**Etexts Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since
[Information below on contacting Project Gutenberg to get
Etexts or to volunteer, make donations, subscribe to the
**The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gods of Mars by
Burroughs* ******This file should be named godsm10.txt or
Information about Project Gutenberg (one page)
We need your donations more than ever!
For these and other matters, please mail to:
Phone: 1-708-960-1500 (x3014)
When all other email fails try our Michael S. Hart, Executive
Director: email@example.com (internet) hart@uiucvmd
****** If you have an FTP program (or emulator), please FTP
directly to the Project Gutenberg archives: [Mac users, do NOT
point and click. . .type]
**Information prepared by the Project Gutenberg legal
advisor** (Three Pages)
*BEFORE!* YOU USE OR READ THIS ETEXT By using or reading any
part of this PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm etext, you indicate that you
understand, agree to and accept this "Small Print statement." If
you do not, you can receive a refund of the money (if any) you
paid for this etext by sending a request within 30 days of
receiving it to the person you got it from. If you received this
etext on a physical medium (such as a disk), you must return it
with your request.
To create these etexts, the Project expends considerable
efforts to identify, transcribe and proofread public domain
works. Despite these efforts, the Project's etexts and any medium
they may be on may contain "Defects". Among other things, Defects
may take the form of incomplete, inaccurate or corrupt data,
transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual property
infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other etext medium,
a computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read
by your equipment.
If you discover a Defect in this etext within 90 days of
receiving it, you can receive a refund of the money (if any) you
paid for it by sending an explanatory note within that time to
the person you received it from. If you received it on a physical
medium, you must return it with your note, and such person may
choose to alternatively give you a replacement copy. If you
received it electronically, such person may choose to
alternatively give you a second opportunity to receive it
Some states do not allow disclaimers of implied warranties or
the exclusion or limitation of consequential damages, so the
above disclaimers and exclusions may not apply to you, and you
may have other legal rights.
DISTRIBUTION UNDER "PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm" You may distribute
copies of this etext electronically, or by disk, book or any
other medium if you either delete this "Small Print!" and all
other references to Project Gutenberg, or:
[*] The etext, when displayed, is clearly readable, and does
*not* contain characters other than those intended by the author
of the work, although tilde (~), asterisk (*) and underline (_)
characters may be used to convey punctuation intended by the
author, and additional characters may be used to indicate
hypertext links; OR
[*] You provide, or agree to also provide on request at no
additional cost, fee or expense, a copy of the etext in its
original plain ASCII form (or in EBCDIC or other equivalent
 Pay a trademark license fee to the Project of 20% of the
net profits you derive calculated using the method you already
use to calculate your applicable taxes. If you don't derive
profits, no royalty is due. Royalties are payable to "Project
Gutenberg Association / Illinois Benedictine College" within the
60 days following each date you prepare (or were legally required
to prepare) your annual (or equivalent periodic) tax return.
This "Small Print!" by Charles B. Kramer, Attorney Internet
(firstname.lastname@example.org); TEL: (212-254-5093) *END*THE SMALL
PRINT! FOR PUBLIC DOMAIN ETEXTS*Ver.04.29.93*END*
THE GODS OF MARS was first published in ALL-STORY MAGAZINE as
a five-part serial, January through May 1913.
Often had I pondered on the odd instructions he had left me
governing the construction of his mighty tomb, and especially
those parts which directed that he be laid in an OPEN casket and
that the ponderous mechanism which controlled the bolts of the
vault's huge door be accessible ONLY FROM THE INSIDE.
Twelve years had passed since his body had been found upon the
bluff before his cottage overlooking the Hudson, and ofttimes
during these long years I had wondered if John Carter were really
dead, or if he again roamed the dead sea bottoms of that dying
planet; if he had returned to Barsoom to find that he had opened
the frowning portals of the mighty atmosphere plant in time to
save the countless millions who were dying of asphyxiation on
that far-gone day that had seen him hurtled ruthlessly through
forty-eight million miles of space back to Earth once more. I had
wondered if he had found his black-haired Princess and the
slender son he had dreamed was with her in the royal gardens of
Tardos Mors, awaiting his return.
Thus was I lost in useless speculation one sultry August
evening when old Ben, my body servant, handed me a telegram.
Tearing it open I read:
As I entered he rose to greet me, his old-time cordial smile
of welcome lighting his handsome face. Apparently he had not aged
a minute, but was still the straight, clean-limbed fighting-man
of thirty. His keen grey eyes were undimmed, and the only lines
upon his face were the lines of iron character and determination
that always had been there since first I remembered him, nearly
thirty-five years before.
'Juleps, I reckon,' I replied, 'for I certainly feel mighty
good; but maybe it's just the sight of you again that affects me.
You have been back to Mars? Tell me. And Dejah Thoris? You found
her well and awaiting you?'
'I have come now because my affection for you prompted me to
see you once more before you pass over for ever into that other
life that I shall never know, and which though I have died thrice
and shall die again to-night, as you know death, I am as unable
to fathom as are you.
He patted a swelling portfolio that lay on the table at his
'Give them what you wish of it, what you think will not harm
them, but do not feel aggrieved if they laugh at you.'
'Good-bye, nephew,' he said. 'I may never see you again, for I
doubt that I can ever bring myself to leave my wife and boy while
they live, and the span of life upon Barsoom is often more than a
But here is the story of his return to Mars on that other
occasion, as I have gleaned it from the great mass of notes which
he left for me upon the table of his room in the hotel at
E. R. B.
THE GODS OF MARS
THE PLANT MEN
Not since that other March night in 1866, when I had stood
without that Arizona cave in which my still and lifeless body lay
wrapped in the similitude of earthly death had I felt the
irresistible attraction of the god of my profession.
Suddenly a qualm of nausea swept over me, my senses swam, my
knees gave beneath me and I pitched headlong to the ground upon
the very verge of the dizzy bluff.
With scarcely a parting glance I turned my eyes again toward
Mars, lifted my hands toward his lurid rays, and waited.
The scene that met my eyes was so un-Martian that my heart
sprang to my throat as the sudden fear swept through me that I
had been aimlessly tossed upon some strange planet by a cruel
I lay upon a close-cropped sward of red grasslike vegetation,
and about me stretched a grove of strange and beautiful trees,
covered with huge and gorgeous blossoms and filled with
brilliant, voiceless birds. I call them birds since they were
winged, but mortal eye ne'er rested on such odd, unearthly
As I rose to investigate further I experienced the same
ridiculous catastrophe that had met my first attempt to walk
under Martian conditions. The lesser attraction of this smaller
planet and the reduced air pressure of its greatly rarefied
atmosphere, afforded so little resistance to my earthly muscles
that the ordinary exertion of the mere act of rising sent me
several feet into the air and precipitated me upon my face in the
soft and brilliant grass of this strange world.
I arose again, laughing at my forgetfulness, and soon had
mastered once more the art of attuning my earthly sinews to these
All these evidences of careful and systematic cultivation
convinced me that I had been fortunate enough to make my entry
into Mars on this second occasion through the domain of a
civilized people and that when I should find them I would be
accorded the courtesy and protection that my rank as a Prince of
the house of Tardos Mors entitled me to.
As far aloft as I could see the stems and branches and twigs
were as smooth and as highly polished as the newest of
American-made pianos. The wood of some of the trees was as black
as ebony, while their nearest neighbours might perhaps gleam in
the subdued light of the forest as clear and white as the finest
china, or, again, they were azure, scarlet, yellow, or deepest
As I neared the confines of the forest I beheld before me and
between the grove and the open sea, a broad expanse of meadow
land, and as I was about to emerge from the shadows of the trees
a sight met my eyes that banished all romantic and poetic
reflection upon the beauties of the strange landscape.
At a little distance up the river rose mighty perpendicular
bluffs, from the very base of which the great river seemed to
Odd, grotesque shapes they were; unlike anything that I had
ever seen upon Mars, and yet, at a distance, most manlike in
appearance. The larger specimens appeared to be about ten or
twelve feet in height when they stood erect, and to be
proportioned as to torso and lower extremities precisely as is
As I watched them from behind the stem of a huge tree, one of
the creatures moved slowly in my direction, engaged in the
occupation that seemed to be the principal business of each of
them, and which consisted in running their oddly shaped hands
over the surface of the sward, for what purpose I could not
Its hairless body was a strange and ghoulish blue, except for
a broad band of white which encircled its protruding, single eye:
an eye that was all dead white--pupil, iris, and ball.
Below this repulsive orifice the face was quite blank to the
chin, for the thing had no mouth that I could discover.
The body and the legs were as symmetrically human as Nature
could have fashioned them, and the feet, too, were human in
shape, but of monstrous proportions. From heel to toe they were
fully three feet long, and very flat and very broad.
In addition to the features which I have already described,
the beast was equipped with a massive tail about six feet in
length, quite round where it joined the body, but tapering to a
flat, thin blade toward the end, which trailed at right angles to
Whether they were the young, or merely portions of a composite
creature, I did not know.
Feeding with the herd were many of the little fellows not much
larger than those which remained attached to their parents, and
from the young of that size the herd graded up to the immense
Naked and unarmed, as I was, my end would have been both
speedy and horrible at the hands of these cruel creatures had I
had time to put my resolve into execution, but at the moment of
the shriek each member of the herd turned in the direction from
which the sound seemed to come, and at the same instant every
particular snake-like hair upon their heads rose stiffly
perpendicular as if each had been a sentient organism looking or
listening for the source or meaning of the wail. And indeed the
latter proved to be the truth, for this strange growth upon the
craniums of the plant men of Barsoom represents the thousand ears
of these hideous creatures, the last remnant of the strange race
which sprang from the original Tree of Life.
Their speed and method of locomotion were both remarkable,
springing as they did in great leaps of twenty or thirty feet,
much after the manner of a kangaroo.
Their way led directly towards the apparent source of the
river at the base of the cliffs, and as I neared this point I
found the meadow dotted with huge boulders that the ravages of
time had evidently dislodged from the towering crags above.
That I was indeed upon Mars I now had no doubt, for here were
members of the wild hordes that people the dead sea bottoms and
deserted cities of that dying planet.
Even without the glossy green hide and the metal ornaments
which denoted the tribes to which they belonged, I would have
known them on the instant for what they were, for where else in
all the universe is their like duplicated?
But now they stood back to back, facing, in wide-eyed
amazement, the very evidently hostile demonstrations of a common
Presently the leader of the plant men charged the little
party, and his method of attack was as remarkable as it was
effective, and by its very strangeness was the more potent, since
in the science of the green warriors there was no defence for
this singular manner of attack, the like of which it soon was
evident to me they were as unfamiliar with as they were with the
monstrosities which confronted them.
The balance of the frightful herd was now circling rapidly and
with bewildering speed about the little knot of victims. Their
prodigious bounds and the shrill, screeching purr of their
uncanny mouths were well calculated to confuse and terrorize
their prey, so that as two of them leaped simultaneously from
either side, the mighty sweep of those awful tails met with no
resistance and two more green Martians went down to an ignoble
But as two more of the plant men charged, the warrior, who was
now prepared by the experiences of the past few minutes, swung
his mighty long-sword aloft and met the hurtling bulk with a
clean cut that clove one of the plant men from chin to groin.
