naught else could I ascribe her strange deportment, yet it seemed
far from possible that such could be the case, for the love of
Dejah Thoris for John Carter had been a great and wondrous love—far
above racial distinctions, creed, or religion.
As I gazed ruefully at the back of her haughty, royal head a gate
at the opposite end of the garden opened and a man entered. As he
did so he turned and slipped something into the hand of the yellow
guardsman beyond the gate, nor was the distance too great that I
might not see that money had passed between them.
Instantly I knew that this newcomer had bribed his way within the
garden. Then he turned in the direction of the two women, and
I saw that he was none other than Thurid, the black dator of the
He approached quite close to them before he spoke, and as they turned
at the sound of his voice I saw Dejah Thoris shrink from him.
There was a nasty leer upon his face as he stepped close to her
and spoke again. I could not hear his words, but her answer came
"The granddaughter of Tardos Mors can always die," she said, "but
she could never live at the price you name."
Then I saw the black scoundrel go upon his knees beside her, fairly
groveling in the dirt, pleading with her. Only part of what he said
came to me, for though he was evidently laboring under the stress
of passion and excitement, it was equally apparent that he did not
dare raise his voice for fear of detection.
"I would save you from Matai Shang," I heard him say. "You know
the fate that awaits you at his hands. Would you not choose me
rather than the other?"
"I would choose neither," replied Dejah Thoris, "even were I free
to choose, as you know well I am not."
"You ARE free!" he cried. "John Carter, Prince of Helium, is dead."
"I know better than that; but even were he dead, and I must needs
choose another mate, it should be a plant man or a great white
ape in preference to either Matai Shang or you, black calot," she
answered with a sneer of contempt.
Of a sudden the vicious beast lost all control of himself, as with
a vile oath he leaped at the slender woman, gripping her tender
throat in his brute clutch. Thuvia screamed and sprang to aid her
fellow-prisoner, and at the same instant I, too, went mad, and
tearing at the bars that spanned my window I ripped them from their
sockets as they had been but copper wire.
Hurling myself through the aperture I reached the garden, but a
hundred feet from where the black was choking the life from my Dejah
Thoris, and with a single great bound I was upon him. I spoke no
word as I tore his defiling fingers from that beautiful throat,
nor did I utter a sound as I hurled him twenty feet from me.
Foaming with rage, Thurid regained his feet and charged me like a
"Yellow man," he shrieked, "you knew not upon whom you had laid
your vile hands, but ere I am done with you, you will know well
what it means to offend the person of a First Born."
Then he was upon me, reaching for my throat, and precisely as I had
done that day in the courtyard of the Temple of Issus I did here
in the garden of the palace of Salensus Oll. I ducked beneath his
outstretched arms, and as he lunged past me I planted a terrific
right upon the side of his jaw.
Just as he had done upon that other occasion he did now. Like a
top he spun round, his knees gave beneath him, and he crumpled to
the ground at my feet. Then I heard a voice behind me.
It was the deep voice of authority that marks the ruler of men,
and when I turned to face the resplendent figure of a giant yellow
man I did not need to ask to know that it was Salensus Oll. At
his right stood Matai Shang, and behind them a score of guardsmen.
"Who are you," he cried, "and what means this intrusion within the
precincts of the women's garden? I do not recall your face. How
came you here?"
But for his last words I should have forgotten my disguise entirely
and told him outright that I was John Carter, Prince of Helium;
but his question recalled me to myself. I pointed to the dislodged
bars of the window above.
"I am an aspirant to membership in the palace guard," I said, "and
from yonder window in the tower where I was confined awaiting the
final test for fitness I saw this brute attack the—this woman. I
could not stand idly by, O Jeddak, and see this thing done within
the very palace grounds, and yet feel that I was fit to serve and
guard your royal person."
I had evidently made an impression upon the ruler of Okar by my
fair words, and when he had turned to Dejah Thoris and Thuvia of
Ptarth, and both had corroborated my statements it began to look
pretty dark for Thurid.
I saw the ugly gleam in Matai Shang's evil eyes as Dejah Thoris
narrated all that had passed between Thurid and herself, and when
she came to that part which dealt with my interference with the
dator of the First Born her gratitude was quite apparent, though
I could see by her eyes that something puzzled her strangely.
I did not wonder at her attitude toward me while others were present;
but that she should have denied me while she and Thuvia were the
only occupants of the garden still cut me sorely.
As the examination proceeded I cast a glance at Thurid and startled
him looking wide-eyed and wonderingly at me, and then of a sudden
he laughed full in my face.
A moment later Salensus Oll turned toward the black.
"What have you to say in explanation of these charges?" he asked
in a deep and terrible voice. "Dare you aspire to one whom the
Father of Therns has chosen—one who might even be a fit mate for
the Jeddak of Jeddaks himself?"
And then the black-bearded tyrant turned and cast a sudden greedy
look upon Dejah Thoris, as though with the words a new thought and
a new desire had sprung up within his mind and breast.
Thurid had been about to reply and, with a malicious grin upon his
face, was pointing an accusing finger at me, when Salensus Oll's
words and the expression of his face cut him short.
A cunning look crept into his eyes, and I knew from the expression
of his face that his next words were not the ones he had intended
"O Mightiest of Jeddaks," he said, "the man and the women do not
speak the truth. The fellow had come into the garden to assist
them to escape. I was beyond and overheard their conversation,
and when I entered, the woman screamed and the man sprang upon me
and would have killed me.
"What know you of this man? He is a stranger to you, and I dare
say that you will find him an enemy and a spy. Let him be put on
trial, Salensus Oll, rather than your friend and guest, Thurid,
Dator of the First Born."
Salensus Oll looked puzzled. He turned again and looked upon Dejah
Thoris, and then Thurid stepped quite close to him and whispered
something in his ear—what, I know not.
Presently the yellow ruler turned to one of his officers.
"See that this man be securely confined until we have time to go
deeper into this affair," he commanded, "and as bars alone seem
inadequate to restrain him, let chains be added."
Then he turned and left the garden, taking Dejah Thoris with him—his
hand upon her shoulder. Thurid and Matai Shang went also, and as
they reached the gateway the black turned and laughed again aloud
in my face.
What could be the meaning of his sudden change toward me? Could
he suspect my true identity? It must be that, and the thing that
had betrayed me was the trick and blow that had laid him low for
the second time.
As the guards dragged me away my heart was very sad and bitter
indeed, for now to the two relentless enemies that had hounded her
for so long another and a more powerful one had been added, for
I would have been but a fool had I not recognized the sudden love
for Dejah Thoris that had just been born in the terrible breast of
Salensus Oll, Jeddak of Jeddaks, ruler of Okar.
THE PIT OF PLENTY
I did not languish long within the prison of Salensus Oll. During
the short time that I lay there, fettered with chains of gold, I
often wondered as to the fate of Thuvan Dihn, Jeddak of Ptarth.
My brave companion had followed me into the garden as I attacked
Thurid, and when Salensus Oll had left with Dejah Thoris and the
others, leaving Thuvia of Ptarth behind, he, too, had remained
in the garden with his daughter, apparently unnoticed, for he was
appareled similarly to the guards.
The last I had seen of him he stood waiting for the warriors who
escorted me to close the gate behind them, that he might be alone
with Thuvia. Could it be possible that they had escaped? I doubted
it, and yet with all my heart I hoped that it might be true.
The third day of my incarceration brought a dozen warriors to escort
me to the audience chamber, where Salensus Oll himself was to try
me. A great number of nobles crowded the room, and among them I
saw Thurid, but Matai Shang was not there.
Dejah Thoris, as radiantly beautiful as ever, sat upon a small throne
beside Salensus Oll. The expression of sad hopelessness upon her
dear face cut deep into my heart.
Her position beside the Jeddak of Jeddaks boded ill for her and me,
and on the instant that I saw her there, there sprang to my mind
the firm intention never to leave that chamber alive if I must
leave her in the clutches of this powerful tyrant.
I had killed better men than Salensus Oll, and killed them with my
bare hands, and now I swore to myself that I should kill him if I
found that the only way to save the Princess of Helium. That it
would mean almost instant death for me I cared not, except that
it would remove me from further efforts in behalf of Dejah Thoris,
and for this reason alone I would have chosen another way, for
even though I should kill Salensus Oll that act would not restore
my beloved wife to her own people. I determined to wait the final
outcome of the trial, that I might learn all that I could of the
Okarian ruler's intentions, and then act accordingly.
Scarcely had I come before him than Salensus Oll summoned Thurid
"Dator Thurid," he said, "you have made a strange request of me;
but, in accordance with your wishes and your promise that it will
result only to my interests, I have decided to accede.
"You tell me that a certain announcement will be the means of
convicting this prisoner and, at the same time, open the way to
the gratification of my dearest wish."
"Then shall I make the announcement here before all my nobles,"
continued Salensus Oll. "For a year no queen has sat upon the
throne beside me, and now it suits me to take to wife one who is
reputed the most beautiful woman upon Barsoom. A statement which
none may truthfully deny.
"Nobles of Okar, unsheathe your swords and do homage to Dejah Thoris,
Princess of Helium and future Queen of Okar, for at the end of the
allotted ten days she shall become the wife of Salensus Oll."
As the nobles drew their blades and lifted them on high, in
accordance with the ancient custom of Okar when a jeddak announces
his intention to wed, Dejah Thoris sprang to her feet and, raising
her hand aloft, cried in a loud voice that they desist.
"I may not be the wife of Salensus Oll," she pleaded, "for already I
be a wife and mother. John Carter, Prince of Helium, still lives.
I know it to be true, for I overheard Matai Shang tell his daughter
Phaidor that he had seen him in Kaor, at the court of Kulan Tith,
Jeddak. A jeddak does not wed a married woman, nor will Salensus
Oll thus violate the bonds of matrimony."
Salensus Oll turned upon Thurid with an ugly look.
"Is this the surprise you held in store for me?" he cried. "You
assured me that no obstacle which might not be easily overcome stood
between me and this woman, and now I find that the one insuperable
obstacle intervenes. What mean you, man? What have you to say?"
"And should I deliver John Carter into your hands, Salensus Oll,
would you not feel that I had more than satisfied the promise that
I made you?" answered Thurid.
"Talk not like a fool," cried the enraged jeddak. "I am no child
to be thus played with."
"I am talking only as a man who knows," replied Thurid. "Knows
that he can do all that he claims."
"Then turn John Carter over to me within ten days or yourself
suffer the end that I should mete out to him were he in my power!"
snapped the Jeddak of Jeddaks, with an ugly scowl.
"You need not wait ten days, Salensus Oll," replied Thurid; and
then, turning suddenly upon me as he extended a pointing finger,
he cried: "There stands John Carter, Prince of Helium!"
"Fool!" shrieked Salensus Oll. "Fool! John Carter is a white
man. This fellow be as yellow as myself. John Carter's face is
smooth—Matai Shang has described him to me. This prisoner has
a beard and mustache as large and black as any in Okar. Quick,
guardsmen, to the pits with the black maniac who wishes to throw
his life away for a poor joke upon your ruler!"
"Hold!" cried Thurid, and springing forward before I could guess
his intention, he had grasped my beard and ripped the whole false
fabric from my face and head, revealing my smooth, tanned skin
beneath and my close-cropped black hair.
Instantly pandemonium reigned in the audience chamber of Salensus
Oll. Warriors pressed forward with drawn blades, thinking that I
might be contemplating the assassination of the Jeddak of Jeddaks;
while others, out of curiosity to see one whose name was familiar
from pole to pole, crowded behind their fellows.
As my identity was revealed I saw Dejah Thoris spring to her
feet—amazement writ large upon her face—and then through that
jam of armed men she forced her way before any could prevent. A
moment only and she was before me with outstretched arms and eyes
filled with the light of her great love.