As the green warrior saw the last of his companions go down
and at the same time perceived that the entire herd was charging
him in a body, he rushed boldly to meet them, swinging his
long-sword in the terrific manner that I had so often seen the
men of his kind wield it in their ferocious and almost continual
warfare among their own race.
He had turned for that portion of the forest which abutted on
the cliffs, and thus the mad race was taking the entire party
farther and farther from the boulder where I lay concealed.
Half a dozen great leaps brought me to the spot, and another
instant saw me again in my stride in quick pursuit of the hideous
monsters that were rapidly gaining on the fleeing warrior, but
this time I grasped a mighty long-sword in my hand and in my
heart was the old blood lust of the fighting man, and a red mist
swam before my eyes and I felt my lips respond to my heart in the
old smile that has ever marked me in the midst of the joy of
With their single eyes in the centre of their heads and every
eye turned upon their prey, they did not note my soundless
approach, so that I was upon them with my great long-sword and
four of them lay dead ere they knew that I was among them.
As we bent to the slaughter, far above us rose that shrill,
weird cry which I had heard once before, and which had called the
herd to the attack upon their victims. Again and again it rose,
but we were too much engaged with the fierce and powerful
creatures about us to attempt to search out even with our eyes
the author of the horrid notes.
Once I felt the great weight of one of the monsters upon my
back and as keen talons sank into my flesh I experienced the
frightful sensation of moist lips sucking the lifeblood from the
wounds to which the claws still clung.
The green warrior was much put to it to hold his own, and I
felt that the unequal struggle could last but a moment longer
when the huge fellow discovered my plight, and tearing himself
from those that surrounded him, he raked the assailant from my
back with a single sweep of his blade, and thus relieved I had
little difficulty with the others.
This time I glanced up, and far above us upon a little natural
balcony on the face of the cliff stood a strange figure of a man
shrieking out his shrill signal, the while he waved one hand in
the direction of the river's mouth as though beckoning to some
one there, and with the other pointed and gesticulated toward
"It will be a great death," I said to my companion.
"We may at least die fighting and as great warriors should,
John Carter," he replied.
And there before my astonished eyes I beheld the greatest of
the green men of Barsoom; their shrewdest statesman, their
mightiest general, my great and good friend, Tars Tarkas, Jeddak
Tars Tarkas and I found no time for an exchange of experiences
as we stood there before the great boulder surrounded by the
corpses of our grotesque assailants, for from all directions down
the broad valley was streaming a perfect torrent of terrifying
creatures in response to the weird call of the strange figure far
Together we raced across the scarlet sward, I timing my speed
that I might not outdistance my slower companion. We had,
perhaps, three hundred yards to cover between our boulder and the
cliffs, and then to search out a suitable shelter for our stand
against the terrifying things that were pursuing us.
The cliffs rose perpendicular directly from the almost level
sward of the valley. There was no accumulation of fallen debris,
forming a more or less rough ascent to them, as is the case with
nearly all other cliffs I have ever seen. The scattered boulders
that had fallen from above and lay upon or partly buried in the
turf, were the only indication that any disintegration of the
massive, towering pile of rocks ever had taken place.
To my right the bottom of the cliff was lost in the dense
foliage of the forest, which terminated at its very foot, rearing
its gorgeous foliage fully a thousand feet against its stern and
Perhaps a thousand feet from me the river broke, as it seemed,
directly from the base of the cliffs, and as there seemed not the
remotest chance for escape in that direction I turned my
attention again toward the forest.
Altogether they were very beautiful, but I fear that I did not
regard them with a particularly appreciative eye on this, my
first inspection of them.
Tars Tarkas was approaching me rapidly, and still more rapidly
came the awful horde at his heels.
The face of the entire cliff was, as later inspection
conclusively proved, so shot with veins and patches of solid gold
as to quite present the appearance of a solid wall of that
precious metal except where it was broken by outcroppings of
ruby, emerald, and diamond boulders--a faint and alluring
indication of the vast and unguessable riches which lay deeply
buried behind the magnificent surface.
Almost immediately I recognised them for what they were, the
dark openings of caves entering the solid walls--possible avenues
of escape or temporary shelter, could we but reach them.
However, there was nothing else to consider than an attempt to
scale the trees contiguous to the cliff in an effort to reach the
Our relentless pursuers were now close to us, so close that it
seemed that it would be an utter impossibility for the Jeddak of
Thark to reach the forest in advance of them, nor was there any
considerable will in the efforts that Tars Tarkas made, for the
green men of Barsoom do not relish flight, nor ever before had I
seen one fleeing from death in whatsoever form it might have
confronted him. But that Tars Tarkas was the bravest of the brave
he had proven thousands of times; yes, tens of thousands in
countless mortal combats with men and beasts. And so I knew that
there was another reason than fear of death behind his flight, as
he knew that a greater power than pride or honour spurred me to
escape these fierce destroyers. In my case it was love--love of
the divine Dejah Thoris; and the cause of the Thark's great and
sudden love of life I could not fathom, for it is oftener that
they seek death than life--these strange, cruel, loveless,
He was, I should say, a hundred yards in advance of his
closest companion, and so I called to Tars Tarkas to ascend a
great tree that brushed the cliff's face while I dispatched the
fellow, thus giving the less agile Thark an opportunity to reach
the higher branches before the entire horde should be upon us and
every vestige of escape cut off.
As I raised my long-sword to deal the creature its death
thrust it halted in its charge and, as my sword cut harmlessly
through the empty air, the great tail of the thing swept with the
power of a grizzly's arm across the sward and carried me bodily
from my feet to the ground. In an instant the brute was upon me,
but ere it could fasten its hideous mouths into my breast and
throat I grasped a writhing tentacle in either hand.
Now, at last, I saw the nature of the other monsters who had
come with the plant men in response to the weird calling of the
man upon the cliff's face. They were that most dreaded of Martian
creatures--great white apes of Barsoom.
I think that the cause of this feeling which these apes
engender within me is due to their remarkable resemblance in form
to our Earth men, which gives them a human appearance that is
most uncanny when coupled with their enormous size.
It was into the eyes of such as these and the terrible plant
men that I gazed above the shoulder of my foe, and then, in a
mighty wave of snarling, snapping, screaming, purring rage, they
swept over me--and of all the sounds that assailed my ears as I
went down beneath them, to me the most hideous was the horrid
purring of the plant men.
What it has taken minutes to write occurred in but a few
seconds, but during that time Tars Tarkas had seen my plight and
had dropped from the lower branches, which he had reached with
such infinite labour, and as I flung the last of my immediate
antagonists from me the great Thark leaped to my side, and again
we fought, back to back, as we had done a hundred times
But even the two best swords in a world of fighters can avail
not for ever against overwhelming numbers of fierce and savage
brutes that know not what defeat means until cold steel teaches
their hearts no longer to beat, and so, step by step, we were
forced back. At length we stood against the giant tree that we
had chosen for our ascent, and then, as charge after charge
hurled its weight upon us, we gave back again and again, until we
had been forced half-way around the huge base of the colossal
"Here is shelter for one at least, John Carter," he said, and,
glancing down, I saw an opening in the base of the tree about
three feet in diameter.
"We shall both die if we remain without, John Carter; here is
a slight chance for one of us. Take it and you may live to avenge
me, it is useless for me to attempt to worm my way into so small
an opening with this horde of demons besetting us on all
We still were fighting furiously as we talked in broken
sentences, punctured with vicious cuts and thrusts at our
"It was ever your way, John Carter, to think last of your own
life," he said; "but still more your way to command the lives and
actions of others, even to the greatest of Jeddaks who rule upon
"If you fail, John Carter," he said, "know that the cruel and
heartless Thark, to whom you taught the meaning of friendship,
will come out to die beside you."
He hesitated a little at that word, for never before in his
whole life of continual strife had he turned his back upon aught
than a dead or defeated enemy.
As he dropped to the ground to force his way into the tree,
the whole howling pack of hideous devils hurled themselves upon
me. To right and left flew my shimmering blade, now green with
the sticky juice of a plant man, now red with the crimson blood
of a great white ape; but always flying from one opponent to
another, hesitating but the barest fraction of a second to drink
the lifeblood in the centre of some savage heart.
With the fear that we would escape them, the creatures
redoubled their efforts to pull me down, and though the ground
about me was piled high with their dead and dying comrades, they
succeeded at last in overwhelming me, and I went down beneath
them for the second time that day, and once again felt those
awful sucking lips against my flesh.
Torn and bleeding from many cruel wounds, I lay panting upon
the ground within the hollow of the tree, while Tars Tarkas
defended the opening from the furious mob without.
At length, all but a score, who had apparently been left to
prevent our escape, had left us, and our adventure seemed
destined to result in a siege, the only outcome of which could be
our death by starvation; for even should we be able to slip out
after dark, whither in this unknown and hostile valley could we
hope to turn our steps toward possible escape?
The tree was hollow to an extent of about fifty feet in
diameter, and from its flat, hard floor I judged that it had
often been used to domicile others before our occupancy. As I
raised my eyes toward its roof to note the height I saw far above
me a faint glow of light.
Quickly I mounted it, only to find that it connected at the
top with the lower of a series of horizontal wooden bars that
spanned the now narrow and shaft-like interior of the tree's
stem. These bars were set one above another about three feet
apart, and formed a perfect ladder as far above me as I could
As I hastened above to explore the strange shaft I found that
the ladder of horizontal bars mounted always as far above me as
my eyes could reach, and as I ascended, the light from above grew
brighter and brighter.
I did not venture out upon the limb for fear that I might be
discovered and our retreat in this direction cut off; but instead
hurried to retrace my steps to Tars Tarkas.
Tars Tarkas went in advance and as I reached the first of the
horizontal bars I drew the ladder up after me and, handing it to
him, he carried it a hundred feet further aloft, where he wedged
it safely between one of the bars and the side of the shaft. In
like manner I dislodged the lower bars as I passed them, so that
we soon had the interior of the tree denuded of all possible
means of ascent for a distance of a hundred feet from the base;
thus precluding possible pursuit and attack from the rear.
When we reached the opening at the top Tars Tarkas drew to one
side that I might pass out and investigate, as, owing to my
lesser weight and greater agility, I was better fitted for the
perilous threading of this dizzy, hanging pathway.
As I approached the slightly more slender extremity of the
branch it bent beneath my weight until, as I balanced perilously
upon its outer tip, it swayed gently on a level with the ledge at
a distance of a couple of feet.
The cave that I faced was not one of those that I had seen
from the ground, and which lay much higher, possibly a thousand
feet. But so far as I might know it was as good for our purpose
as another, and so I returned to the tree for Tars Tarkas.
We finally agreed that Tars Tarkas should return along the
branch, leaving his longest leather harness strap with me, and
that when the limb had risen to a height that would permit me to
enter the cave I was to do so, and on Tars Tarkas' return I could
then lower the strap and haul him up to the safety of the
As far as the eye could reach gorgeous forest and crimson
sward skirted a silent sea, and about all towered the brilliant
monster guardian cliffs. Once we thought we discerned a gilded
minaret gleaming in the sun amidst the waving tops of far-distant
trees, but we soon abandoned the idea in the belief that it was
but an hallucination born of our great desire to discover the
haunts of civilized men in this beautiful, yet forbidding,
Knowing that attack from the tree was now improbable, we
determined to explore the cave, which we had every reason to
believe was but a continuation of the path we had already
traversed, leading the gods alone knew where, but quite evidently
away from this valley of grim ferocity.
How far we traversed the tunnel in this manner I do not know,
but presently we came to an obstruction which blocked our further
progress. It seemed more like a partition than a sudden ending of
the cave, for it was constructed not of the material of the
cliff, but of something which felt like very hard wood.
Gently pressing it, I had the satisfaction of feeling the door
slowly give before me, and in another instant we were looking
into a dimly lighted apartment, which, so far as we could see,
Instantly I sprang toward it to wrench it open again, for
something in the uncanny movement of the thing and the tense and
almost palpable silence of the chamber seemed to portend a
lurking evil lying hidden in this rock-bound chamber within the
bowels of the Golden Cliffs.
And then, from unseen lips, a cruel and mocking peal of
laughter rang through the desolate place.
For moments after that awful laugh had ceased reverberating
through the rocky room, Tars Tarkas and I stood in tense and
expectant silence. But no further sound broke the stillness, nor
within the range of our vision did aught move.
Often and again have I seen them roll upon the ground in mad
fits of uncontrollable mirth when witnessing the death agonies of
women and little children beneath the torture of that hellish
green Martian fete--the Great Games.
"What do you make of it all?" I asked. "Where in the deuce are
"Where are we?" he repeated. "Do you tell me, John Carter,
that you know not where you be?"
"No, Tars Tarkas, I know not where we be."
"Why you had gone none could guess, for your princess still
"She lives, John Carter."
"We are where I expected to find you, John Carter--and
another. Many years ago you heard the story of the woman who
taught me the thing that green Martians are reared to hate, the
woman who taught me to love. You know the cruel tortures and the
awful death her love won for her at the hands of the beast, Tal
"You know that it was left for a man from another world, for
yourself, John Carter, to teach this cruel Thark what friendship
is; and you, I thought, also roamed the care-free Valley Dor.
"And that was the River Iss, emptying into the Lost Sea of
Korus in the Valley Dor?" I asked.
His tone was cold and ironical; its bitterness but reflecting
the terrible disappointment he had suffered. Such a fearful
disillusionment, such a blasting of life-long hopes and
aspirations, such an uprooting of age-old tradition might have
excused a vastly greater demonstration on the part of the
"I am sorry," I said, nor did there seem aught else to
"There is an ancient legend that once a red man returned from
the banks of the Lost Sea of Korus, returned from the Valley Dor,
back through the mysterious River Iss, and the legend has it that
he narrated a fearful blasphemy of horrid brutes that inhabited a
valley of wondrous loveliness, brutes that pounced upon each
Barsoomian as he terminated his pilgrimage and devoured him upon
the banks of the Lost Sea where he had looked to find love and
peace and happiness; but the ancients killed the blasphemer, as
tradition has ordained that any shall be killed who return from
the bosom of the River of Mystery.
"As Earth men say, we are between the devil and the deep sea,
Tars Tarkas," I replied, nor could I help but smile at our
I could not help but laugh at him grim humour, and he joined
in with me in one of those rare laughs of real enjoyment which
was one of the attributes of this fierce Tharkian chief which
marked him from the others of his kind.
"I have been back to Earth," I replied. "For ten long Earth
years I have been praying and hoping for the day that would carry
me once more to this grim old planet of yours, for which, with
all its cruel and terrible customs, I feel a bond of sympathy and
love even greater than for the world that gave me birth.
"Only a bare half-hour before I saw you battling with the
plant men I was standing in the moonlight upon the banks of a
broad river that taps the eastern shore of Earth's most blessed
land. I have answered you, my friend. Do you believe?"
As we talked I had been searching the interior of the chamber
with my eyes. It was, perhaps, two hundred feet in length and
half as broad, with what appeared to be a doorway in the centre
of the wall directly opposite that through which we had
As I extended my hand to search for the controlling button,
that cruel and mocking laugh rang out once more, so close to me
this time that I involuntarily shrank back, tightening my grip
upon the hilt of my great sword.
Though our eyes instantly turned toward the spot from which
the voice seemed to emanate, there was no one in sight, and I
must admit that cold shivers played along my spine and the short
hairs at the base of my head stiffened and rose up, as do those
upon a hound's neck when in the night his eyes see those uncanny
things which are hidden from the sight of man.
"Fools! Fools!" it shrieked. "Thinkest thou to defeat the
eternal laws of life and death? Wouldst cheat the mysterious
Issus, Goddess of Death, of her just dues? Did not her mighty
messenger, the ancient Iss, bear you upon her leaden bosom at
your own behest to the Valley Dor?
"Go back the way thou camest, to the merciful maws of the
children of the Tree of Life or the gleaming fangs of the great
white apes, for there lies speedy surcease from suffering; but
insist in your rash purpose to thread the mazes of the Golden
Cliffs of the Mountains of Otz, past the ramparts of the
impregnable fortresses of the Holy Therns, and upon your way
Death in its most frightful form will overtake you --a death so
horrible that even the Holy Therns themselves, who conceived both
Life and Death, avert their eyes from its fiendishness and close
their ears against the hideous shrieks of its victims.
And then the awful laugh broke out from another part of the
"What shall we do?" he asked. "We cannot fight empty air; I
would almost sooner return and face foes into whose flesh I may
feel my blade bite and know that I am selling my carcass dearly
before I go down to that eternal oblivion which is evidently the
fairest and most desirable eternity that mortal man has the right
to hope for."
"But unseen voices may emanate from unseen and unseeable
creatures who wield invisible blades," answered the green
I had spoken in a loud voice that there might be no question
that our would-be terrorizers should hear me, for I was tiring of
this nerve-racking fiasco. It had occurred to me, too, that the
whole business was but a plan to frighten us back into the valley
of death from which we had escaped, that we might be quickly
disposed of by the savage creatures there.
The banth is a fierce beast of prey that roams the low hills
surrounding the dead seas of ancient Mars. Like nearly all
Martian animals it is almost hairless, having only a great
bristly mane about its thick neck.
As it crept toward me it lashed its powerful tail against its
yellow sides, and when it saw that it was discovered it emitted
the terrifying roar which often freezes its prey into momentary
paralysis in the instant that it makes its spring.
An instant later I drew my blade from the still heart of this
great Barsoomian lion, and turning toward Tars Tarkas was
surprised to see him facing a similar monster.
From then on for the better part of an hour one hideous
creature after another was launched upon us, springing apparently
from the empty air about us.
That there was nothing supernatural about our new foes was
well evidenced by their howls of rage and pain as they felt the
sharp steel at their vitals, and the very real blood which flowed
from their severed arteries as they died the real death.
Among the ornaments of Tars Tarkas' leather harness, which is
the only manner of clothing worn by Martians other than silk
capes and robes of silk and fur for protection from the cold
after dark, was a small mirror, about the bigness of a lady's
hand glass, which hung midway between his shoulders and his waist
against his broad back.
"Move not, Tars Tarkas! Move not a muscle!"
What I saw was the quick movement of a section of the wall
behind me. It was turning upon pivots, and with it a section of
the floor directly in front of it was turning. It was as though
you placed a visiting-card upon end on a silver dollar that you
had laid flat upon a table, so that the edge of the card
perfectly bisected the surface of the coin.
As the turn was half completed a great beast was revealed
sitting upon its haunches upon that part of the revolving floor
that had been on the opposite side before the wall commenced to
move; when the section stopped, the beast was facing toward me on
our side of the partition--it was very simple.
The prisoners behind him were red Martians. Chained with them
were a number of fierce beasts, such as had been turned upon us,
and others equally as ferocious.
"Watch the wall at your end of the chamber, Tars Tarkas," I
cautioned, "it is through secret doorways in the wall that the
brutes are loosed upon us." I was very close to him and spoke in
a low whisper that my knowledge of their secret might not be
disclosed to our tormentors.
At length a plan of action occurred to me, and backing quite
close to Tars Tarkas I unfolded my scheme in a low whisper,
keeping my eyes still glued upon my end of the room.
When we had reached a point some ten feet from the secret
doorway I halted my companion, and cautioning him to remain
absolutely motionless until I gave the prearranged signal I
quickly turned my back to the door through which I could almost
feel the burning and baleful eyes of our would be
I had not long to wait, for presently the golden surface
commenced to move rapidly. Scarcely had it started than I gave
the signal to Tars Tarkas, simultaneously springing for the
receding half of the pivoting door. In like manner the Thark
wheeled and leaped for the opening being made by the inswinging
At his side hung a long-sword, a short-sword, a dagger, and
one of the destructive radium revolvers that are common upon
Instantly he drew his long-sword, and thus evenly armed we set
to in earnest for one of the closest battles I ever have
But it did not take me long to fall easily into my fighting
stride, so that in a few minutes the man began to realize that he
had at last met his match.
"Who are you, white man?" he hissed. "That you are no
Barsoomian from the outer world is evident from your colour. And
you are not of us."
"What if I were from the Temple of Issus?" I hazarded on a
I did not know how to follow up my lead, but I carefully laid
the idea away for future use should circumstances require it. His
answer indicated that for all he KNEW I might be from the Temple
of Issus and in it were men like unto myself, and either this man
feared the inmates of the temple or else he held their persons or
their power in such reverence that he trembled to think of the
harm and indignities he had heaped upon one of them.
The chained prisoners had been watching the combat in tense
silence; not a sound had fallen in the room other than the
clashing of our contending blades, the soft shuffling of our
naked feet and the few whispered words we had hissed at each
other through clenched teeth the while we continued our mortal
"Turn! Turn! Behind you!" she shrieked, and as I wheeled at
the first note of her shrill cry I found myself facing a second
man of the same race as he who lay at my feet.
How I wished that he were by my side now! I had fought almost
continuously for many hours; I had passed through such
experiences and adventures as must sap the vitality of man, and
with all this I had not eaten for nearly twenty-four hours, nor
But the fellow was evidently of another mind, for he backed
and parried and parried and sidestepped until I was almost
completely fagged from the exertion of attempting to finish
I could feel myself growing weaker and weaker, until at length
objects commenced to blur before my eyes and I staggered and
blundered about more asleep than awake, and then it was that he
worked his pretty little coup that came near to losing me my
My head struck the hard pavement with a resounding whack, and
to that alone I owe my life, for it cleared my brain and the pain
roused my temper, so that I was equal for the moment to tearing
my enemy to pieces with my bare hands, and I verily believe that
I should have attempted it had not my right hand, in the act of
raising my body from the ground, come in contact with a bit of
The fellow whose ruse had put me down was springing toward me,
the point of his gleaming blade directed straight at my heart,
and as he came there rang from his lips the cruel and mocking
peal of laughter that I had heard within the Chamber of
His body, borne by the impetus of his headlong rush, plunged
upon me. The hilt of his sword must have struck my head, for with
the impact of the corpse I lost consciousness.