"John Carter! John Carter!" she cried as I folded her to my breast,
and then of a sudden I knew why she had denied me in the garden
beneath the tower.
What a fool I had been! Expecting that she would penetrate the
marvelous disguise that had been wrought for me by the barber of
Marentina! She had not known me, that was all; and when she saw
the sign of love from a stranger she was offended and righteously
indignant. Indeed, but I had been a fool.
"And it was you," she cried, "who spoke to me from the tower! How
could I dream that my beloved Virginian lay behind that fierce
beard and that yellow skin?"
She had been wont to call me her Virginian as a term of endearment,
for she knew that I loved the sound of that beautiful name, made a
thousand times more beautiful and hallowed by her dear lips, and as
I heard it again after all those long years my eyes became dimmed
with tears and my voice choked with emotion.
But an instant did I crush that dear form to me ere Salensus Oll,
trembling with rage and jealousy, shouldered his way to us.
"Seize the man," he cried to his warriors, and a hundred ruthless
hands tore us apart.
Well it was for the nobles of the court of Okar that John Carter
had been disarmed. As it was, a dozen of them felt the weight of
my clenched fists, and I had fought my way half up the steps before
the throne to which Salensus Oll had carried Dejah Thoris ere ever
they could stop me.
Then I went down, fighting, beneath a half-hundred warriors; but
before they had battered me into unconsciousness I heard that from
the lips of Dejah Thoris that made all my suffering well worth
Standing there beside the great tyrant, who clutched her by the
arm, she pointed to where I fought alone against such awful odds.
"Think you, Salensus Oll, that the wife of such as he is," she
cried, "would ever dishonor his memory, were he a thousand times
dead, by mating with a lesser mortal? Lives there upon any world
such another as John Carter, Prince of Helium? Lives there another
man who could fight his way back and forth across a warlike planet,
facing savage beasts and hordes of savage men, for the love of a
"I, Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium, am his. He fought for me
and won me. If you be a brave man you will honor the bravery that
is his, and you will not kill him. Make him a slave if you will,
Salensus Oll; but spare his life. I would rather be a slave with
such as he than be Queen of Okar."
"Neither slave nor queen dictates to Salensus Oll," replied the
Jeddak of Jeddaks. "John Carter shall die a natural death in the
Pit of Plenty, and the day he dies Dejah Thoris shall become my
I did not hear her reply, for it was then that a blow upon my
head brought unconsciousness, and when I recovered my senses only
a handful of guardsmen remained in the audience chamber with me.
As I opened my eyes they goaded me with the points of their swords
and bade me rise.
Then they led me through long corridors to a court far toward the
center of the palace.
In the center of the court was a deep pit, near the edge of which
stood half a dozen other guardsmen, awaiting me. One of them
carried a long rope in his hands, which he commenced to make ready
as we approached.
We had come to within fifty feet of these men when I felt a sudden
strange and rapid pricking sensation in one of my fingers.
For a moment I was nonplused by the odd feeling, and then there
came to me recollection of that which in the stress of my adventure
I had entirely forgotten—the gift ring of Prince Talu of Marentina.
Instantly I looked toward the group we were nearing, at the same
time raising my left hand to my forehead, that the ring might be
visible to one who sought it. Simultaneously one of the waiting
warriors raised his left hand, ostensibly to brush back his hair,
and upon one of his fingers I saw the duplicate of my own ring.
A quick look of intelligence passed between us, after which I kept
my eyes turned away from the warrior and did not look at him again,
for fear that I might arouse the suspicion of the Okarians. When
we reached the edge of the pit I saw that it was very deep, and
presently I realized I was soon to judge just how far it extended
below the surface of the court, for he who held the rope passed it
about my body in such a way that it could be released from above
at any time; and then, as all the warriors grasped it, he pushed
me forward, and I fell into the yawning abyss.
After the first jerk as I reached the end of the rope that had
been paid out to let me fall below the pit's edge they lowered me
quickly but smoothly. The moment before the plunge, while two or
three of the men had been assisting in adjusting the rope about
me, one of them had brought his mouth close to my cheek, and in
the brief interval before I was cast into the forbidding hole he
breathed a single word into my ear:
The pit, which my imagination had pictured as bottomless, proved
to be not more than a hundred feet in depth; but as its walls were
smoothly polished it might as well have been a thousand feet, for
I could never hope to escape without outside assistance.
For a day I was left in darkness; and then, quite suddenly, a
brilliant light illumined my strange cell. I was reasonably hungry
and thirsty by this time, not having tasted food or drink since
the day prior to my incarceration.
To my amazement I found the sides of the pit, that I had thought
smooth, lined with shelves, upon which were the most delicious
viands and liquid refreshments that Okar afforded.
With an exclamation of delight I sprang forward to partake of
some of the welcome food, but ere ever I reached it the light was
extinguished, and, though I groped my way about the chamber, my
hands came in contact with nothing beside the smooth, hard wall
that I had felt on my first examination of my prison.
Immediately the pangs of hunger and thirst began to assail me.
Where before I had had but a mild craving for food and drink, I now
actually suffered for want of it, and all because of the tantalizing
sight that I had had of food almost within my grasp.
Once more darkness and silence enveloped me, a silence that was
broken only by a single mocking laugh.
For another day nothing occurred to break the monotony of my
imprisonment or relieve the suffering superinduced by hunger and
thirst. Slowly the pangs became less keen, as suffering deadened
the activity of certain nerves; and then the light flashed on once
again, and before me stood an array of new and tempting dishes,
with great bottles of clear water and flagons of refreshing wine,
upon the outside of which the cold sweat of condensation stood.
Again, with the hunger madness of a wild beast, I sprang forward
to seize those tempting dishes; but, as before, the light went out
and I came to a sudden stop against a hard wall.
Then the mocking laugh rang out for a second time.
The Pit of Plenty!
Ah, what a cruel mind must have devised this exquisite, hellish
torture! Day after day was the thing repeated, until I was on
the verge of madness; and then, as I had done in the pits of the
Warhoons, I took a new, firm hold upon my reason and forced it back
into the channels of sanity.
By sheer will-power I regained control over my tottering mentality,
and so successful was I that the next time that the light came I
sat quite still and looked indifferently at the fresh and tempting
food almost within my reach. Glad I was that I had done so, for
it gave me an opportunity to solve the seeming mystery of those
As I made no move to reach the food, the torturers left the light
turned on in the hope that at last I could refrain no longer from
giving them the delicious thrill of enjoyment that my former futile
efforts to obtain it had caused.
And as I sat scrutinizing the laden shelves I presently saw how
the thing was accomplished, and so simple was it that I wondered I
had not guessed it before. The wall of my prison was of clearest
glass—behind the glass were the tantalizing viands.
After nearly an hour the light went out, but this time there was
no mocking laughter—at least not upon the part of my tormentors;
but I, to be at quits with them, gave a low laugh that none might
mistake for the cackle of a maniac.
Nine days passed, and I was weak from hunger and thirst, but no
longer suffering—I was past that. Then, down through the darkness
above, a little parcel fell to the floor at my side.
Indifferently I groped for it, thinking it but some new invention
of my jailers to add to my sufferings.
At last I found it—a tiny package wrapped in paper, at the end of
a strong and slender cord. As I opened it a few lozenges fell to
the floor. As I gathered them up, feeling of them and smelling
of them, I discovered that they were tablets of concentrated food
such as are quite common in all parts of Barsoom.
Poison! I thought.
Well, what of it? Why not end my misery now rather than drag out
a few more wretched days in this dark pit? Slowly I raised one of
the little pellets to my lips.
"Good-bye, my Dejah Thoris!" I breathed. "I have lived for you
and fought for you, and now my next dearest wish is to be realized,
for I shall die for you," and, taking the morsel in my mouth, I
One by one I ate them all, nor ever did anything taste better than
those tiny bits of nourishment, within which I knew must lie the
seeds of death—possibly of some hideous, torturing death.
As I sat quietly upon the floor of my prison, waiting for the end,
my fingers by accident came in contact with the bit of paper in
which the things had been wrapped; and as I idly played with it,
my mind roaming far back into the past, that I might live again for
a few brief moments before I died some of the many happy moments
of a long and happy life, I became aware of strange protuberances
upon the smooth surface of the parchment-like substance in my hands.
For a time they carried no special significance to my mind—I merely
was mildly wondrous that they were there; but at last they seemed
to take form, and then I realized that there was but a single line
of them, like writing.
Now, more interestedly, my fingers traced and retraced them. There
were four separate and distinct combinations of raised lines. Could
it be that these were four words, and that they were intended to
carry a message to me?
The more I thought of it the more excited I became, until my fingers
raced madly back and forth over those bewildering little hills and
valleys upon that bit of paper.
But I could make nothing of them, and at last I decided that my very
haste was preventing me from solving the mystery. Then I took it
more slowly. Again and again my forefinger traced the first of
those four combinations.
Martian writing is rather difficult to explain to an Earth man—it
is something of a cross between shorthand and picture-writing, and
is an entirely different language from the spoken language of Mars.
Upon Barsoom there is but a single oral language.
It is spoken today by every race and nation, just as it was at
the beginning of human life upon Barsoom. It has grown with the
growth of the planet's learning and scientific achievements, but
so ingenious a thing it is that new words to express new thoughts
or describe new conditions or discoveries form themselves—no other
word could explain the thing that a new word is required for other
than the word that naturally falls to it, and so, no matter how far
removed two nations or races, their spoken languages are identical.
Not so their written languages, however. No two nations have the
same written language, and often cities of the same nation have a
written language that differs greatly from that of the nation to
which they belong.
Thus it was that the signs upon the paper, if in reality they were
words, baffled me for some time; but at last I made out the first
It was "courage," and it was written in the letters of Marentina.
That was the word the yellow guardsman had whispered in my ear as
I stood upon the verge of the Pit of Plenty.
The message must be from him, and he I knew was a friend.
With renewed hope I bent my every energy to the deciphering of the
balance of the message, and at last success rewarded my endeavor—I
had read the four words:
"Courage! Follow the rope."
"FOLLOW THE ROPE"
What could it mean?
"Follow the rope." What rope?
Presently I recalled the cord that had been attached to the parcel
when it fell at my side, and after a little groping my hand came in
contact with it again. It depended from above, and when I pulled
upon it I discovered that it was rigidly fastened, possibly at the
Upon examination I found that the cord, though small, was amply
able to sustain the weight of several men. Then I made another
discovery—there was a second message knotted in the rope at about
the height of my head. This I deciphered more easily, now that
the key was mine.
"Bring the rope with you. Beyond the knots lies danger."
That was all there was to this message. It was evidently hastily
I did not pause longer than to learn the contents of the second
message, and, though I was none too sure of the meaning of the
final admonition, "Beyond the knots lies danger," yet I was sure
that here before me lay an avenue of escape, and that the sooner
I took advantage of it the more likely was I to win to liberty.
At least, I could be but little worse off than I had been in the
Pit of Plenty.
I was to find, however, ere I was well out of that damnable hole
that I might have been very much worse off had I been compelled to
remain there another two minutes.
It had taken me about that length of time to ascend some fifty feet
above the bottom when a noise above attracted my attention. To my
chagrin I saw that the covering of the pit was being removed far
above me, and in the light of the courtyard beyond I saw a number
of yellow warriors.
Could it be that I was laboriously working my way into some new
trap? Were the messages spurious, after all? And then, just as
my hope and courage had ebbed to their lowest, I saw two things.
One was the body of a huge, struggling, snarling apt being lowered
over the side of the pit toward me, and the other was an aperture
in the side of the shaft—an aperture larger than a man's body,
into which my rope led.
Just as I scrambled into the dark hole before me the apt passed
me, reaching out with his mighty hands to clutch me, and snapping,
growling, and roaring in a most frightful manner.
Plainly now I saw the end for which Salensus Oll had destined me.
After first torturing me with starvation he had caused this fierce
beast to be lowered into my prison to finish the work that the
jeddak's hellish imagination had conceived.
And then another truth flashed upon me—I had lived nine days of
the allotted ten which must intervene before Salensus Oll could
make Dejah Thoris his queen. The purpose of the apt was to insure
my death before the tenth day.
I almost laughed aloud as I thought how Salensus Oll's measure of
safety was to aid in defeating the very end he sought, for when
they discovered that the apt was alone in the Pit of Plenty they
could not know but that he had completely devoured me, and so no
suspicion of my escape would cause a search to be made for me.
Coiling the rope that had carried me thus far upon my strange
journey, I sought for the other end, but found that as I followed
it forward it extended always before me. So this was the meaning
of the words: "Follow the rope."
The tunnel through which I crawled was low and dark. I had followed
it for several hundred yards when I felt a knot beneath my fingers.
"Beyond the knots lies danger."
Now I went with the utmost caution, and a moment later a sharp turn
in the tunnel brought me to an opening into a large, brilliantly
The trend of the tunnel I had been traversing had been slightly
upward, and from this I judged that the chamber into which I now
found myself looking must be either on the first floor of the palace
or directly beneath the first floor.
Upon the opposite wall were many strange instruments and devices,
and in the center of the room stood a long table, at which two men
were seated in earnest conversation.
He who faced me was a yellow man—a little, wizened-up, pasty-faced
old fellow with great eyes that showed the white round the entire
circumference of the iris.
His companion was a black man, and I did not need to see his face
to know that it was Thurid, for there was no other of the First
Born north of the ice-barrier.
Thurid was speaking as I came within hearing of the men's voices.
"Solan," he was saying, "there is no risk and the reward is great.
You know that you hate Salensus Oll and that nothing would please
you more than to thwart him in some cherished plan. There be
nothing that he more cherishes today than the idea of wedding the
beautiful Princess of Helium; but I, too, want her, and with your
help I may win her.
"You need not more than step from this room for an instant when
I give you the signal. I will do the rest, and then, when I am
gone, you may come and throw the great switch back into its place,
and all will be as before. I need but an hour's start to be safe
beyond the devilish power that you control in this hidden chamber
beneath the palace of your master. See how easy," and with the
words the black dator rose from his seat and, crossing the room,
laid his hand upon a large, burnished lever that protruded from
the opposite wall.
"No! No!" cried the little old man, springing after him, with a wild
shriek. "Not that one! Not that one! That controls the sunray
tanks, and should you pull it too far down, all Kadabra would be
consumed by heat before I could replace it. Come away! Come away!
You know not with what mighty powers you play. This is the lever
that you seek. Note well the symbol inlaid in white upon its ebon
Thurid approached and examined the handle of the lever.
"Ah, a magnet," he said. "I will remember. It is settled then I
take it," he continued.
The old man hesitated. A look of combined greed and apprehension
overspread his none too beautiful features.
"Double the figure," he said. "Even that were all too small an amount
for the service you ask. Why, I risk my life by even entertaining
you here within the forbidden precincts of my station. Should
Salensus Oll learn of it he would have me thrown to the apts before
the day was done."
"He dare not do that, and you know it full well, Solan," contradicted
the black. "Too great a power of life and death you hold over the
people of Kadabra for Salensus Oll ever to risk threatening you
with death. Before ever his minions could lay their hands upon you,
you might seize this very lever from which you have just warned me
and wipe out the entire city."
"And myself into the bargain," said Solan, with a shudder.
"But if you were to die, anyway, you would find the nerve to do
it," replied Thurid.
"Yes," muttered Solan, "I have often thought upon that very thing.
Well, First Born, is your red princess worth the price I ask for
my services, or will you go without her and see her in the arms of
Salensus Oll tomorrow night?"
"Take your price, yellow man," replied Thurid, with an oath. "Half
now and the balance when you have fulfilled your contract."
With that the dator threw a well-filled money-pouch upon the table.
Solan opened the pouch and with trembling fingers counted its contents.
His weird eyes assumed a greedy expression, and his unkempt beard
and mustache twitched with the muscles of his mouth and chin. It
was quite evident from his very mannerism that Thurid had keenly
guessed the man's weakness—even the clawlike, clutching movement
of the fingers betokened the avariciousness of the miser.
Having satisfied himself that the amount was correct, Solan replaced
the money in the pouch and rose from the table.
"Now," he said, "are you quite sure that you know the way to your
destination? You must travel quickly to cover the ground to the
cave and from thence beyond the Great Power, all within a brief
hour, for no more dare I spare you."
"Let me repeat it to you," said Thurid, "that you may see if I be
"Proceed," replied Solan.
"Through yonder door," he commenced, pointing to a door at the far
end of the apartment, "I follow a corridor, passing three diverging
corridors upon my right; then into the fourth right-hand corridor
straight to where three corridors meet; here again I follow to the
right, hugging the left wall closely to avoid the pit.
"At the end of this corridor I shall come to a spiral runway, which
I must follow down instead of up; after that the way is along but
a single branchless corridor. Am I right?"
"Quite right, Dator," answered Solan; "and now begone. Already
have you tempted fate too long within this forbidden place."
"Tonight, or tomorrow, then, you may expect the signal," said
Thurid, rising to go.
"Tonight, or tomorrow," repeated Solan, and as the door closed
behind his guest the old man continued to mutter as he turned back
to the table, where he again dumped the contents of the money-pouch,
running his fingers through the heap of shining metal; piling the
coins into little towers; counting, recounting, and fondling the
wealth the while he muttered on and on in a crooning undertone.
Presently his fingers ceased their play; his eyes popped wider
than ever as they fastened upon the door through which Thurid
had disappeared. The croon changed to a querulous muttering, and
finally to an ugly growl.
Then the old man rose from the table, shaking his fist at the closed
door. Now he raised his voice, and his words came distinctly.
"Fool!" he muttered. "Think you that for your happiness Solan will
give up his life? If you escaped, Salensus Oll would know that
only through my connivance could you have succeeded. Then would
he send for me. What would you have me do? Reduce the city and
myself to ashes? No, fool, there is a better way—a better way
for Solan to keep thy money and be revenged upon Salensus Oll."
He laughed in a nasty, cackling note.
"Poor fool! You may throw the great switch that will give you
the freedom of the air of Okar, and then, in fatuous security, go
on with thy red princess to the freedom of—death. When you have
passed beyond this chamber in your flight, what can prevent Solan
replacing the switch as it was before your vile hand touched it?
Nothing; and then the Guardian of the North will claim you and
your woman, and Salensus Oll, when he sees your dead bodies, will
never dream that the hand of Solan had aught to do with the thing."
Then his voice dropped once more into mutterings that I could not
translate, but I had heard enough to cause me to guess a great deal
more, and I thanked the kind Providence that had led me to this
chamber at a time so filled with importance to Dejah Thoris and
myself as this.
But how to pass the old man now! The cord, almost invisible upon
the floor, stretched straight across the apartment to a door upon
the far side.
There was no other way of which I knew, nor could I afford to
ignore the advice to "follow the rope." I must cross this room,
but however I should accomplish it undetected with that old man in
the very center of it baffled me.
Of course I might have sprung in upon him and with my bare hands
silenced him forever, but I had heard enough to convince me that
with him alive the knowledge that I had gained might serve me at
some future moment, while should I kill him and another be stationed
in his place Thurid would not come hither with Dejah Thoris, as
was quite evidently his intention.
As I stood in the dark shadow of the tunnel's end racking my brain
for a feasible plan the while I watched, catlike, the old man's
every move, he took up the money-pouch and crossed to one end of
the apartment, where, bending to his knees, he fumbled with a panel
in the wall.
Instantly I guessed that here was the hiding place in which he
hoarded his wealth, and while he bent there, his back toward me,
I entered the chamber upon tiptoe, and with the utmost stealth
essayed to reach the opposite side before he should complete his
task and turn again toward the room's center.
Scarcely thirty steps, all told, must I take, and yet it seemed to
my overwrought imagination that that farther wall was miles away;
but at last I reached it, nor once had I taken my eyes from the
back of the old miser's head.
He did not turn until my hand was upon the button that controlled
the door through which my way led, and then he turned away from me
as I passed through and gently closed the door.
For an instant I paused, my ear close to the panel, to learn if he
had suspected aught, but as no sound of pursuit came from within
I wheeled and made my way along the new corridor, following the
rope, which I coiled and brought with me as I advanced.
But a short distance farther on I came to the rope's end at a point
where five corridors met. What was I to do? Which way should I
turn? I was nonplused.
A careful examination of the end of the rope revealed the fact that
it had been cleanly cut with some sharp instrument. This fact and
the words that had cautioned me that danger lay beyond the KNOTS
convinced me that the rope had been severed since my friend had
placed it as my guide, for I had but passed a single knot, whereas
there had evidently been two or more in the entire length of the
Now, indeed, was I in a pretty fix, for neither did I know which
avenue to follow nor when danger lay directly in my path; but there
was nothing else to be done than follow one of the corridors, for
I could gain nothing by remaining where I was.
So I chose the central opening, and passed on into its gloomy depths
with a prayer upon my lips.
The floor of the tunnel rose rapidly as I advanced, and a moment
later the way came to an abrupt end before a heavy door.
I could hear nothing beyond, and, with my accustomed rashness, pushed
the portal wide to step into a room filled with yellow warriors.
The first to see me opened his eyes wide in astonishment, and at
the same instant I felt the tingling sensation in my finger that
denoted the presence of a friend of the ring.
Then others saw me, and there was a concerted rush to lay hands upon
me, for these were all members of the palace guard—men familiar
with my face.
The first to reach me was the wearer of the mate to my strange
ring, and as he came close he whispered: "Surrender to me!" then
in a loud voice shouted: "You are my prisoner, white man," and
menaced me with his two weapons.
And so John Carter, Prince of Helium, meekly surrendered to a
single antagonist. The others now swarmed about us, asking many
questions, but I would not talk to them, and finally my captor
announced that he would lead me back to my cell.
An officer ordered several other warriors to accompany him, and a
moment later we were retracing the way I had just come. My friend
walked close beside me, asking many silly questions about the
country from which I had come, until finally his fellows paid no
further attention to him or his gabbling.
Gradually, as he spoke, he lowered his voice, so that presently
he was able to converse with me in a low tone without attracting
attention. His ruse was a clever one, and showed that Talu had
not misjudged the man's fitness for the dangerous duty upon which
he was detailed.
When he had fully assured himself that the other guardsmen were not
listening, he asked me why I had not followed the rope, and when
I told him that it had ended at the five corridors he said that it
must have been cut by someone in need of a piece of rope, for he
was sure that "the stupid Kadabrans would never have guessed its
Before we had reached the spot from which the five corridors diverge
my Marentinian friend had managed to drop to the rear of the little
column with me, and when we came in sight of the branching ways he
"Run up the first upon the right. It leads to the watchtower upon
the south wall. I will direct the pursuit up the next corridor,"
and with that he gave me a great shove into the dark mouth of the
tunnel, at the same time crying out in simulated pain and alarm as
he threw himself upon the floor as though I had felled him with a
From behind the voices of the excited guardsmen came reverberating
along the corridor, suddenly growing fainter as Talu's spy led them
up the wrong passageway in fancied pursuit.
As I ran for my life through the dark galleries beneath the palace of
Salensus Oll I must indeed have presented a remarkable appearance
had there been any to note it, for though death loomed large
about me, my face was split by a broad grin as I thought of the
resourcefulness of the nameless hero of Marentina to whom I owed
Of such stuff are the men of my beloved Helium, and when I meet
another of their kind, of whatever race or color, my heart goes
out to him as it did now to my new friend who had risked his life
for me simply because I wore the mate to the ring his ruler had
put upon his finger.