It was the sound of conflict that aroused me once more to the
realities of life. For a moment I could neither place my
surroundings nor locate the sounds which had aroused me. And then
from beyond the blank wall beside which I lay I heard the
shuffling of feet, the snarling of grim beasts, the clank of
metal accoutrements, and the heavy breathing of a man.
The latter emotion seemed plainly evident upon the handsome
and intelligent face of the young red Martian woman whose cry of
warning had been instrumental in saving my life.
It was several seconds before the sounds upon the opposite
side of the partition jolted my slowly returning faculties into a
realization of their probable import, and then of a sudden I
grasped the fact that they were caused by Tars Tarkas in what was
evidently a desperate struggle with wild beasts or savage
"Save thy sword, O Mighty Warrior, for thou shalt need it more
where it will avail to some purpose--shatter it not against
senseless metal which yields better to the lightest finger touch
of one who knows its secret."
"Yes; release me and I will give you entrance to the other
horror chamber, if you wish. The keys to my fetters are upon the
first dead of thy foemen. But why would you return to face again
the fierce banth, or whatever other form of destruction they have
loosed within that awful trap?"
There were many keys upon the oval ring, but the fair Martian
maid quickly selected that which sprung the great lock at her
waist, and freed she hurried toward the secret panel.
The great Thark stood with his back against an angle of the
walls, while facing him in a semi-circle a half-dozen huge
monsters crouched waiting for an opening. Their bloodstreaked
heads and shoulders testified to the cause of their wariness as
well as to the swordsmanship of the green warrior whose glossy
hide bore the same mute but eloquent witness to the ferocity of
the attacks that he had so far withstood.
As he saw me enter, a grim smile touched those grim lips of
his, but whether the smile signified relief or merely amusement
at the sight of my own bloody and dishevelled condition I do not
"Wait," she whispered, "leave them to me," and pushing me
advanced, all defenceless and unarmed, upon the snarling
Again she spoke to them, but in tones so low I could not catch
the words, and then she started toward the opposite side of the
chamber with the six mighty monsters trailing at heel. One by one
she sent them through the secret panel into the room beyond, and
when the last had passed from the chamber where we stood in
wide-eyed amazement she turned and smiled at us and then herself
passed through, leaving us alone.
"I heard the fighting beyond the partition through which you
passed, but I did not fear for you, John Carter, until I heard
the report of a revolver shot. I knew that there lived no man
upon all Barsoom who could face you with naked steel and live,
but the shot stripped the last vestige of hope from me, since you
I knew to be without firearms. Tell me of it."
To our disappointment the panel eluded our every effort to
negotiate its secret lock. We felt that once beyond it we might
look with some little hope of success for a passage to the
Again and again we turned from one door to another, from the
baffling golden panel at one end of the chamber to its mate at
the other--equally baffling.
"Who are you?" she asked, "and what your mission, that you
have the temerity to attempt to escape from the Valley Dor and
the death you have chosen?"
"I am of another world. I am John Carter, Prince of the House
of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium. Perchance some faint rumour of
me may have leaked within the confines of your hellish
"Yes," she replied, "naught that passes in the world we have
left is unknown here. I have heard of you, many years ago. The
therns have ofttimes wondered whither you had flown, since you
had neither taken the pilgrimage, nor could be found upon the
face of Barsoom."
"Slave I am," she answered. "For fifteen years a slave in this
terrible place, and now that they have tired of me and become
fearful of the power which my knowledge of their ways has given
me I am but recently condemned to die the death."
"What death?" I asked.
"Was it then Holy Therns who felt the weight of John Carter's
hand?" I asked.
"Labyrinthine passages connect these caves with the luxurious
palaces of the Holy Therns, and through them pass upon their many
duties the lesser therns, and hordes of slaves, and prisoners,
and fierce beasts; the grim inhabitants of this sunless
"They are kept to do the bidding of the race of therns; to
furnish at once their sport and their sustenance.
"All who reach the Valley Dor are, by custom, the rightful
prey of the plant men and the apes, while their arms and
ornaments become the portion of the therns; but if one escapes
the terrible denizens of the valley for even a few hours the
therns may claim such a one as their own. And again the Holy
Thern on watch, should he see a victim he covets, often tramples
upon the rights of the unreasoning brutes of the valley and takes
his prize by foul means if he cannot gain it by fair.
"The Temple of Issus is to the therns what the Valley Dor is
imagined by the peoples of the outer world to be to them; it is
the ultimate haven of peace, refuge, and happiness to which they
pass after this life and wherein an eternity of eternities is
spent amidst the delights of the flesh which appeal most strongly
to this race of mental giants and moral pygmies."
"Who knows?" the girl murmured.
"The therns are mortal," she replied. "They die from the same
causes as you or I might: those who do not live their allotted
span of life, one thousand years, when by the authority of custom
they may take their way in happiness through the long tunnel that
leads to Issus.
"And should a plant man die?" I asked.
"We sent several Holy Therns to the silians to-day, then,"
said Tars Tarkas, laughing.
"One has escaped, centuries ago," I reminded her, "and what
has been done may be done again."
"But try we shall," I cried, and you shall go with us, if you
Tars Tarkas listened in silence, but I could feel his eyes
riveted upon me and I knew that he awaited my answer as one might
listen to the reading of his sentence by the foreman of a
"We have the right to escape if we can," I answered. "Our own
moral senses will not be offended if we succeed, for we know that
the fabled life of love and peace in the blessed Valley of Dor is
a rank and wicked deception. We know that the valley is not
sacred; we know that the Holy Therns are not holy; that they are
a race of cruel and heartless mortals, knowing no more of the
real life to come than we do.
"Only thus may we carry the truth to those without, and though
the likelihood of our narrative being given credence is, I grant
you, remote, so wedded are mortals to their stupid infatuation
for impossible superstitions, we should be craven cowards indeed
were we to shirk the plain duty which confronts us.
Both the girl and the green warrior stood silent in thought
for some moments. The former it was who eventually broke the
I turned an inquiring glance toward the Thark.
"Come, then," I cried, "we must make the start, for we could
not be further from escape than we now are in the heart of this
mountain and within the four walls of this chamber of death."
So saying she swung the secret panel that separated us from
the apartment in which I had found her, and we stepped through
once more into the presence of the other prisoners.
Thuvia, the girl whom I had first freed, soon had the others
at liberty. Tars Tarkas and I stripped the bodies of the two
therns of their weapons, which included swords, daggers, and two
revolvers of the curious and deadly type manufactured by the red
With the latter as our guide we set off rapidly but cautiously
through a maze of passages, crossing great chambers hewn from the
solid metal of the cliff, following winding corridors, ascending
steep inclines, and now and again concealing ourselves in dark
recesses at the sound of approaching footsteps.
"And even then, O Prince," she cried, "the arm of the Holy
Thern is long. It reaches to every nation of Barsoom. His secret
temples are hidden in the heart of every community. Wherever we
go should we escape we shall find that word of our coming has
preceded us, and death awaits us before we may pollute the air
with our blasphemies."
He wore in addition to his leathern trappings and jewelled
ornaments a great circlet of gold about his brow in the exact
centre of which was set an immense stone, the exact counterpart
of that which I had seen upon the breast of the little old man at
the atmosphere plant nearly twenty years before.
The stone worn by the thern who confronted us was of about the
same size as that which I had seen before; an inch in diameter I
should say. It scintillated nine different and distinct rays; the
seven primary colours of our earthly prism and the two rays which
are unknown upon Earth, but whose wondrous beauty is
"Stop!" he cried. "What means this, Thuvia?"
"Beast!" she hissed. "After all these years I am at last
"O Prince," she cried, "Fate is indeed kind to us. The way is
still difficult, but through this vile thing upon the floor we
may yet win to the outer world. Notest thou not the remarkable
resemblance between this Holy Thern and thyself?"
"What of the resemblance?" I asked the girl Thuvia. "Do you
wish me with my black, short hair to pose as a yellowhaired
priest of this infernal cult?"
Rising, she advanced to my side and placing the yellow wig
over my black hair, crowned me with the golden circlet set with
the magnificent gem.
As I stooped to the dead man to do her bidding I noted that
not a hair grew upon his head, which was quite as bald as an
In another moment I stood garbed in the habiliments of a Holy
Here the keys which Thuvia bore from the dead thern of the
prison vault were the means of giving us immediate entrance to
the chamber, and very quickly we were thoroughly outfitted with
arms and ammunition.
In an instant I was asleep.
How long I slept upon the floor of the storeroom I do not
know, but it must have been many hours.
In an instant I was upon my feet. A dozen lesser therns
confronted us from a large doorway at the opposite end of the
storeroom from which we had entered. About me lay the bodies of
my companions, with the exception of Thuvia and Tars Tarkas, who,
like myself, had been asleep upon the floor and thus escaped the
first raking fire.
Instantly I rose to the occasion.
"Have mercy, O Master of the Tenth Cycle!" cried one of the
fellows, while the others edged toward the doorway as though to
attempt a surreptitious escape from the presence of the mighty
"What do you here, fellows?" I cried.
"Here, then, is one of them," spoke Thuvia, indicating the
Thark, "and if you will look upon this dead man by the door
perhaps you will recognize the other. It was left for Sator Throg
and his poor slaves to accomplish what the lesser therns of the
guard were unable to do--we have killed one and captured the
other; for this had Sator Throg given us our liberty. And now in
your stupidity have you come and killed all but myself, and like
to have killed the mighty Sator Throg himself."
"Had they not better throw these bodies to the plant men and
then return to their quarters, O Mighty One?" asked Thuvia of
As the men picked up the bodies I noticed that the one who
stooped to gather up the late Sator Throg started as his closer
scrutiny fell upon the upturned face, and then the fellow stole a
furtive, sneaking glance in my direction from the corner of his
Again, as he bore the body from the room, he shot a quick but
searching glance toward me, and then his eyes fell once more upon
the bald and shiny dome of the dead man in his arms. The last
fleeting glimpse that I obtained of his profile as he passed from
my sight without the chamber revealed a cunning smile of triumph
upon his lips.
So soon as the last of the gruesome procession had disappeared
the girl urged us to take up our flight once more.
"It bodes no good for us, O Prince," she said. "For even
though this fellow dared not chance accusing you in error, there
be those above with power sufficient to demand a closer scrutiny,
and that, Prince would indeed prove fatal."
I was discouraged. Never had a feeling of such utter
hopelessness come over me in the face of danger. Then the long
flowing, yellow locks of the Holy Thern, caught by some vagrant
draught, blew about my face.
"What will the fellow do first, Thuvia?" I asked. "How long
will it be before they may return for us?"
"Then if the Father of Therns puts credence in his story,
another hour will see the galleries and chambers, the courts and
gardens, filled with searchers."
"Straight to the top of the cliffs, Prince," she replied, "and
then through the gardens to the inner courts. From there our way
will lie within the temples of the therns and across them to the
outer court. Then the ramparts--O Prince, it is hopeless. Ten
thousand warriors could not hew a way to liberty from out this
"Within the temples that lie behind the ramparts a million
fighting-men are ever ready. The courts and gardens are filled
with slaves, with women and with children.
"If there is no other way, Thuvia, why dwell upon the
difficulties of this. We must face them."
"There would be a little better chance by night, but even then
the ramparts are well guarded; possibly better than by day. There
are fewer abroad in the courts and gardens, though," said
"It was midnight when you released me from my chains," said
Thuvia. "Two hours later we reached the storeroom. There you
slept for fourteen hours. It must now be nearly sundown again.
Come, we will go to some nearby window in the cliff and make
At our right the sun was setting, a huge red orb, below the
western range of Otz. A little below us stood the Holy Thern on
watch upon his balcony. His scarlet robe of office was pulled
tightly about him in anticipation of the cold that comes so
suddenly with darkness as the sun sets. So rare is the atmosphere
of Mars that it absorbs very little heat from the sun. During the
daylight hours it is always extremely hot; at night it is
intensely cold. Nor does the thin atmosphere refract the sun's
rays or diffuse its light as upon Earth. There is no twilight on
Mars. When the great orb of day disappears beneath the horizon
the effect is precisely as that of the extinguishing of a single
lamp within a chamber. From brilliant light you are plunged
without warning into utter darkness. Then the moons come; the
mysterious, magic moons of Mars, hurtling like monster meteors
low across the face of the planet.
As we watched, our eyes wandered to the rolling Iss, which
issued from the base of the cliffs beneath us. Presently there
emerged from the mountain a canoe laden with lost souls from the
outer world. There were a dozen of them. All were of the highly
civilized and cultured race of red men who are dominant on
For an instant the brutes stood with stiffly erected ears,
then they poured from the grove toward the river's bank, covering
the distance with great, ungainly leaps.
I turned away in disgust.
As I turned my eyes in the direction the girl indicated, I saw
a dozen of the great white monsters running across the valley
toward the river bank. Then the sun went down and darkness that
could almost be felt engulfed us.
Twice great banths, wandering loose through the galleries,
blocked our progress, but in each instance Thuvia spoke a low
word of command and the snarling beasts slunk sullenly away.
She laughed, and then shuddered.
"Instead of tearing me to pieces, as Sator Throg had desired,
they fawned at my feet. So greatly were Sator Throg and his
friends amused by the sight that they kept me to train and handle
the terrible creatures. I know them all by name. There are many
of them wandering through these lower regions. They are the
scavengers. Many prisoners die here in their chains. The banths
solve the problem of sanitation, at least in this respect.
An idea occurred to me, suggested by what Thuvia had just
She commenced calling in a low singsong voice that was half
purr. She continued this as we wound our tedious way through the
maze of subterranean passages and chambers.
Low growls and angry snarls assailed our ears on every side as
we hastened on and one by one the ferocious creatures answered
the call of their mistress.
Soon we were entirely surrounded by some fifty of the brutes.
Two walked close on either side of Thuvia, as guards might walk.
The sleek sides of others now and then touched my own naked
limbs. It was a strange experience; the almost noiseless passage
of naked human feet and padded paws; the golden walls splashed
with precious stones; the dim light cast by the tiny radium bulbs
set at considerable distances along the roof; the huge, maned
beasts of prey crowding with low growls about us; the mighty
green warrior towering high above us all; myself crowned with the
priceless diadem of a Holy Thern; and leading the procession the
beautiful girl, Thuvia.
Presently we approached a great chamber more brightly lighted
than the corridors. Thuvia halted us. Quietly she stole toward
the entrance and glanced within. Then she motioned us to follow
Constant confinement below ground had wrought odd freaks upon
their skins. They more resemble corpses than living beings. Many
are deformed, others maimed, while the majority, Thuvia
explained, are sightless.
Picking our way carefully we threaded a winding path across
the chamber, the great banths sniffing hungrily at the tempting
prey spread before them in such tantalizing and defenceless
"Why is it that we see no therns?" I asked of Thuvia.
"By day it is different. Then the corridors and chambers are
filled with guards passing to and fro; slaves from the temples
above come by hundreds to the granaries and storerooms. All is
life then. You did not see it because I led you not in the beaten
tracks, but through roundabout passages seldom used. Yet it is
possible that we may meet a thern even yet. They do occasionally
find it necessary to come here after the sun has set. Because of
this I have moved with such great caution."
"Above us," she said, "is a doorway which opens on to the
inner gardens. I have brought you thus far. From here on for four
miles to the outer ramparts our way will be beset by countless
dangers. Guards patrol the courts, the temples, the gardens.
Every inch of the ramparts themselves is beneath the eye of a
We had reached the doorway now and Thuvia was opening it.
The door swung open; the smell of growing things greeted my
nostrils; the cool night air blew against my cheek. The great
banths sniffed the unfamiliar odours, and then with a rush they
broke past us with low growls, swarming across the gardens
beneath the lurid light of the nearer moon.
The great Thark's long-sword leaped from its scabbard; Thuvia
shrank shuddering to my side.
"What is it?" I asked of the girl.
I looked, and there, above us, I saw shadowy bodies flitting
hither and thither high over temple, court, and garden.
"The black pirates of Barsoom, O Prince," said Thuvia.
Volley after volley they vomited upon the temple guards;
volley on volley crashed through the thin air toward the fleeting
and illusive fliers.
The therns fired upon them through shields affixed to their
rifles, but on, steadily on, came the grim, black craft. They
were small fliers for the most part, built for two to three men.
A few larger ones there were, but these kept high aloft dropping
bombs upon the temples from their keel batteries.
Scarcely waiting for their craft to touch, the creatures
manning them leaped among the therns with the fury of demons.
Such fighting! Never had I witnessed its like before. I had
thought the green Martians the most ferocious warriors in the
universe, but the awful abandon with which the black pirates
threw themselves upon their foes transcended everything I ever
before had seen.
Here a little knot of struggling warriors trampled a bed of
gorgeous pimalia; there the curved sword of a black man found the
heart of a thern and left its dead foeman at the foot of a
wondrous statue carved from a living ruby; yonder a dozen therns
pressed a single pirate back upon a bench of emerald, upon whose
iridescent surface a strangely beautiful Barsoomian design was
traced out in inlaid diamonds.
The black pirates interested me immensely. I had heard vague
rumours, little more than legends they were, during my former
life on Mars; but never had I seen them, nor talked with one who
I had an excellent opportunity to examine them, as the strife
occasionally brought now one and now another close to where I
stood. They were large men, possibly six feet and over in height.
Their features were clear cut and handsome in the extreme; their
eyes were well set and large, though a slight narrowness lent
them a crafty appearance; the iris, as well as I could determine
by moonlight, was of extreme blackness, while the eyeball itself
was quite white and clear. The physical structure of their bodies
seemed identical with those of the therns, the red men, and my
own. Only in the colour of their skin did they differ materially
from us; that is of the appearance of polished ebony, and odd as
it may seem for a Southerner to say it, adds to rather than
detracts from their marvellous beauty.
All about us in the garden lay their sinister craft, which the
therns for some reason, then unaccountable to me, made no effort
to injure. Now and again a black warrior would rush from a near
by temple bearing a young woman in his arms. Straight for his
flier he would leap while those of his comrades who fought near
by would rush to cover his escape.
But always, it seemed, were the black pirates of Barsoom
victorious, and the girl, brought miraculously unharmed through
the conflict, borne away into the outer darkness upon the deck of
a swift flier.
As the fighting receded from our position for a moment, Thuvia
turned toward me with a question.
"The scene you are witnessing now is but a repetition of what
I have seen enacted a score of times during the fifteen years I
have been a prisoner here. From time immemorial the black pirates
of Barsoom have preyed upon the Holy Therns.
"Why don't they jump in and destroy these fliers?" I asked.
"That would soon put a stop to the attacks, or at least the
blacks would scarce be so bold. Why, see how perfectly unguarded
they leave their craft, as though they were lying safe in their
own hangars at home."
"The therns know that they live at all only by the sufferance
of the black men. They were near to extermination that once and
they will not venture risking it again."
But now they must have become angered by the continuous noise
and excited by the smell of new blood, for all of a sudden a
great form shot from a clump of low shrubbery into the midst of a
struggling mass of humanity. A horrid scream of bestial rage
broke from the banth as he felt warm flesh beneath his powerful
The awful beasts bore down a hundred men by the mere weight of
their great bodies as they hurled themselves into the thick of
the fight. Leaping and clawing, they mowed down the warriors with
their powerful paws, turning for an instant to rend their victims
with frightful fangs.
The therns were so engaged with their terrible assailants that
now, if ever, escape should be comparatively easy. I turned to
search for an opening through the contending hordes. If we could
but reach the ramparts we might find that the pirates somewhere
had thinned the guarding forces and left a way open to us to the
To think, with me, is to act. Grasping Thuvia by the arm, I
whispered to Tars Tarkas to follow me. Quickly we glided toward a
small flier which lay furthest from the battling warriors.
Another instant found us huddled on the tiny deck. My hand was on
the starting lever. I pressed my thumb upon the button which
controls the ray of repulsion, that splendid discovery of the
Martians which permits them to navigate the thin atmosphere of
their planet in huge ships that dwarf the dreadnoughts of our
earthly navies into pitiful significance.
We had stumbled upon a two-man flier. Its ray tanks were
charged only with sufficient repulsive energy to lift two
ordinary men. The Thark's great weight was anchoring us to our
I pressed the button far in and locked it. Then I set the
lever at high speed and as the blacks came yelling upon us I
slipped from the craft's deck and with drawn long-sword met the
I knew though that my ruse had worked and that temporarily at
least Thuvia and Tars Tarkas were safe, and the means of escape
My seething blade wove a net of death about me. For an instant
the blacks pressed close to reach me with their shorter swords,
but presently they gave back, and the esteem in which they
suddenly had learned to hold my sword arm was writ large upon
Then my old-time spirit reasserted itself. The fighting blood
of my Virginian sires coursed hot through my veins. The fierce
blood lust and the joy of battle surged over me. The fighting
smile that has brought consternation to a thousand foemen touched
my lips. I put the thought of death out of my mind, and fell upon
my antagonists with fury that those who escaped will remember to
their dying day.
It came from an unexpected quarter out of the black night
behind me. I had just disarmed a huge fellow who had given me a
desperate struggle, and for a moment the blacks stood back for a
"Thern," said one, "you fight like a Dator. But for your
detestable yellow hair and your white skin you would be an honour
to the First Born of Barsoom."
As I turned to meet this new enemy an object passed over my
shoulder, striking one of my assailants squarely in the face and
knocking him senseless to the sward. At the same instant I saw
that the thing that had struck us was the trailing anchor of a
rather fair-sized air vessel; possibly a ten man cruiser.
With a bound that left them gaping in wide-eyed astonishment I
sprang completely over them. A second leap carried me just high
enough to grasp the now rapidly receding anchor.
Presently the vessel veered toward the west and then swung
gracefully to the south. In another instant I was carried beyond
the crest of the Golden Cliffs, out over the Valley Dor, where,
six thousand feet below me, the Lost Sea of Korus lay shimmering
in the moonlight.
But I decided to know positively, and at once, so, with the
greatest caution, I commenced to climb slowly up the anchor chain
toward the deck above me.
A FAIR GODDESS
Simultaneously my free hand shot out for the black throat,
just within reach, and the ebony finger tightened on the trigger.