The corridor along which I ran led almost straight for a considerable
distance, terminating at the foot of a spiral runway, up which
I proceeded to emerge presently into a circular chamber upon the
first floor of a tower.
In this apartment a dozen red slaves were employed polishing or
repairing the weapons of the yellow men. The walls of the room
were lined with racks in which were hundreds of straight and hooked
swords, javelins, and daggers. It was evidently an armory. There
were but three warriors guarding the workers.
My eyes took in the entire scene at a glance. Here were weapons
in plenty! Here were sinewy red warriors to wield them!
And here now was John Carter, Prince of Helium, in need both of
weapons and warriors!
As I stepped into the apartment, guards and prisoners saw me
Close to the entrance where I stood was a rack of straight swords,
and as my hand closed upon the hilt of one of them my eyes fell
upon the faces of two of the prisoners who worked side by side.
One of the guards started toward me. "Who are you?" he demanded.
"What do you here?"
"I come for Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium, and his son, Mors Kajak,"
I cried, pointing to the two red prisoners, who had now sprung to
their feet, wide-eyed in astonished recognition.
"Rise, red men! Before we die let us leave a memorial in the palace
of Okar's tyrant that will stand forever in the annals of Kadabra
to the honor and glory of Helium," for I had seen that all the
prisoners there were men of Tardos Mors's navy.
Then the first guardsman was upon me and the fight was on, but
scarce did we engage ere, to my horror, I saw that the red slaves
were shackled to the floor.
THE MAGNET SWITCH
The guardsmen paid not the slightest attention to their wards, for
the red men could not move over two feet from the great rings to
which they were padlocked, though each had seized a weapon upon
which he had been engaged when I entered the room, and stood ready
to join me could they have but done so.
The yellow men devoted all their attention to me, nor were they
long in discovering that the three of them were none too many to
defend the armory against John Carter. Would that I had had my own
good long-sword in my hand that day; but, as it was, I rendered a
satisfactory account of myself with the unfamiliar weapon of the
At first I had a time of it dodging their villainous hook-swords,
but after a minute or two I had succeeded in wresting a second
straight sword from one of the racks along the wall, and thereafter,
using it to parry the hooks of my antagonists, I felt more evenly
The three of them were on me at once, and but for a lucky circumstance
my end might have come quickly. The foremost guardsman made
a vicious lunge for my side with his hook after the three of them
had backed me against the wall, but as I sidestepped and raised my
arm his weapon but grazed my side, passing into a rack of javelins,
where it became entangled.
Before he could release it I had run him through, and then, falling
back upon the tactics that have saved me a hundred times in tight
pinches, I rushed the two remaining warriors, forcing them back
with a perfect torrent of cuts and thrusts, weaving my sword in
and out about their guards until I had the fear of death upon them.
Then one of them commenced calling for help, but it was too late
to save them.
They were as putty in my hands now, and I backed them about the
armory as I would until I had them where I wanted them—within reach
of the swords of the shackled slaves. In an instant both lay dead
upon the floor. But their cries had not been entirely fruitless,
for now I heard answering shouts and the footfalls of many men
running and the clank of accouterments and the commands of officers.
"The door! Quick, John Carter, bar the door!" cried Tardos Mors.
Already the guard was in sight, charging across the open court that
was visible through the doorway.
A dozen seconds would bring them into the tower. A single leap
carried me to the heavy portal. With a resounding bang I slammed
"The bar!" shouted Tardos Mors.
I tried to slip the huge fastening into place, but it defied my
"Raise it a little to release the catch," cried one of the red men.
I could hear the yellow warriors leaping along the flagging just
beyond the door. I raised the bar and shot it to the right just
as the foremost of the guardsmen threw himself against the opposite
side of the massive panels.
The barrier held—I had been in time, but by the fraction of a
Now I turned my attention to the prisoners. To Tardos Mors I went
first, asking where the keys might be which would unfasten their
"The officer of the guard has them," replied the Jeddak of Helium,
"and he is among those without who seek entrance. You will have
to force them."
Most of the prisoners were already hacking at their bonds with the
swords in their hands. The yellow men were battering at the door
with javelins and axes.
I turned my attention to the chains that held Tardos Mors. Again
and again I cut deep into the metal with my sharp blade, but ever
faster and faster fell the torrent of blows upon the portal.
At last a link parted beneath my efforts, and a moment later Tardos
Mors was free, though a few inches of trailing chain still dangled
from his ankle.
A splinter of wood falling inward from the door announced the
headway that our enemies were making toward us.
The mighty panels trembled and bent beneath the furious onslaught
of the enraged yellow men.
What with the battering upon the door and the hacking of the red
men at their chains the din within the armory was appalling. No
sooner was Tardos Mors free than he turned his attention to another
of the prisoners, while I set to work to liberate Mors Kajak.
We must work fast if we would have all those fetters cut before
the door gave way. Now a panel crashed inward upon the floor, and
Mors Kajak sprang to the opening to defend the way until we should
have time to release the others.
With javelins snatched from the wall he wrought havoc among the
foremost of the Okarians while we battled with the insensate metal
that stood between our fellows and freedom.
At length all but one of the prisoners were freed, and then the door
fell with a mighty crash before a hastily improvised battering-ram,
and the yellow horde was upon us.
"To the upper chambers!" shouted the red man who was still fettered
to the floor. "To the upper chambers! There you may defend the
tower against all Kadabra. Do not delay because of me, who could
pray for no better death than in the service of Tardos Mors and
the Prince of Helium."
But I would have sacrificed the life of every man of us rather
than desert a single red man, much less the lion-hearted hero who
begged us to leave him.
"Cut his chains," I cried to two of the red men, "while the balance
of us hold off the foe."
There were ten of us now to do battle with the Okarian guard, and I
warrant that that ancient watchtower never looked down upon a more
hotly contested battle than took place that day within its own grim
The first inrushing wave of yellow warriors recoiled from the
slashing blades of ten of Helium's veteran fighting men. A dozen
Okarian corpses blocked the doorway, but over the gruesome barrier
a score more of their fellows dashed, shouting their hoarse and
Upon the bloody mound we met them, hand to hand, stabbing where
the quarters were too close to cut, thrusting when we could push
a foeman to arm's length; and mingled with the wild cry of the
Okarian there rose and fell the glorious words: "For Helium! For
Helium!" that for countless ages have spurred on the bravest of the
brave to those deeds of valor that have sent the fame of Helium's
heroes broadcast throughout the length and breadth of a world.
Now were the fetters struck from the last of the red men, and
thirteen strong we met each new charge of the soldiers of Salensus
Oll. Scarce one of us but bled from a score of wounds, yet none
From without we saw hundreds of guardsmen pouring into the courtyard,
and along the lower corridor from which I had found my way to the
armory we could hear the clank of metal and the shouting of men.
In a moment we should be attacked from two sides, and with all
our prowess we could not hope to withstand the unequal odds which
would thus divide our attention and our small numbers.
"To the upper chambers!" cried Tardos Mors, and a moment later we
fell back toward the runway that led to the floors above.
Here another bloody battle was waged with the force of yellow men
who charged into the armory as we fell back from the doorway. Here
we lost our first man, a noble fellow whom we could ill spare; but
at length all had backed into the runway except myself, who remained
to hold back the Okarians until the others were safe above.
In the mouth of the narrow spiral but a single warrior could attack
me at a time, so that I had little difficulty in holding them all
back for the brief moment that was necessary. Then, backing slowly
before them, I commenced the ascent of the spiral.
All the long way to the tower's top the guardsmen pressed me closely.
When one went down before my sword another scrambled over the dead
man to take his place; and thus, taking an awful toll with each
few feet gained, I came to the spacious glass-walled watchtower of
Here my companions clustered ready to take my place, and for a
moment's respite I stepped to one side while they held the enemy
From the lofty perch a view could be had for miles in every direction.
Toward the south stretched the rugged, ice-clad waste to the edge
of the mighty barrier. Toward the east and west, and dimly toward
the north I descried other Okarian cities, while in the immediate
foreground, just beyond the walls of Kadabra, the grim guardian
shaft reared its somber head.
Then I cast my eyes down into the streets of Kadabra, from which
a sudden tumult had arisen, and there I saw a battle raging, and
beyond the city's walls I saw armed men marching in great columns
toward a near-by gate.
Eagerly I pressed forward against the glass wall of the observatory,
scarce daring to credit the testimony of my own eyes. But at
last I could doubt no longer, and with a shout of joy that rose
strangely in the midst of the cursing and groaning of the battling
men at the entrance to the chamber, I called to Tardos Mors.
As he joined me I pointed down into the streets of Kadabra and to
the advancing columns beyond, above which floated bravely in the
arctic air the flags and banners of Helium.
An instant later every red man in the lofty chamber had seen the
inspiring sight, and such a shout of thanksgiving arose as I warrant
never before echoed through that age-old pile of stone.
But still we must fight on, for though our troops had entered
Kadabra, the city was yet far from capitulation, nor had the palace
been even assaulted. Turn and turn about we held the top of the
runway while the others feasted their eyes upon the sight of our
valiant countrymen battling far beneath us.
Now they have rushed the palace gate! Great battering-rams are
dashed against its formidable surface. Now they are repulsed by
a deadly shower of javelins from the wall's top!
Once again they charge, but a sortie by a large force of Okarians
from an intersecting avenue crumples the head of the column, and
the men of Helium go down, fighting, beneath an overwhelming force.
The palace gate flies open and a force of the jeddak's own guard,
picked men from the flower of the Okarian army, sallies forth
to shatter the broken regiments. For a moment it looks as though
nothing could avert defeat, and then I see a noble figure upon
a mighty thoat—not the tiny thoat of the red man, but one of his
huge cousins of the dead sea bottoms.
The warrior hews his way to the front, and behind him rally the
disorganized soldiers of Helium. As he raises his head aloft to
fling a challenge at the men upon the palace walls I see his face,
and my heart swells in pride and happiness as the red warriors leap
to the side of their leader and win back the ground that they had
but just lost—the face of him upon the mighty thoat is the face
of my son—Carthoris of Helium.
At his side fights a huge Martian war-hound, nor did I need a
second look to know that it was Woola—my faithful Woola who had
thus well performed his arduous task and brought the succoring
legions in the nick of time.
"In the nick of time?"
Who yet might say that they were not too late to save, but surely
they could avenge! And such retribution as that unconquered army
would deal out to the hateful Okarians! I sighed to think that I
might not be alive to witness it.
Again I turned to the windows. The red men had not yet forced the
outer palace wall, but they were fighting nobly against the best
that Okar afforded—valiant warriors who contested every inch of
Now my attention was caught by a new element without the city wall—a
great body of mounted warriors looming large above the red men.
They were the huge green allies of Helium—the savage hordes from
the dead sea bottoms of the far south.
In grim and terrible silence they sped on toward the gate, the
padded hoofs of their frightful mounts giving forth no sound. Into
the doomed city they charged, and as they wheeled across the wide
plaza before the palace of the Jeddak of Jeddaks I saw, riding at
their head, the mighty figure of their mighty leader—Tars Tarkas,
Jeddak of Thark.
My wish, then, was to be gratified, for I was to see my old friend
battling once again, and though not shoulder to shoulder with him,
I, too, would be fighting in the same cause here in the high tower
Nor did it seem that our foes would ever cease their stubborn
attacks, for still they came, though the way to our chamber was
often clogged with the bodies of their dead. At times they would
pause long enough to drag back the impeding corpses, and then fresh
warriors would forge upward to taste the cup of death.
I had been taking my turn with the others in defending the approach
to our lofty retreat when Mors Kajak, who had been watching the
battle in the street below, called aloud in sudden excitement.
There was a note of apprehension in his voice that brought me to
his side the instant that I could turn my place over to another,
and as I reached him he pointed far out across the waste of snow
and ice toward the southern horizon.
"Alas!" he cried, "that I should be forced to witness cruel fate
betray them without power to warn or aid; but they be past either
As I looked in the direction he indicated I saw the cause of his
perturbation. A mighty fleet of fliers was approaching majestically
toward Kadabra from the direction of the ice-barrier. On and on
they came with ever increasing velocity.
"The grim shaft that they call the Guardian of the North is beckoning
to them," said Mors Kajak sadly, "just as it beckoned to Tardos
Mors and his great fleet; see where they lie, crumpled and broken,
a grim and terrible monument to the mighty force of destruction
which naught can resist."
I, too, saw; but something else I saw that Mors Kajak did not; in
my mind's eye I saw a buried chamber whose walls were lined with
strange instruments and devices.
In the center of the chamber was a long table, and before it sat a
little, pop-eyed old man counting his money; but, plainest of all,
I saw upon the wall a great switch with a small magnet inlaid within
the surface of its black handle.
Then I glanced out at the fast-approaching fleet. In five minutes
that mighty armada of the skies would be bent and worthless scrap,
lying at the base of the shaft beyond the city's wall, and yellow
hordes would be loosed from another gate to rush out upon the few
survivors stumbling blindly down through the mass of wreckage;
then the apts would come. I shuddered at the thought, for I could
vividly picture the whole horrible scene.
Quick have I always been to decide and act. The impulse that moves
me and the doing of the thing seem simultaneous; for if my mind
goes through the tedious formality of reasoning, it must be a
subconscious act of which I am not objectively aware. Psychologists
tell me that, as the subconscious does not reason, too close a
scrutiny of my mental activities might prove anything but flattering;
but be that as it may, I have often won success while the thinker
would have been still at the endless task of comparing various
And now celerity of action was the prime essential to the success
of the thing that I had decided upon.
Grasping my sword more firmly in my hand, I called to the red man
at the opening to the runway to stand aside.
"Way for the Prince of Helium!" I shouted; and before the astonished
yellow man whose misfortune it was to be at the fighting end of
the line at that particular moment could gather his wits together
my sword had decapitated him, and I was rushing like a mad bull
down upon those behind him.
"Way for the Prince of Helium!" I shouted as I cut a path through
the astonished guardsmen of Salensus Oll.
Hewing to right and left, I beat my way down that warrior-choked
spiral until, near the bottom, those below, thinking that an army
was descending upon them, turned and fled.
The armory at the first floor was vacant when I entered it, the
last of the Okarians having fled into the courtyard, so none saw
me continue down the spiral toward the corridor beneath.
Here I ran as rapidly as my legs would carry me toward the five
corners, and there plunged into the passageway that led to the
station of the old miser.
Without the formality of a knock, I burst into the room. There sat
the old man at his table; but as he saw me he sprang to his feet,
drawing his sword.
With scarce more than a glance toward him I leaped for the great
switch; but, quick as I was, that wiry old fellow was there before
How he did it I shall never know, nor does it seem credible that
any Martian-born creature could approximate the marvelous speed of
my earthly muscles.
Like a tiger he turned upon me, and I was quick to see why Solan
had been chosen for this important duty.
Never in all my life have I seen such wondrous swordsmanship and
such uncanny agility as that ancient bag of bones displayed. He was
in forty places at the same time, and before I had half a chance
to awaken to my danger he was like to have made a monkey of me,
and a dead monkey at that.
It is strange how new and unexpected conditions bring out unguessed
ability to meet them.
That day in the buried chamber beneath the palace of Salensus Oll
I learned what swordsmanship meant, and to what heights of sword
mastery I could achieve when pitted against such a wizard of the
blade as Solan.
For a time he liked to have bested me; but presently the latent
possibilities that must have been lying dormant within me for a
lifetime came to the fore, and I fought as I had never dreamed a
human being could fight.
That that duel-royal should have taken place in the dark recesses
of a cellar, without a single appreciative eye to witness it has
always seemed to me almost a world calamity—at least from the
viewpoint Barsoomian, where bloody strife is the first and greatest
consideration of individuals, nations, and races.
I was fighting to reach the switch, Solan to prevent me; and, though
we stood not three feet from it, I could not win an inch toward
it, for he forced me back an inch for the first five minutes of
I knew that if I were to throw it in time to save the oncoming
fleet it must be done in the next few seconds, and so I tried my
old rushing tactics; but I might as well have rushed a brick wall
for all that Solan gave way.
In fact, I came near to impaling myself upon his point for my
pains; but right was on my side, and I think that that must give a
man greater confidence than though he knew himself to be battling
in a wicked cause.
At least, I did not want in confidence; and when I next rushed Solan
it was to one side with implicit confidence that he must turn to
meet my new line of attack, and turn he did, so that now we fought
with our sides towards the coveted goal—the great switch stood
within my reach upon my right hand.
To uncover my breast for an instant would have been to court sudden
death, but I saw no other way than to chance it, if by so doing I
might rescue that oncoming, succoring fleet; and so, in the face
of a wicked sword-thrust, I reached out my point and caught the
great switch a sudden blow that released it from its seating.
So surprised and horrified was Solan that he forgot to finish his
thrust; instead, he wheeled toward the switch with a loud shriek—a
shriek which was his last, for before his hand could touch the
lever it sought, my sword's point had passed through his heart.
THE TIDE OF BATTLE
But Solan's last loud cry had not been without effect, for a moment
later a dozen guardsmen burst into the chamber, though not before
I had so bent and demolished the great switch that it could not be
again used to turn the powerful current into the mighty magnet of
destruction it controlled.
The result of the sudden coming of the guardsmen had been to compel
me to seek seclusion in the first passageway that I could find,
and that to my disappointment proved to be not the one with which
I was familiar, but another upon its left.
They must have either heard or guessed which way I went, for I had
proceeded but a short distance when I heard the sound of pursuit.
I had no mind to stop and fight these men here when there was
fighting aplenty elsewhere in the city of Kadabra—fighting that
could be of much more avail to me and mine than useless life-taking
far below the palace.
But the fellows were pressing me; and as I did not know the way at
all, I soon saw that they would overtake me unless I found a place
to conceal myself until they had passed, which would then give me
an opportunity to return the way I had come and regain the tower,
or possibly find a way to reach the city streets.
The passageway had risen rapidly since leaving the apartment of
the switch, and now ran level and well lighted straight into the
distance as far as I could see. The moment that my pursuers reached
this straight stretch I would be in plain sight of them, with no
chance to escape from the corridor undetected.
Presently I saw a series of doors opening from either side of the
corridor, and as they all looked alike to me I tried the first
one that I reached. It opened into a small chamber, luxuriously
furnished, and was evidently an ante-chamber off some office or
audience chamber of the palace.
On the far side was a heavily curtained doorway beyond which I
heard the hum of voices. Instantly I crossed the small chamber,
and, parting the curtains, looked within the larger apartment.
Before me were a party of perhaps fifty gorgeously clad nobles of
the court, standing before a throne upon which sat Salensus Oll.
The Jeddak of Jeddaks was addressing them.
"The allotted hour has come," he was saying as I entered the
apartment; "and though the enemies of Okar be within her gates,
naught may stay the will of Salensus Oll. The great ceremony must
be omitted that no single man may be kept from his place in the
defenses other than the fifty that custom demands shall witness
the creation of a new queen in Okar.
"In a moment the thing shall have been done and we may return to
the battle, while she who is now the Princess of Helium looks down
from the queen's tower upon the annihilation of her former countrymen
and witnesses the greatness which is her husband's."
Then, turning to a courtier, he issued some command in a low voice.
The addressed hastened to a small door at the far end of the chamber
and, swinging it wide, cried: "Way for Dejah Thoris, future Queen
Immediately two guardsmen appeared dragging the unwilling bride toward
the altar. Her hands were still manacled behind her, evidently to
Her disheveled hair and panting bosom betokened that, chained though
she was, still had she fought against the thing that they would do
At sight of her Salensus Oll rose and drew his sword, and the sword
of each of the fifty nobles was raised on high to form an arch,
beneath which the poor, beautiful creature was dragged toward her
A grim smile forced itself to my lips as I thought of the rude
awakening that lay in store for the ruler of Okar, and my itching
fingers fondled the hilt of my bloody sword.
As I watched the procession that moved slowly toward the throne—a
procession which consisted of but a handful of priests, who followed
Dejah Thoris and the two guardsmen—I caught a fleeting glimpse
of a black face peering from behind the draperies that covered the
wall back of the dais upon which stood Salensus Oll awaiting his
Now the guardsmen were forcing the Princess of Helium up the few
steps to the side of the tyrant of Okar, and I had no eyes and no
thoughts for aught else. A priest opened a book and, raising his
hand, commenced to drone out a sing-song ritual. Salensus Oll
reached for the hand of his bride.
I had intended waiting until some circumstance should give me a
reasonable hope of success; for, even though the entire ceremony
should be completed, there could be no valid marriage while I
lived. What I was most concerned in, of course, was the rescuing
of Dejah Thoris—I wished to take her from the palace of Salensus
Oll, if such a thing were possible; but whether it were accomplished
before or after the mock marriage was a matter of secondary import.
When, however, I saw the vile hand of Salensus Oll reach out for
the hand of my beloved princess I could restrain myself no longer,
and before the nobles of Okar knew that aught had happened I had
leaped through their thin line and was upon the dais beside Dejah
Thoris and Salensus Oll.
With the flat of my sword I struck down his polluting hand; and
grasping Dejah Thoris round the waist, I swung her behind me as,
with my back against the draperies of the dais, I faced the tyrant
of the north and his roomful of noble warriors.
The Jeddak of Jeddaks was a great mountain of a man—a coarse,
brutal beast of a man—and as he towered above me there, his fierce
black whiskers and mustache bristling in rage, I can well imagine
that a less seasoned warrior might have trembled before him.
With a snarl he sprang toward me with naked sword, but whether
Salensus Oll was a good swordsman or a poor I never learned; for
with Dejah Thoris at my back I was no longer human—I was a superman,
and no man could have withstood me then.
With a single, low: "For the Princess of Helium!" I ran my blade
straight through the rotten heart of Okar's rotten ruler, and before
the white, drawn faces of his nobles Salensus Oll rolled, grinning
in horrible death, to the foot of the steps below his marriage
For a moment tense silence reigned in the nuptial-room. Then the
fifty nobles rushed upon me. Furiously we fought, but the advantage
was mine, for I stood upon a raised platform above them, and I
fought for the most glorious woman of a glorious race, and I fought
for a great love and for the mother of my boy.
And from behind my shoulder, in the silvery cadence of that dear
voice, rose the brave battle anthem of Helium which the nation's
women sing as their men march out to victory.
That alone was enough to inspire me to victory over even greater
odds, and I verily believe that I should have bested the entire
roomful of yellow warriors that day in the nuptial chamber of the
palace at Kadabra had not interruption come to my aid.
Fast and furious was the fighting as the nobles of Salensus Oll
sprang, time and again, up the steps before the throne only to fall
back before a sword hand that seemed to have gained a new wizardry
from its experience with the cunning Solan.
Two were pressing me so closely that I could not turn when I heard
a movement behind me, and noted that the sound of the battle anthem
had ceased. Was Dejah Thoris preparing to take her place beside
Heroic daughter of a heroic world! It would not be unlike her to
have seized a sword and fought at my side, for, though the women
of Mars are not trained in the arts of war, the spirit is theirs,
and they have been known to do that very thing upon countless
But she did not come, and glad I was, for it would have doubled my
burden in protecting her before I should have been able to force
her back again out of harm's way. She must be contemplating some
cunning strategy, I thought, and so I fought on secure in the belief
that my divine princess stood close behind me.
For half an hour at least I must have fought there against the
nobles of Okar ere ever a one placed a foot upon the dais where I
stood, and then of a sudden all that remained of them formed below
me for a last, mad, desperate charge; but even as they advanced
the door at the far end of the chamber swung wide and a wild-eyed
messenger sprang into the room.