The pirate's hissing, "Die, cursed thern," was half choked in his
windpipe by my clutching fingers. The hammer fell with a futile
click upon an empty chamber.
My grasp upon his throat effectually prevented any outcry, and
so we struggled in grim silence; he to tear away from my hold, I
to drag him over to his death.
That little second was all that I awaited. With one mighty
downward surge I swept him clear of the deck. His falling body
came near to tearing me from the frail hold that my single free
hand had upon the anchor chain and plunging me with him to the
waters of the sea below.
Instead I held grimly to him, choking, ever choking, while his
frantic struggles dragged me lower and lower toward the end of
Again I climbed to the ship's rail. This time I succeeded in
raising my eyes to the level of the deck, where I could take a
careful survey of the conditions immediately confronting me.
Huddled close to the base of a rapid fire gun was a young
white girl, securely bound. Her eyes were widespread in an
expression of horrified anticipation and fixed directly upon me
as I came in sight above the edge of the deck.
Noiselessly I gained the deck. The girl nodded to me to
approach her. As I bent low she whispered to me to release
"Some of them will awake in Korus," I replied smiling.
Quickly I released her.
I did as she bid. Then I turned toward the distasteful work
that lay before me. This was no time for fine compunctions, nor
for a chivalry that these cruel demons would neither appreciate
The second awoke as I touched him, and, though I succeeded in
hurling him from the cruiser's deck, his wild cry of alarm
brought the remaining pirates to their feet. There were five of
The others rushed madly upon me with drawn swords. The girl
evidently dared not fire for fear of wounding me, but I saw her
sneak stealthily and cat-like toward the flank of the attackers.
Then they were on me.
The others redoubled their efforts. The crashing of their
blades upon mine raised a terrific din that might have been heard
for miles through the silent night. Sparks flew as steel smote
steel, and then there was the dull and sickening sound of a
shoulder bone parting beneath the keen edge of my Martian
The three rushed me with the evident purpose of forcing me
back the few steps that would carry my body over the rail into
the void below. At the same instant the girl fired and my sword
arm made two moves. One man dropped with a bullet in his brain; a
sword flew clattering across the deck and dropped over the edge
beyond as I disarmed one of my opponents and the third went down
with my blade buried to the hilt in his breast and three feet of
it protruding from his back, and falling wrenched the sword from
The new conditions seemed to please my adversary, for a smile
of satisfaction bared his gleaming teeth as he rushed at me
bare-handed. The great muscles which rolled beneath his glossy
black hide evidently assured him that here was easy prey, not
worth the trouble of drawing the dagger from his harness.
A low, silvery laugh rang out behind me.
"I am John Carter, Prince of the House of Tardos Mors, Jeddak
of Helium," I replied. "And whom," I added, "has the honour of
serving been accorded me?"
"You are no thern. Are you an enemy of the therns?"
She looked at me intently for several minutes before she
replied. It was as though she were attempting to read my inmost
soul, to judge my character and my standards of chivalry in that
long-drawn, searching gaze.
"I am Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang, Holy Hekkador of the
Holy Therns, Father of Therns, Master of Life and Death upon
Barsoom, Brother of Issus, Prince of Life Eternal."
"Why not the simpler way?" asked Phaidor.
With a slight shrug of her lovely shoulders she made a gesture
with her hands personating the casting of something over the
She looked at me narrowly. Then she puckered those divine
brows of hers, and shook her head. She could not comprehend.
But there seemed a subtle difference here between the manner
in which this girl contemplated the dispatching of an enemy and
the tender-hearted regret of my own princess for the stern
necessity which demanded it.
The man had now regained full possession of his faculties, and
was regarding us intently from where he lay bound upon the deck.
He was a handsome fellow, clean limbed and powerful, with an
intelligent face and features of such exquisite chiselling that
Adonis himself might have envied him.
That a northerly course would quickest lead me toward the more
settled portions of the planet immediately decided the direction
that I should steer. Beneath my hand the cruiser swung gracefully
about. Then the button which controlled the repulsive rays sent
us soaring far out into space. With speed lever pulled to the
last notch, we raced toward the north as we rose ever farther and
farther above that terrible valley of death.
It became intensely cold. Breathing was difficult. The girl,
Phaidor, and the black pirate kept their eyes glued upon me. At
length the girl spoke.
There was no fear in her voice. It was as one might say: "You
had better carry an umbrella. It is going to rain."
The black, too, was unconscious, while I, myself, retained my
senses, I think, only by sheer will. The one on whom all
responsibility rests is apt to endure the most.
"It was a close call," she said.
"There is immortality only in Issus," she replied. "And Issus
is for the race of therns alone. Thus am I immortal."
"If the other thing you have just learned," she continued,
"has led to as erroneous deductions as the first you are little
richer in knowledge than you were before."
Phaidor looked at the black in evident astonishment.
He shrugged his shoulders and turned his eyes elsewhere, but
did not reply.
"The daughter of Matai Shang is not accustomed to having her
queries remain unanswered," she said. "One of the lesser breed
should feel honoured that a member of the holy race that was born
to inherit life eternal should deign even to notice him."
"Xodar, Dator of the First Born of Barsoom, is accustomed to
give commands, not to receive them," replied the black pirate.
Then, turning to me, "What are your intentions concerning
"Are you of Helium?" he asked.
Xodar looked at me intently for a few moments.
"I had forgotten them," I said. "They are the spoils of
conquest," and with a sweep of my hand I removed the disguise
from my head.
"You are indeed of another world," he said, a touch of awe in
his voice. "With the skin of a thern, the black hair of a First
Born and the muscles of a dozen Dators it was no disgrace even
for Xodar to acknowledge your supremacy. A thing he could never
do were you a Barsoomian," he added.
"The First Born of Barsoom," he explained, "are the race of
black men of which I am a Dator, or, as the lesser Barsoomians
would say, Prince. My race is the oldest on the planet. We trace
our lineage, unbroken, direct to the Tree of Life which
flourished in the centre of the Valley Dor twenty-three million
"Then, with the development of perceptions came a comparison
of them; judgments were reached and compared, and thus reason and
the power to reason were born upon Barsoom.
"The buds from which the plant men blossomed resembled large
nuts about a foot in diameter, divided by double partition walls
into four sections. In one section grew the plant man, in another
a sixteen-legged worm, in the third the progenitor of the white
ape and in the fourth the primaeval black man of Barsoom.
"Thus as time went on, all Barsoom was covered with these
imprisoned creatures. For countless ages they lived their long
lives within their hard shells, hopping and skipping about the
broad planet; falling into rivers, lakes, and seas, to be still
further spread about the surface of the new world.
"The pure strain of the blood of this first black man has
remained untainted by admixture with other creatures in the race
of which I am a member; but from the sixteen-legged worm, the
first ape and renegade black man has sprung every other form of
animal life upon Barsoom.
"The Tree of Life is dead, but before it died the plant men
learned to detach themselves from it and roam the face of Barsoom
with the other children of the First Parent.
I wondered why the black man took such pains to discourse thus
at length to enemies upon the genesis of life Barsoomian. It
seemed a strangely inopportune moment for a proud member of a
proud race to unbend in casual conversation with a captor.
Especially in view of the fact that the black still lay securely
bound upon the deck.
He lay a little forward of where I stood at the levers, and
thus he faced the stern of the vessel as he addressed me. It was
at the end of his description of the plant men that I caught his
eye fixed momentarily upon something behind me.
Some time before I had reduced our speed, for we had left the
Valley Dor many miles astern, and I felt comparatively safe.
A great battleship, forging silent and unlighted through the
dark night, loomed close astern.
Now I realized why the black pirate had kept me engrossed with
his strange tale. For miles he had sensed the approach of
succour, and but for that single tell-tale glance the battleship
would have been directly above us in another moment, and the
boarding party which was doubtless even now swinging in their
harness from the ship's keel, would have swarmed our deck,
placing my rising hope of escape in sudden and total eclipse.
Above my head I could see the dangling forms of the boarding
party as the battleship raced over us. Then I rose at a sharp
angle, throwing my speed lever to its last notch.
At the same instant the sun shot above the horizon, disclosing
a hundred grim, black faces peering over the stern of the
battleship upon us.
Instantly with the shock of impact I reversed my engine, but
my prow was wedged in the hole it had made in the battleship's
stern. Only a second I hung there before tearing away, but that
second was amply long to swarm my deck with black devils.
"Secure them," he said, "but do not injure them."
The girl they bound also, and then they fastened us together.
In the meantime they had brought our craft alongside the disabled
battleship, and soon we were transported to the latter's
The girl's beauty elicited many brutal comments and vulgar
jests. It was evident that these self-thought supermen were far
inferior to the red men of Barsoom in refinement and in
The fact that I wore the harness and metal of a thern who had
been killed by a member of my party convinced them that I was an
enemy of their hereditary foes, and placed me on a better footing
in their estimation.
The harness of the commanding officer was a solid mass of
diamonds. Against the ebony background of his skin they blazed
out with a peculiarly accentuated effulgence. The whole scene was
enchanting. The handsome men; the barbaric splendour of the
accoutrements; the polished skeel wood of the deck; the
gloriously grained sorapus of the cabins, inlaid with priceless
jewels and precious metals in intricate and beautiful design; the
burnished gold of hand rails; the shining metal of the guns.
We could hear the men working on the broken propellers, and
from the port-hole we could see that the vessel was drifting
lazily toward the south.
Even if they succeeded in eluding pursuit they must eventually
fall into the hands of either red men or green, and as fugitives
from the Valley Dor they could look for but little else than a
swift and terrible death.
Tardos Mors would believe me. Of that I was positive. And that
he would have the courage of his convictions my knowledge of his
character assured me. Dejah Thoris would believe me. Not a doubt
as to that entered my head. Then there were a thousand of my red
and green warrior friends whom I knew would face eternal
damnation gladly for my sake. Like Tars Tarkas, where I led they
Well, there seemed little to worry about on that score, for
the likelihood of my ever escaping the blacks was extremely
As I had sat meditating upon the future my eyes had been
riveted upon the port-hole which was just level with them as I
sat. Suddenly I looked toward Phaidor. She was regarding me with
a strange expression I had not before seen upon her face. She was
very beautiful then.
"Do you find the study of the lower orders interesting?" I
"Oh very," she said, "especially when they have such excellent
"Do you know where we are going?" she said.
"I am going to a worse fate than that," she said, with a
"I can only guess," she replied, "since no thern damsel of all
the millions that have been stolen away by black pirates during
the ages they have raided our domains has ever returned to
narrate her experiences among them. That they never take a man
prisoner lends strength to the belief that the fate of the girls
they steal is worse than death."
"What do you mean?"
"You do not understand," she replied. "We therns are a holy
race. It is an honour to a lesser creature to be a slave among
us. Did we not occasionally save a few of the lower orders that
stupidly float down an unknown river to an unknown end all would
become the prey of the plant men and the apes."
"All life on Barsoom," she said, "is created solely for the
support of the race of therns. How else could we live did the
outer world not furnish our labour and our food? Think you that a
thern would demean himself by labour?"
She looked at me in pitying commiseration for my
"The flesh of beasts, yes," I replied, "but not the flesh of
I was disgusted and I imagine that I showed it.