"The Jeddak of Jeddaks!" he cried. "Where is the Jeddak of Jeddaks?
The city has fallen before the hordes from beyond the barrier, and
but now the great gate of the palace itself has been forced and
the warriors of the south are pouring into its sacred precincts.
"Where is Salensus Oll? He alone may revive the flagging courage
of our warriors. He alone may save the day for Okar. Where is
The nobles stepped back from about the dead body of their ruler,
and one of them pointed to the grinning corpse.
The messenger staggered back in horror as though from a blow in
"Then fly, nobles of Okar!" he cried, "for naught can save you.
Hark! They come!"
As he spoke we heard the deep roar of angry men from the corridor
without, and the clank of metal and the clang of swords.
Without another glance toward me, who had stood a spectator of
the tragic scene, the nobles wheeled and fled from the apartment
through another exit.
Almost immediately a force of yellow warriors appeared in the
doorway through which the messenger had come. They were backing
toward the apartment, stubbornly resisting the advance of a handful
of red men who faced them and forced them slowly but inevitably
Above the heads of the contestants I could see from my elevated
station upon the dais the face of my old friend Kantos Kan. He was
leading the little party that had won its way into the very heart
of the palace of Salensus Oll.
In an instant I saw that by attacking the Okarians from the rear
I could so quickly disorganize them that their further resistance
would be short-lived, and with this idea in mind I sprang from
the dais, casting a word of explanation to Dejah Thoris over my
shoulder, though I did not turn to look at her.
With myself ever between her enemies and herself, and with Kantos
Kan and his warriors winning to the apartment, there could be no
danger to Dejah Thoris standing there alone beside the throne.
I wanted the men of Helium to see me and to know that their beloved
princess was here, too, for I knew that this knowledge would inspire
them to even greater deeds of valor than they had performed in the
past, though great indeed must have been those which won for them
a way into the almost impregnable palace of the tyrant of the north.
As I crossed the chamber to attack the Kadabrans from the rear a
small doorway at my left opened, and, to my surprise, revealed the
figures of Matai Shang, Father of Therns and Phaidor, his daughter,
peering into the room.
A quick glance about they took. Their eyes rested for a moment,
wide in horror, upon the dead body of Salensus Oll, upon the blood
that crimsoned the floor, upon the corpses of the nobles who had
fallen thick before the throne, upon me, and upon the battling
warriors at the other door.
They did not essay to enter the apartment, but scanned its every
corner from where they stood, and then, when their eyes had sought
its entire area, a look of fierce rage overspread the features
of Matai Shang, and a cold and cunning smile touched the lips of
Then they were gone, but not before a taunting laugh was thrown
directly in my face by the woman.
I did not understand then the meaning of Matai Shang's rage or
Phaidor's pleasure, but I knew that neither boded good for me.
A moment later I was upon the backs of the yellow men, and as the
red men of Helium saw me above the shoulders of their antagonists
a great shout rang through the corridor, and for a moment drowned
the noise of battle.
"For the Prince of Helium!" they cried. "For the Prince of Helium!"
and, like hungry lions upon their prey, they fell once more upon
the weakening warriors of the north.
The yellow men, cornered between two enemies, fought with the
desperation that utter hopelessness often induces. Fought as I
should have fought had I been in their stead, with the determination
to take as many of my enemies with me when I died as lay within
the power of my sword arm.
It was a glorious battle, but the end seemed inevitable, when
presently from down the corridor behind the red men came a great
body of reenforcing yellow warriors.
Now were the tables turned, and it was the men of Helium who seemed
doomed to be ground between two millstones. All were compelled to
turn to meet this new assault by a greatly superior force, so that
to me was left the remnants of the yellow men within the throneroom.
They kept me busy, too; so busy that I began to wonder if indeed
I should ever be done with them. Slowly they pressed me back into
the room, and when they had all passed in after me, one of them
closed and bolted the door, effectually barring the way against
the men of Kantos Kan.
It was a clever move, for it put me at the mercy of a dozen men
within a chamber from which assistance was locked out, and it gave
the red men in the corridor beyond no avenue of escape should their
new antagonists press them too closely.
But I have faced heavier odds myself than were pitted against me
that day, and I knew that Kantos Kan had battled his way from a
hundred more dangerous traps than that in which he now was. So it
was with no feelings of despair that I turned my attention to the
business of the moment.
Constantly my thoughts reverted to Dejah Thoris, and I longed for
the moment when, the fighting done, I could fold her in my arms,
and hear once more the words of love which had been denied me for
so many years.
During the fighting in the chamber I had not even a single chance
to so much as steal a glance at her where she stood behind me beside
the throne of the dead ruler. I wondered why she no longer urged
me on with the strains of the martial hymn of Helium; but I did not
need more than the knowledge that I was battling for her to bring
out the best that is in me.
It would be wearisome to narrate the details of that bloody struggle;
of how we fought from the doorway, the full length of the room to
the very foot of the throne before the last of my antagonists fell
with my blade piercing his heart.
And then, with a glad cry, I turned with outstretched arms to seize
my princess, and as my lips smothered hers to reap the reward that
would be thrice ample payment for the bloody encounters through
which I had passed for her dear sake from the south pole to the
The glad cry died, frozen upon my lips; my arms dropped limp and
lifeless to my sides; as one who reels beneath the burden of a
mortal wound I staggered up the steps before the throne.
Dejah Thoris was gone.
With the realization that Dejah Thoris was no longer within the
throneroom came the belated recollection of the dark face that I had
glimpsed peering from behind the draperies that backed the throne
of Salensus Oll at the moment that I had first come so unexpectedly
upon the strange scene being enacted within the chamber.
Why had the sight of that evil countenance not warned me to greater
caution? Why had I permitted the rapid development of new situations
to efface the recollection of that menacing danger? But, alas,
vain regret would not erase the calamity that had befallen.
Once again had Dejah Thoris fallen into the clutches of that
archfiend, Thurid, the black dator of the First Born. Again was
all my arduous labor gone for naught. Now I realized the cause
of the rage that had been writ so large upon the features of Matai
Shang and the cruel pleasure that I had seen upon the face of
They had known or guessed the truth, and the hekkador of the
Holy Therns, who had evidently come to the chamber in the hope of
thwarting Salensus Oll in his contemplated perfidy against the high
priest who coveted Dejah Thoris for himself, realized that Thurid
had stolen the prize from beneath his very nose.
Phaidor's pleasure had been due to her realization of what this last
cruel blow would mean to me, as well as to a partial satisfaction
of her jealous hatred for the Princess of Helium.
My first thought was to look beyond the draperies at the back of
the throne, for there it was that I had seen Thurid. With a single
jerk I tore the priceless stuff from its fastenings, and there
before me was revealed a narrow doorway behind the throne.
No question entered my mind but that here lay the opening of the
avenue of escape which Thurid had followed, and had there been it
would have been dissipated by the sight of a tiny, jeweled ornament
which lay a few steps within the corridor beyond.
As I snatched up the bauble I saw that it bore the device of the
Princess of Helium, and then pressing it to my lips I dashed madly
along the winding way that led gently downward toward the lower
galleries of the palace.
I had followed but a short distance when I came upon the room in
which Solan formerly had held sway. His dead body still lay where
I had left it, nor was there any sign that another had passed
through the room since I had been there; but I knew that two had
done so—Thurid, the black dator, and Dejah Thoris.
For a moment I paused uncertain as to which of the several exits
from the apartment would lead me upon the right path. I tried to
recollect the directions which I had heard Thurid repeat to Solan,
and at last, slowly, as though through a heavy fog, the memory of
the words of the First Born came to me:
"Follow a corridor, passing three diverging corridors upon the right;
then into the fourth right-hand corridor to where three corridors
meet; here again follow to the right, hugging the left wall closely
to avoid the pit. At the end of this corridor I shall come to a
spiral runway which I must follow down instead of up; after that
the way is along but a single branchless corridor."
And I recalled the exit at which he had pointed as he spoke.
It did not take me long to start upon that unknown way, nor did I
go with caution, although I knew that there might be grave dangers
Part of the way was black as sin, but for the most it was fairly
well lighted. The stretch where I must hug the left wall to avoid
the pits was darkest of them all, and I was nearly over the edge of
the abyss before I knew that I was near the danger spot. A narrow
ledge, scarce a foot wide, was all that had been left to carry
the initiated past that frightful cavity into which the unknowing
must surely have toppled at the first step. But at last I had won
safely beyond it, and then a feeble light made the balance of the
way plain, until, at the end of the last corridor, I came suddenly
out into the glare of day upon a field of snow and ice.
Clad for the warm atmosphere of the hothouse city of Kadabra, the
sudden change to arctic frigidity was anything but pleasant; but
the worst of it was that I knew I could not endure the bitter cold,
almost naked as I was, and that I would perish before ever I could
overtake Thurid and Dejah Thoris.
To be thus blocked by nature, who had had all the arts and wiles
of cunning man pitted against him, seemed a cruel fate, and as I
staggered back into the warmth of the tunnel's end I was as near
hopelessness as I ever have been.
I had by no means given up my intention of continuing the pursuit,
for if needs be I would go ahead though I perished ere ever I
reached my goal, but if there were a safer way it were well worth
the delay to attempt to discover it, that I might come again to
the side of Dejah Thoris in fit condition to do battle for her.
Scarce had I returned to the tunnel than I stumbled over a portion
of a fur garment that seemed fastened to the floor of the corridor
close to the wall. In the darkness I could not see what held it,
but by groping with my hands I discovered that it was wedged beneath
the bottom of a closed door.
Pushing the portal aside, I found myself upon the threshold of a
small chamber, the walls of which were lined with hooks from which
depended suits of the complete outdoor apparel of the yellow men.
Situated as it was at the mouth of a tunnel leading from the palace,
it was quite evident that this was the dressing-room used by the
nobles leaving and entering the hothouse city, and that Thurid,
having knowledge of it, had stopped here to outfit himself and
Dejah Thoris before venturing into the bitter cold of the arctic
In his haste he had dropped several garments upon the floor, and
the telltale fur that had fallen partly within the corridor had
proved the means of guiding me to the very spot he would least have
wished me to have knowledge of.
It required but the matter of a few seconds to don the necessary
orluk-skin clothing, with the heavy, fur-lined boots that are so
essential a part of the garmenture of one who would successfully
contend with the frozen trails and the icy winds of the bleak
Once more I stepped beyond the tunnel's mouth to find the fresh
tracks of Thurid and Dejah Thoris in the new-fallen snow. Now, at
last, was my task an easy one, for though the going was rough in
the extreme, I was no longer vexed by doubts as to the direction
I should follow, or harassed by darkness or hidden dangers.
Through a snow-covered canyon the way led up toward the summit of
low hills. Beyond these it dipped again into another canyon, only
to rise a quarter-mile farther on toward a pass which skirted the
flank of a rocky hill.
I could see by the signs of those who had gone before that when Dejah
Thoris had walked she had been continually holding back, and that
the black man had been compelled to drag her. For other stretches
only his foot-prints were visible, deep and close together in
the heavy snow, and I knew from these signs that then he had been
forced to carry her, and I could well imagine that she had fought
him fiercely every step of the way.
As I came round the jutting promontory of the hill's shoulder I saw
that which quickened my pulses and set my heart to beating high,
for within a tiny basin between the crest of this hill and the next
stood four people before the mouth of a great cave, and beside them
upon the gleaming snow rested a flier which had evidently but just
been dragged from its hiding place.
The four were Dejah Thoris, Phaidor, Thurid, and Matai Shang. The
two men were engaged in a heated argument—the Father of Therns
threatening, while the black scoffed at him as he went about the
work at which he was engaged.
As I crept toward them cautiously that I might come as near as
possible before being discovered, I saw that finally the men appeared
to have reached some sort of a compromise, for with Phaidor's
assistance they both set about dragging the resisting Dejah Thoris
to the flier's deck.
Here they made her fast, and then both again descended to the ground
to complete the preparations for departure. Phaidor entered the
small cabin upon the vessel's deck.
I had come to within a quarter of a mile of them when Matai Shang
espied me. I saw him seize Thurid by the shoulder, wheeling him
around in my direction as he pointed to where I was now plainly
visible, for the moment that I knew I had been perceived I cast
aside every attempt at stealth and broke into a mad race for the
The two redoubled their efforts at the propeller at which they were
working, and which very evidently was being replaced after having
been removed for some purpose of repair.
They had the thing completed before I had covered half the distance
that lay between me and them, and then both made a rush for the
Thurid was the first to reach it, and with the agility of a monkey
clambered swiftly to the boat's deck, where a touch of the button
controlling the buoyancy tanks sent the craft slowly upward, though
not with the speed that marks the well-conditioned flier.
I was still some hundred yards away as I saw them rising from my
Back by the city of Kadabra lay a great fleet of mighty fliers—the
ships of Helium and Ptarth that I had saved from destruction earlier
in the day; but before ever I could reach them Thurid could easily
make good his escape.
As I ran I saw Matai Shang clambering up the swaying, swinging
ladder toward the deck, while above him leaned the evil face of the
First Born. A trailing rope from the vessel's stern put new hope
in me, for if I could but reach it before it whipped too high above
my head there was yet a chance to gain the deck by its slender aid.
That there was something radically wrong with the flier was evident
from its lack of buoyancy, and the further fact that though Thurid
had turned twice to the starting lever the boat still hung motionless
in the air, except for a slight drifting with a low breeze from
Now Matai Shang was close to the gunwale. A long, claw-like hand
was reaching up to grasp the metal rail.
Thurid leaned farther down toward his co-conspirator.
Suddenly a raised dagger gleamed in the upflung hand of the black.
Down it drove toward the white face of the Father of Therns. With
a loud shriek of fear the Holy Hekkador grasped frantically at that
I was almost to the trailing rope by now. The craft was still
rising slowly, the while it drifted from me. Then I stumbled on
the icy way, striking my head upon a rock as I fell sprawling but
an arm's length from the rope, the end of which was now just leaving
With the blow upon my head came unconsciousness.
It could not have been more than a few seconds that I lay senseless
there upon the northern ice, while all that was dearest to me
drifted farther from my reach in the clutches of that black fiend,
for when I opened my eyes Thurid and Matai Shang yet battled at the
ladder's top, and the flier drifted but a hundred yards farther to
the south—but the end of the trailing rope was now a good thirty
feet above the ground.
Goaded to madness by the cruel misfortune that had tripped me when
success was almost within my grasp, I tore frantically across the
intervening space, and just beneath the rope's dangling end I put
my earthly muscles to the supreme test.
With a mighty, catlike bound I sprang upward toward that slender
strand—the only avenue which yet remained that could carry me to
my vanishing love.
A foot above its lowest end my fingers closed. Tightly as I clung
I felt the rope slipping, slipping through my grasp. I tried to
raise my free hand to take a second hold above my first, but the
change of position that resulted caused me to slip more rapidly
toward the end of the rope.
Slowly I felt the tantalizing thing escaping me. In a moment all
that I had gained would be lost—then my fingers reached a knot at
the very end of the rope and slipped no more.
With a prayer of gratitude upon my lips I scrambled upward toward
the boat's deck. I could not see Thurid and Matai Shang now,
but I heard the sounds of conflict and thus knew that they still
fought—the thern for his life and the black for the increased
buoyancy that relief from the weight of even a single body would
give the craft.
Should Matai Shang die before I reached the deck my chances of ever
reaching it would be slender indeed, for the black dator need but
cut the rope above me to be freed from me forever, for the vessel
had drifted across the brink of a chasm into whose yawning depths
my body would drop to be crushed to a shapeless pulp should Thurid
reach the rope now.
At last my hand closed upon the ship's rail and that very instant
a horrid shriek rang out below me that sent my blood cold and turned
my horrified eyes downward to a shrieking, hurtling, twisting thing
that shot downward into the awful chasm beneath me.
It was Matai Shang, Holy Hekkador, Father of Therns, gone to his
Then my head came above the deck and I saw Thurid, dagger in hand,
leaping toward me. He was opposite the forward end of the cabin,
while I was attempting to clamber aboard near the vessel's stern.
But a few paces lay between us. No power on earth could raise me
to that deck before the infuriated black would be upon me.
My end had come. I knew it; but had there been a doubt in my mind
the nasty leer of triumph upon that wicked face would have convinced
me. Beyond Thurid I could see my Dejah Thoris, wide-eyed and
horrified, struggling at her bonds. That she should be forced to
witness my awful death made my bitter fate seem doubly cruel.
I ceased my efforts to climb across the gunwale. Instead I took
a firm grasp upon the rail with my left hand and drew my dagger.
I should at least die as I had lived—fighting.
As Thurid came opposite the cabin's doorway a new element projected
itself into the grim tragedy of the air that was being enacted upon
the deck of Matai Shang's disabled flier.
It was Phaidor.
With flushed face and disheveled hair, and eyes that betrayed the
recent presence of mortal tears—above which this proud goddess had
always held herself—she leaped to the deck directly before me.
In her hand was a long, slim dagger. I cast a last look upon
my beloved princess, smiling, as men should who are about to die.
Then I turned my face up toward Phaidor—waiting for the blow.
Never have I seen that beautiful face more beautiful than it was
at that moment. It seemed incredible that one so lovely could
yet harbor within her fair bosom a heart so cruel and relentless,
and today there was a new expression in her wondrous eyes that I
never before had seen there—an unfamiliar softness, and a look of
Thurid was beside her now—pushing past to reach me first, and
then what happened happened so quickly that it was all over before
I could realize the truth of it.
Phaidor's slim hand shot out to close upon the black's dagger wrist.
Her right hand went high with its gleaming blade.
"That for Matai Shang!" she cried, and she buried her blade deep
in the dator's breast. "That for the wrong you would have done
Dejah Thoris!" and again the sharp steel sank into the bloody flesh.
"And that, and that, and that!" she shrieked, "for John Carter,
Prince of Helium," and with each word her sharp point pierced the
vile heart of the great villain. Then, with a vindictive shove she
cast the carcass of the First Born from the deck to fall in awful
silence after the body of his victim.
I had been so paralyzed by surprise that I had made no move to reach
the deck during the awe-inspiring scene which I had just witnessed,
and now I was to be still further amazed by her next act, for
Phaidor extended her hand to me and assisted me to the deck, where
I stood gazing at her in unconcealed and stupefied wonderment.
A wan smile touched her lips—it was not the cruel and haughty
smile of the goddess with which I was familiar. "You wonder, John
Carter," she said, "what strange thing has wrought this change in
me? I will tell you. It is love—love of you," and when I darkened
my brows in disapproval of her words she raised an appealing hand.
"Wait," she said. "It is a different love from mine—it is the
love of your princess, Dejah Thoris, for you that has taught me
what true love may be—what it should be, and how far from real
love was my selfish and jealous passion for you.
"Now I am different. Now could I love as Dejah Thoris loves, and
so my only happiness can be to know that you and she are once more
united, for in her alone can you find true happiness.
"But I am unhappy because of the wickedness that I have wrought. I
have many sins to expiate, and though I be deathless, life is all
too short for the atonement.
"But there is another way, and if Phaidor, daughter of the Holy
Hekkador of the Holy Therns, has sinned she has this day already
made partial reparation, and lest you doubt the sincerity of her
protestations and her avowal of a new love that embraces Dejah
Thoris also, she will prove her sincerity in the only way that
lies open—having saved you for another, Phaidor leaves you to her
With her last word she turned and leaped from the vessel's deck
into the abyss below.
With a cry of horror I sprang forward in a vain attempt to save the
life that for two years I would so gladly have seen extinguished.
I was too late.
With tear-dimmed eyes I turned away that I might not see the awful
A moment later I had struck the bonds from Dejah Thoris, and as her
dear arms went about my neck and her perfect lips pressed to mine
I forgot the horrors that I had witnessed and the suffering that
I had endured in the rapture of my reward.
THE NEW RULER
The flier upon whose deck Dejah Thoris and I found ourselves after
twelve long years of separation proved entirely useless. Her
buoyancy tanks leaked badly. Her engine would not start. We were
helpless there in mid air above the arctic ice.
The craft had drifted across the chasm which held the corpses of
Matai Shang, Thurid, and Phaidor, and now hung above a low hill.
Opening the buoyancy escape valves I permitted her to come slowly
to the ground, and as she touched, Dejah Thoris and I stepped from
her deck and, hand in hand, turned back across the frozen waste
toward the city of Kadabra.
Through the tunnel that had led me in pursuit of them we passed,
walking slowly, for we had much to say to each other.
She told me of that last terrible moment months before when the
door of her prison cell within the Temple of the Sun was slowly
closing between us. Of how Phaidor had sprung upon her with
uplifted dagger, and of Thuvia's shriek as she had realized the
foul intention of the thern goddess.
It had been that cry that had rung in my ears all the long, weary
months that I had been left in cruel doubt as to my princess' fate;
for I had not known that Thuvia had wrested the blade from the
daughter of Matai Shang before it had touched either Dejah Thoris
She told me, too, of the awful eternity of her imprisonment. Of
the cruel hatred of Phaidor, and the tender love of Thuvia, and
of how even when despair was the darkest those two red girls had
clung to the same hope and belief—that John Carter would find a
way to release them.
Presently we came to the chamber of Solan. I had been proceeding
without thought of caution, for I was sure that the city and the
palace were both in the hands of my friends by this time.
And so it was that I bolted into the chamber full into the midst
of a dozen nobles of the court of Salensus Oll. They were passing
through on their way to the outside world along the corridors we
had just traversed.
At sight of us they halted in their tracks, and then an ugly smile
overspread the features of their leader.
"The author of all our misfortunes!" he cried, pointing at me. "We
shall have the satisfaction of a partial vengeance at least when we
leave behind us here the dead and mutilated corpses of the Prince
and Princess of Helium.
"When they find them," he went on, jerking his thumb upward toward
the palace above, "they will realize that the vengeance of the
yellow man costs his enemies dear. Prepare to die, John Carter,
but that your end may be the more bitter, know that I may change my
intention as to meting a merciful death to your princess—possibly
she shall be preserved as a plaything for my nobles."
I stood close to the instrument-covered wall—Dejah Thoris at my
side. She looked up at me wonderingly as the warriors advanced
upon us with drawn swords, for mine still hung within its scabbard
at my side, and there was a smile upon my lips.
The yellow nobles, too, looked in surprise, and then as I made no
move to draw they hesitated, fearing a ruse; but their leader urged
them on. When they had come almost within sword's reach of me
I raised my hand and laid it upon the polished surface of a great
lever, and then, still smiling grimly, I looked my enemies full in
As one they came to a sudden stop, casting affrighted glances at
me and at one another.
"Stop!" shrieked their leader. "You dream not what you do!"
"Right you are," I replied. "John Carter does not dream. He
knows—knows that should one of you take another step toward Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium, I pull this lever wide, and she and I
shall die together; but we shall not die alone."
The nobles shrank back, whispering together for a few moments. At
last their leader turned to me.
"Go your way, John Carter," he said, "and we shall go ours."
"Prisoners do not go their own way," I answered, "and you are
prisoners—prisoners of the Prince of Helium."
Before they could make answer a door upon the opposite side of the
apartment opened and a score of yellow men poured into the apartment.
For an instant the nobles looked relieved, and then as their eyes
fell upon the leader of the new party their faces fell, for he was
Talu, rebel Prince of Marentina, and they knew that they could look
for neither aid nor mercy at his hands.