Again her eyes dropped to the floor, and a faint colour
suffused her cheek. I could not understand her meaning; nor did I
for a long time. Dejah Thoris was wont to say that in some things
I was a veritable simpleton, and I guess that she was right.
She looked at me really horror struck.
I said no more. Evidently it was useless. She was even more
steeped in superstition than the Martians of the outer world.
They only worshipped a beautiful hope for a life of love and
peace and happiness in the hereafter. The therns worshipped the
hideous plant men and the apes, or at least they reverenced them
as the abodes of the departed spirits of their own dead.
He smiled pleasantly at me, and when he smiled his expression
was kindly--anything but cruel or vindictive.
"It will be an excellent lesson for this daughter of the
therns," he added, "for she shall see the Temple of Issus, and
Issus, perchance, shall embrace her."
"What blasphemy is this, dog of a pirate?" she cried. "Issus
would wipe out your entire breed an' you ever came within sight
of her temple."
As we came on deck I saw to my surprise that the vessel was
passing over a great field of snow and ice. As far as the eye
could reach in any direction naught else was visible.
Xodar was at my side as I stood looking out over the ship's
"A little west of south," he replied. "You will see the Otz
Valley directly. We shall skirt it for a few hundred miles."
"Yes," answered Xodar. "You crossed this ice field last night
in the long chase that you led us. The Otz Valley lies in a
mighty depression at the south pole. It is sunk thousands of feet
below the level of the surrounding country, like a great round
bowl. A hundred miles from its northern boundary rise the Otz
Mountains which circle the inner Valley of Dor, in the exact
centre of which lies the Lost Sea of Korus. On the shore of this
sea stands the Golden Temple of Issus in the Land of the First
Born. It is there that we are bound."
"Only by air boat could the journey be made," I finished
We had now reached the southernmost extremity of the great ice
barrier. It ended abruptly in a sheer wall thousands of feet high
at the base of which stretched a level valley, broken here and
there by low rolling hills and little clumps of forest, and with
tiny rivers formed by the melting of the ice barrier at its
Presently I descried what I took to be a village, and pointing
it out to Xodar asked him what it might be.
"They do not attempt to recapture such, since there is no
escape from this outer valley, and as a matter of fact they fear
the patrolling cruisers of the First Born too much to venture
from their own domains.
"There are several villages of them, but they have increased
in numbers but little in many years since they are always warring
Xodar had left us to attend to some duty on the vessel, and
Phaidor and I stood alone beside the rail. The girl had not once
spoken since we had been brought to the deck.
"In part, yes," she answered. "That about the outer valley is
true, but what he says of the location of the Temple of Issus in
the centre of his country is false. If it is not false--" she
hesitated. "Oh it cannot be true, it cannot be true. For if it
were true then for countless ages have my people gone to torture
and ignominious death at the hands of their cruel enemies,
instead of to the beautiful Life Eternal that we have been taught
to believe Issus holds for us."
"I cannot believe it," she said.
As we neared the dark, truncated cone the vessel's speed was
diminished until we barely moved. Then we topped the crest of the
mountain and below us I saw yawning the mouth of a huge circular
well, the bottom of which was lost in inky blackness.
For a moment the vessel hovered motionless directly above the
centre of the gaping void, then slowly she began to settle into
the black chasm. Lower and lower she sank until as darkness
enveloped us her lights were thrown on and in the dim halo of her
own radiance the monster battleship dropped on and on down into
what seemed to me must be the very bowels of Barsoom.
Slowly and with majestic grace the battleship dropped until
she rested on the water. Her great propellers had been drawn and
housed during our descent of the shaft and in their place had
been run out the smaller but more powerful water propellers. As
these commenced to revolve the ship took up its journey once
more, riding the new element as buoyantly and as safely as she
had the air.
Nearly all the vessels we saw were war craft. There were a few
lighters and barges, but none of the great merchantmen such as
ply the upper air between the cities of the outer world.
"This sea," he continued, "is larger than Korus. It receives
the waters of the lesser sea above it. To keep it from filling
above a certain level we have four great pumping stations that
force the oversupply back into the reservoirs far north from
which the red men draw the water which irrigates their farm
Never had their learned men been able to fathom the secret of
the source of this enormous volume of water. As ages passed they
had simply come to accept it as a matter of course and ceased to
question its origin.
Few of these islets contained over an acre of ground, but
presently we sighted a much larger one directly ahead. This
proved to be our destination, and the great ship was soon made
fast against the steep shore.
"You shall soon see Issus," said Xodar to Phaidor. "The few
prisoners we take are presented to her. Occasionally she selects
slaves from among them to replenish the ranks of her handmaidens.
None serves Issus above a single year," and there was a grim
smile on the black's lips that lent a cruel and sinister meaning
to his simple statement.
The building which we now entered was entirely roofless. In
its centre was a long tank of water, set below the level of the
floor like the swimming pool of a natatorium. Near one side of
the pool floated an odd-looking black object. Whether it were
some strange monster of these buried waters, or a queer raft, I
could not at once perceive.
Xodar addressed the seaman.
"Blessed be the shell of thy first ancestor, most noble
Dator," replied the man. "It shall be done even as thou sayest,"
and raising both hands, palms backward, above his head after the
manner of salute which is common to all races of Barsoom, he
disappeared once more into the entrails of his ship.
The cabin in which we found ourselves extended entirely across
the ship, having port-holes on either side below the water line.
No sooner were all below than a number of commands were given, in
accordance with which the hatch was closed and secured, and the
vessel commenced to vibrate to the rhythmic purr of its
"Not up," I replied, "for I noticed particularly that while
the building is roofless it is covered with a strong metal
"From the appearance of the craft I judge we are going down,"
Presently the sensation of sinking became very apparent. We
were going down swiftly. Now we could hear the water rushing past
the port-holes, and in the dim light that filtered through them
to the water beyond the swirling eddies were plainly visible.
"Save me!" she whispered. "Save me and your every wish shall
be granted. Anything within the power of the Holy Therns to give
will be yours. Phaidor--" she stumbled a little here, and then in
a very low voice, "Phaidor already is yours."
ISSUS, GODDESS OF LIFE ETERNAL
Never have I been much of a ladies' man, being more concerned
with fighting and kindred arts which have ever seemed to me more
befitting a man than mooning over a scented glove four sizes too
small for him, or kissing a dead flower that has begun to smell
like a cabbage. So I was quite at a loss as to what to do or say.
A thousand times rather face the wild hordes of the dead sea
bottoms than meet the eyes of this beautiful young girl and tell
her the thing that I must tell her.
Gently I unclasped her hands from about my neck, and still
holding them in mine I told her the story of my love for Dejah
Thoris. That of all the women of two worlds that I had known and
admired during my long life she alone had I loved.
"Dog," she hissed. "Dog of a blasphemer! Think you that
Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang, supplicates? She commands. What
to her is your puny outer world passion for the vile creature you
chose in your other life?
"And you! You shall be the meanest slave in the service of the
goddess you have attempted to humiliate. Tortures and ignominies
shall be heaped upon you until you grovel at my feet asking the
boon of death.
She had it all fixed up. The whole lovely programme from start
to finish. It amazed me to think that one so divinely beautiful
could at the same time be so fiendishly vindictive. It occurred
to me, however, that she had overlooked one little factor in her
revenge, and so, without any intent to add to her discomfiture,
but rather to permit her to rearrange her plans along more
practical lines, I pointed to the nearest port-hole.
Down, down we continued to sink until the heavy glass of the
port-holes became noticeably warm from the heat of the water
without. Evidently we were very far beneath the surface crust of
After a few minutes the propellers ceased their whirring. We
came to a full stop, and then commenced to rise swiftly toward
the surface. Soon the light from without increased and we came to
"Come," he said, and we followed him through the hatchway
which had been opened by one of the seamen.
Around the edge of the pool was a level platform, and then the
walls of the cave rose perpendicularly for a few feet to arch
toward the centre of the low roof. The walls about the ledge were
pierced with a number of entrances to dimly lighted
The cage proved to be one of the common types of elevator cars
that I had seen in other parts of Barsoom. They are operated by
means of enormous magnets which are suspended at the top of the
shaft. By an electrical device the volume of magnetism generated
is regulated and the speed of the car varied.
Scarcely had the door of the car closed behind us than we were
slowing up to stop at the landing above, so rapid was our ascent
of the long shaft.
One may speak of scarlet sward and ivory-stemmed trees decked
with brilliant purple blooms; of winding walks paved with crushed
rubies, with emerald, with turquoise, even with diamonds
themselves; of a magnificent temple of burnished gold,
hand-wrought with marvellous designs; but where are the words to
describe the glorious colours that are unknown to earthly eyes?
where the mind or the imagination that can grasp the gorgeous
scintillations of unheard-of rays as they emanate from the
thousand nameless jewels of Barsoom?
Phaidor's eyes were wide in amazement.
Xodar watched us with his grim smile, partly of amusement and
partly malicious gloating.
Through this scene we moved toward the temple. At the main
entrance we were halted by a cordon of armed guards. Xodar spoke
a few words to an officer who came forward to question us.
Together they entered the temple, where they remained for some
Slowly we moved through endless corridors of unthinkable
beauty; through magnificent apartments, and noble halls. At
length we were halted in a spacious chamber in the centre of the
temple. One of the officers who had accompanied us advanced to a
large door in the further end of the chamber. Here he must have
made some sort of signal for immediately the door opened and
another richly trapped courtier emerged.
Never have I been in so humiliating a position in my life, and
only my love for Dejah Thoris and the hope which still clung to
me that I might again see her kept me from rising to face the
goddess of the First Born and go down to my death like a
gentleman, facing my foes and with their blood mingling with
"Let them rise," said a voice behind us; a thin, wavering
voice, yet one that had evidently been accustomed to command for
"The woman pleases me," said the thin, wavering voice again
after a few moments of silence. "She shall serve me the allotted
time. The man you may return to the Isle of Shador which lies
against the northern shore of the Sea of Omean. Let the woman
turn and look upon Issus, knowing that those of the lower orders
who gaze upon the holy vision of her radiant face survive the
blinding glory but a single year."
I could not see the girl's face as her eyes rested for the
first time on the Supreme Deity of Mars, but felt the shudder
that ran through her in the trembling flesh of the arm that
"Let the woman remain. Remove the man. Go." Thus spoke Issus,
and the heavy hand of the officer fell upon my shoulder. In
accordance with his instructions I dropped to my hands and knees
once more and crawled from the Presence. It had been my first
audience with deity, but I am free to confess that I was not
greatly impressed--other than with the ridiculous figure I cut
scrambling about on my marrow bones.
"You spared my life when you easily might have taken it," he
said after we had proceeded some little way in silence, "and I
would aid you if I might. I can help to make your life here more
bearable, but your fate is inevitable. You may never hope to
return to the outer world."
"That will depend largely upon Issus. So long as she does not
send for you and reveal her face to you, you may live on for
years in as mild a form of bondage as I can arrange for you."
"The men of the lower orders she often uses for various
purposes of amusement. Such a fighter as you, for example, would
render fine sport in the monthly rites of the temple. There are
men pitted against men, and against beasts for the edification of
Issus and the replenishment of her larder."