"Well done, John Carter," he cried. "You turn their own mighty
power against them. Fortunate for Okar is it that you were here
to prevent their escape, for these be the greatest villains north
of the ice-barrier, and this one"—pointing to the leader of the
party—"would have made himself Jeddak of Jeddaks in the place
of the dead Salensus Oll. Then indeed would we have had a more
villainous ruler than the hated tyrant who fell before your sword."
The Okarian nobles now submitted to arrest, since nothing but death
faced them should they resist, and, escorted by the warriors of
Talu, we made our way to the great audience chamber that had been
Salensus Oll's. Here was a vast concourse of warriors.
Red men from Helium and Ptarth, yellow men of the north, rubbing
elbows with the blacks of the First Born who had come under my
friend Xodar to help in the search for me and my princess. There
were savage, green warriors from the dead sea bottoms of the south,
and a handful of white-skinned therns who had renounced their
religion and sworn allegiance to Xodar.
There was Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak, and tall and mighty in his
gorgeous warrior trappings, Carthoris, my son. These three fell
upon Dejah Thoris as we entered the apartment, and though the lives
and training of royal Martians tend not toward vulgar demonstration,
I thought that they would suffocate her with their embraces.
And there were Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, and Kantos Kan,
my old-time friends, and leaping and tearing at my harness in the
exuberance of his great love was dear old Woola—frantic mad with
Long and loud was the cheering that burst forth at sight of us;
deafening was the din of ringing metal as the veteran warriors of
every Martian clime clashed their blades together on high in token
of success and victory, but as I passed among the throng of saluting
nobles and warriors, jeds and jeddaks, my heart still was heavy,
for there were two faces missing that I would have given much to
have seen there—Thuvan Dihn and Thuvia of Ptarth were not to be
found in the great chamber.
I made inquiries concerning them among men of every nation, and at
last from one of the yellow prisoners of war I learned that they
had been apprehended by an officer of the palace as they sought to
reach the Pit of Plenty while I lay imprisoned there.
I did not need to ask to know what had sent them thither—the
courageous jeddak and his loyal daughter. My informer said that
they lay now in one of the many buried dungeons of the palace
where they had been placed pending a decision as to their fate by
the tyrant of the north.
A moment later searching parties were scouring the ancient pile in
search of them, and my cup of happiness was full when I saw them
being escorted into the room by a cheering guard of honor.
Thuvia's first act was to rush to the side of Dejah Thoris, and I
needed no better proof of the love these two bore for each other
than the sincerity with which they embraced.
Looking down upon that crowded chamber stood the silent and empty
throne of Okar.
Of all the strange scenes it must have witnessed since that long-dead
age that had first seen a Jeddak of Jeddaks take his seat upon
it, none might compare with that upon which it now looked down,
and as I pondered the past and future of that long-buried race of
black-bearded yellow men I thought that I saw a brighter and more
useful existence for them among the great family of friendly nations
that now stretched from the south pole almost to their very doors.
Twenty-two years before I had been cast, naked and a stranger, into
this strange and savage world. The hand of every race and nation
was raised in continual strife and warring against the men of
every other land and color. Today, by the might of my sword and the
loyalty of the friends my sword had made for me, black man and white,
red man and green rubbed shoulders in peace and good-fellowship.
All the nations of Barsoom were not yet as one, but a great
stride forward toward that goal had been taken, and now if I could
but cement the fierce yellow race into this solidarity of nations
I should feel that I had rounded out a great lifework, and repaid
to Mars at least a portion of the immense debt of gratitude I owed
her for having given me my Dejah Thoris.
And as I thought, I saw but one way, and a single man who could
insure the success of my hopes. As is ever the way with me, I acted
then as I always act—without deliberation and without consultation.
Those who do not like my plans and my ways of promoting them have
always their swords at their sides wherewith to back up their
disapproval; but now there seemed to be no dissenting voice, as,
grasping Talu by the arm, I sprang to the throne that had once been
"Warriors of Barsoom," I cried, "Kadabra has fallen, and with her
the hateful tyrant of the north; but the integrity of Okar must be
preserved. The red men are ruled by red jeddaks, the green warriors
of the ancient seas acknowledge none but a green ruler, the First
Born of the south pole take their law from black Xodar; nor would
it be to the interests of either yellow or red man were a red jeddak
to sit upon the throne of Okar.
"There be but one warrior best fitted for the ancient and mighty
title of Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North. Men of Okar, raise your
swords to your new ruler—Talu, the rebel prince of Marentina!"
And then a great cry of rejoicing rose among the free men of
Marentina and the Kadabran prisoners, for all had thought that the
red men would retain that which they had taken by force of arms,
for such had been the way upon Barsoom, and that they should be
ruled henceforth by an alien Jeddak.
The victorious warriors who had followed Carthoris joined in the
mad demonstration, and amidst the wild confusion and the tumult
and the cheering, Dejah Thoris and I passed out into the gorgeous
garden of the jeddaks that graces the inner courtyard of the palace
At our heels walked Woola, and upon a carved seat of wondrous
beauty beneath a bower of purple blooms we saw two who had preceded
us—Thuvia of Ptarth and Carthoris of Helium.
The handsome head of the handsome youth was bent low above the
beautiful face of his companion. I looked at Dejah Thoris, smiling,
and as I drew her close to me I whispered: "Why not?"
Indeed, why not? What matter ages in this world of perpetual youth?
We remained at Kadabra, the guests of Talu, until after his formal
induction into office, and then, upon the great fleet which I had
been so fortunate to preserve from destruction, we sailed south
across the ice-barrier; but not before we had witnessed the total
demolition of the grim Guardian of the North under orders of the
new Jeddak of Jeddaks.
"Henceforth," he said, as the work was completed, "the fleets
of the red men and the black are free to come and go across the
ice-barrier as over their own lands.
"The Carrion Caves shall be cleansed, that the green men may find
an easy way to the land of the yellow, and the hunting of the sacred
apt shall be the sport of my nobles until no single specimen of
that hideous creature roams the frozen north."
We bade our yellow friends farewell with real regret, as we set
sail for Ptarth. There we remained, the guest of Thuvan Dihn, for
a month; and I could see that Carthoris would have remained forever
had he not been a Prince of Helium.
Above the mighty forests of Kaol we hovered until word from Kulan
Tith brought us to his single landing-tower, where all day and half
a night the vessels disembarked their crews. At the city of Kaol
we visited, cementing the new ties that had been formed between
Kaol and Helium, and then one long-to-be-remembered day we sighted
the tall, thin towers of the twin cities of Helium.
The people had long been preparing for our coming. The sky was
gorgeous with gaily trimmed fliers. Every roof within both cities
was spread with costly silks and tapestries.
Gold and jewels were scattered over roof and street and plaza,
so that the two cities seemed ablaze with the fires of the hearts
of the magnificent stones and burnished metal that reflected the
brilliant sunlight, changing it into countless glorious hues.
At last, after twelve years, the royal family of Helium was reunited
in their own mighty city, surrounded by joy-mad millions before
the palace gates. Women and children and mighty warriors wept in
gratitude for the fate that had restored their beloved Tardos Mors
and the divine princess whom the whole nation idolized. Nor did
any of us who had been upon that expedition of indescribable danger
and glory lack for plaudits.
That night a messenger came to me as I sat with Dejah Thoris and
Carthoris upon the roof of my city palace, where we had long since
caused a lovely garden to be made that we three might find seclusion
and quiet happiness among ourselves, far from the pomp and ceremony
of court, to summon us to the Temple of Reward—"where one is to
be judged this night," the summons concluded.
I racked my brain to try and determine what important case there
might be pending which could call the royal family from their palaces
on the eve of their return to Helium after years of absence; but
when the jeddak summons no man delays.
As our flier touched the landing stage at the temple's top we saw
countless other craft arriving and departing. In the streets below
a great multitude surged toward the great gates of the temple.
Slowly there came to me the recollection of the deferred doom that
awaited me since that time I had been tried here in the Temple by
Zat Arras for the sin of returning from the Valley Dor and the Lost
Sea of Korus.
Could it be possible that the strict sense of justice which dominates
the men of Mars had caused them to overlook the great good that
had come out of my heresy? Could they ignore the fact that to me,
and me alone, was due the rescue of Carthoris, of Dejah Thoris, of
Mors Kajak, of Tardos Mors?
I could not believe it, and yet for what other purpose could I have
been summoned to the Temple of Reward immediately upon the return
of Tardos Mors to his throne?
My first surprise as I entered the temple and approached the Throne
of Righteousness was to note the men who sat there as judges. There
was Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol, whom we had but just left within
his own palace a few days since; there was Thuvan Dihn, Jeddak of
Ptarth—how came he to Helium as soon as we?
There was Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, and Xodar, Jeddak of the
First Born; there was Talu, Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North, whom
I could have sworn was still in his ice-bound hothouse city beyond
the northern barrier, and among them sat Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak,
with enough lesser jeds and jeddaks to make up the thirty-one who
must sit in judgment upon their fellow-man.
A right royal tribunal indeed, and such a one, I warrant, as never
before sat together during all the history of ancient Mars.
As I entered, silence fell upon the great concourse of people that
packed the auditorium. Then Tardos Mors arose.
"John Carter," he said in his deep, martial voice, "take your place
upon the Pedestal of Truth, for you are to be tried by a fair and
impartial tribunal of your fellow-men."
With level eye and high-held head I did as he bade, and as I glanced
about that circle of faces that a moment before I could have sworn
contained the best friends I had upon Barsoom, I saw no single
friendly glance—only stern, uncompromising judges, there to do
A clerk rose and from a great book read a long list of the more
notable deeds that I had thought to my credit, covering a long period
of twenty-two years since first I had stepped the ocher sea bottom
beside the incubator of the Tharks. With the others he read of
all that I had done within the circle of the Otz Mountains where
the Holy Therns and the First Born had held sway.
It is the way upon Barsoom to recite a man's virtues with his sins
when he is come to trial, and so I was not surprised that all that
was to my credit should be read there to my judges—who knew it
all by heart—even down to the present moment. When the reading
had ceased Tardos Mors arose.
"Most righteous judges," he exclaimed, "you have heard recited all
that is known of John Carter, Prince of Helium—the good with the
bad. What is your judgment?"
Then Tars Tarkas came slowly to his feet, unfolding all his mighty,
towering height until he loomed, a green-bronze statue, far above
us all. He turned a baleful eye upon me—he, Tars Tarkas, with whom
I had fought through countless battles; whom I loved as a brother.
I could have wept had I not been so mad with rage that I almost
whipped my sword out and had at them all upon the spot.
"Judges," he said, "there can be but one verdict. No longer may
John Carter be Prince of Helium"—he paused—"but instead let him
be Jeddak of Jeddaks, Warlord of Barsoom!"
As the thirty-one judges sprang to their feet with drawn and
upraised swords in unanimous concurrence in the verdict, the storm
broke throughout the length and breadth and height of that mighty
building until I thought the roof would fall from the thunder of
the mad shouting.
Now, at last, I saw the grim humor of the method they had adopted
to do me this great honor, but that there was any hoax in the reality
of the title they had conferred upon me was readily disproved by
the sincerity of the congratulations that were heaped upon me by
the judges first and then the nobles.
Presently fifty of the mightiest nobles of the greatest courts of
Mars marched down the broad Aisle of Hope bearing a splendid car
upon their shoulders, and as the people saw who sat within, the
cheers that had rung out for me paled into insignificance beside
those which thundered through the vast edifice now, for she whom
the nobles carried was Dejah Thoris, beloved Princess of Helium.
Straight to the Throne of Righteousness they bore her, and there
Tardos Mors assisted her from the car, leading her forward to my
"Let a world's most beautiful woman share the honor of her husband,"
Before them all I drew my wife close to me and kissed her upon the lips.