They were a people drunk with power and success, looking upon
the other inhabitants of Mars as we look upon the beasts of the
field and the forest. Why then should they not eat of the flesh
of the lower orders whose lives and characters they no more
understood than do we the inmost thoughts and sensibilities of
the cattle we slaughter for our earthly tables.
I did not understand then that there lay any special
significance in his reference to other dainties. I thought the
limit of ghoulishness already had been reached in the recitation
of Issus' menu. I still had much to learn as to the depths of
cruelty and bestiality to which omnipotence may drag its
"Issus would look again upon this man," he said. "The girl has
told her that he is of wondrous beauty and of such prowess that
alone he slew seven of the First Born, and with his bare hands
took Xodar captive, binding him with his own harness."
Without a word he turned and we followed the officer once
again to the closed doors before the audience chamber of Issus,
Goddess of Life Eternal.
Presently the thin wavering voice broke the stillness,
repeating in a singsong drone the words which for countless ages
had sealed the doom of numberless victims.
I turned as I had been bid, expecting such a treat as only the
revealment of divine glory to mortal eyes might produce. What I
saw was a solid phalanx of armed men between myself and a dais
supporting a great bench of carved sorapus wood. On this bench,
or throne, squatted a female black. She was evidently very old.
Not a hair remained upon her wrinkled skull. With the exception
of two yellow fangs she was entirely toothless. On either side of
her thin, hawk-like nose her eyes burned from the depths of
horribly sunken sockets. The skin of her face was seamed and
creased with a million deepcut furrows. Her body was as wrinkled
as her face, and as repulsive.
Surrounding her were a number of female slaves, among them
Phaidor, white and trembling.
"Most glorious vision of divine loveliness, it is," replied
the officer who stood at my side.
Xodar was brought from the adjoining room.
"And such as you are a Dator of the First Born?" she squealed.
"For the disgrace you have brought upon the Immortal Race you
shall be degraded to a rank below the lowest. No longer be you a
Dator, but for evermore a slave of slaves, to fetch and carry for
the lower orders that serve in the gardens of Issus. Remove his
harness. Cowards and slaves wear no trappings."
"Begone," screamed the infuriated little old woman. "Begone,
but instead of the light of the gardens of Issus let you serve as
a slave of this slave who conquered you in the prison on the Isle
of Shador in the Sea of Omean. Take him away out of the sight of
my divine eyes."
Turning to me, she said: "You shall be returned to Shador for
the present. Later Issus will see the manner of your fighting.
Go." Then she disappeared, followed by her retinue. Only Phaidor
lagged behind, and as I started to follow my guard toward the
gardens, the girl came running after me.
"If it was difficult for me to understand you, Phaidor," I
replied, "can you not understand that possibly it is equally
difficult for you to understand the motives, the customs and the
social laws that guide me? I do not wish to hurt you, nor to seem
to undervalue the honour which you have done me, but the thing
you desire may not be. Regardless of the foolish belief of the
peoples of the outer world, or of Holy Thern, or ebon First Born,
I am not dead. While I live my heart beats for but one woman--the
incomparable Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium. When death
overtakes me my heart shall have ceased to beat; but what comes
after that I know not. And in that I am as wise as Matai Shang,
Master of Life and Death upon Barsoom; or Issus, Goddess of Life
"I do not understand," she said, and turning walked slowly in
the direction of the door through which Issus and her retinue had
passed. A moment later she had passed from my sight.
In the outer gardens to which the guard now escorted me, I
found Xodar surrounded by a crowd of noble blacks. They were
reviling and cursing him. The men slapped his face. The woman
spat upon him.
"Ah," cried one, "so this is the creature who overcame the
great Xodar bare-handed. Let us see how it was done."
"Yes, Thurid! Thurid!" cried a dozen voices.
"What now?" he cried. "What would you of Thurid?"
Thurid turned toward Xodar, his eyes narrowing to two nasty
My blood was up. For minutes it had been boiling at the
cowardly treatment they had been according this once powerful
comrade because he had fallen from the favour of Issus. I had no
love for Xodar, but I cannot stand the sight of cowardly
injustice and persecution without seeing red as through a haze of
bloody mist, and doing things on the impulse of the moment that I
presume I never should do after mature deliberation.
But as Thurid's foot swung so did mine, and I caught him a
painful blow upon the shin bone that saved Xodar from this added
The big fellow spun around like a top, his knees gave beneath
him and he crumpled to the ground at my feet.
"You asked me to bind Thurid," I cried; "behold!" And then I
stooped beside the prostrate form, tore the harness from it, and
bound the fellow's arms and legs securely.
"Who are you?" whispered the woman who had first suggested
that I attempt to bind Thurid.
"Come," said the officer who was guarding me back to Shador;
"my orders are imperative; there is to be no delay. Xodar, come
That his respect for me was greater than it should have been
for a slave was quite apparent from the fact that during the
balance of the return journey he walked or stood always behind
me, a drawn short-sword in his hand.
From the island of the submarine we were transported on a
small cruiser to the distant Isle of Shador. Here we found a
small stone prison and a guard of half a dozen blacks. There was
no ceremony wasted in completing our incarceration. One of the
blacks opened the door of the prison with a huge key, we walked
in, the door closed behind us, the lock grated, and with the
sound there swept over me again that terrible feeling of
hopelessness that I had felt in the Chamber of Mystery in the
Golden Cliffs beneath the gardens of the Holy Therns.
They could not guess my whereabouts or my fate, for none on
all Barsoom even dream of such a place as this. Nor would it have
advantaged me any had they known the exact location of my prison,
for who could hope to penetrate to this buried sea in the face of
the mighty navy of the First Born? No: my case was hopeless.
Xodar sat, with bowed head, upon a low stone bench near the
centre of the room in which we were. He had not spoken since
Issus had degraded him.
Evidently he was the only other prisoner. As he slept I leaned
over and looked at him. There was something strangely familiar
about his face, and yet I could not place him.
I did not awaken him, for sleep in prison is such a priceless
boon that I have seen men transformed into raging brutes when
robbed by one of their fellow-prisoners of a few precious moments
"Man," I cried, "it will profit you nothing to mope thus. It
were no disgrace to be bested by John Carter. You have seen that
in the ease with which I accounted for Thurid. You knew it before
when on the cruiser's deck you saw me slay three of your
"Come, come!" I cried. "There is hope yet. Neither of us is
dead. We are great fighters. Why not win to freedom?"
"You know not of what you speak," he replied. "Issus is
omnipotent. Issus is omniscient. She hears now the words you
speak. She knows the thoughts you think. It is sacrilege even to
dream of breaking her commands."
He sprang to his feet in horror.
"Do you believe that, Xodar?" I asked.
"I doubt; yes, and further, I deny," I said. "Why, Xodar, you
tell me that she even knows my thoughts. The red men have all had
that power for ages. And another wonderful power. They can shut
their minds so that none may read their thoughts. I learned the
first secret years ago; the other I never had to learn, since
upon all Barsoom is none who can read what passes in the secret
chambers of my brain.
"What do you mean?" he whispered in an affrighted voice, so
low that I could scarcely hear him.
For a moment he eyed me in horror-stricken amazement, and then
with a cry of "Blasphemer" he sprang upon me.
As he came I grasped his left wrist with my left hand, and,
swinging my right arm about his left shoulder, caught him beneath
the chin with my elbow and bore him backward across my thigh.
"Xodar," I said, "let us be friends. For a year, possibly, we
may be forced to live together in the narrow confines of this
tiny room. I am sorry to have offended you, but I could not dream
that one who had suffered from the cruel injustice of Issus still
could believe her divine.
"Issus, you see, has not struck me dead, nor is she rescuing
her faithful Xodar from the clutches of the unbeliever who
defamed her fair beauty. No, Xodar, your Issus is a mortal old
woman. Once out of her clutches and she cannot harm you.
As I finished I raised Xodar to his feet and released him. He
did not renew the attack upon me, nor did he speak. Instead, he
walked toward the bench, and, sinking down upon it, remained lost
in deep thought for hours.
"Kaor," I cried, after the red Martian manner of greeting.
"I await my death, I presume," I replied with a wry smile.
"I also," he said. "Mine will come soon. I looked upon the
radiant beauty of Issus nearly a year since. It has always been a
source of keen wonder to me that I did not drop dead at the first
sight of that hideous countenance. And her belly! By my first
ancestor, but never was there so grotesque a figure in all the
universe. That they should call such a one Goddess of Life
Eternal, Goddess of Death, Mother of the Nearer Moon, and fifty
other equally impossible titles, is quite beyond me."
"It is very simple. I was flying a one-man air scout far to
the south when the brilliant idea occurred to me that I should
like to search for the Lost Sea of Korus which tradition places
near to the south pole. I must have inherited from my father a
wild lust for adventure, as well as a hollow where my bump of
reverence should be.
"With drawn swords they made for me, but before I went down
beneath them they had tasted of the steel of my father's sword,
and I had given such an account of myself as I know would have
pleased my sire had he lived to witness it."
"He died before the shell broke to let me step out into a
world that has been very good to me. But for the sorrow that I
had never the honour to know my father, I have been very happy.
My only sorrow now is that my mother must mourn me as she has for
ten long years mourned my father."
He was about to reply when the outer door of our prison opened
and a burly guard entered and ordered him to his own quarters for
the night, locking the door after him as he passed through into
the further chamber.
With these words he left us.
"Xodar," I said, "you have heard the commands of Issus, but
you need not fear that I shall attempt to put them into
execution. You are a brave man, Xodar. It is your own affair if
you wish to be persecuted and humiliated; but were I you I should
assert my manhood and defy my enemies."
"I believe now that she is a fraud; no more divine than you or
I. More I am willing to concede--that the First Born are no
holier than the Holy Therns, nor the Holy Therns more holy than
the red men.
"I am ready to cast off the ties that have bound me. I am
ready to defy Issus herself; but what will it avail us? Be the
First Born gods or mortals, they are a powerful race, and we are
as fast in their clutches as though we were already dead. There
is no escape."
"But we cannot escape even from the four walls of our prison,"
urged Xodar. "Test this flint-like surface," he cried, smiting
the solid rock that confined us. "And look upon this polished
surface; none could cling to it to reach the top."
"That is the least of our troubles, Xodar," I replied. "I will
guarantee to scale the wall and take you with me, if you will
help with your knowledge of the customs here to appoint the best
time for the attempt, and guide me to the shaft that lets from
the dome of this abysmal sea to the light of God's pure air
"But," I exclaimed, "it is not dark! How can it be night,
"You forget," he said, "that we are far below ground. The
light of the sun never penetrates here. There are no moons and no
stars reflected in the bosom of Omean. The phosphorescent light
you now see pervading this great subterranean vault emanates from
the rocks that form its dome; it is always thus upon Omean, just
as the billows are always as you see them--rolling, ever rolling
over a windless sea.
"It will make escape more difficult," I said, and then I
shrugged my shoulders; for what, pray, is the pleasure of doing
an easy thing?
So we threw ourselves upon the hard stone floor of our prison
and slept the sleep of tired men.
Early the next morning Xodar and I commenced work upon our
plans for escape. First I had him sketch upon the stone floor of
our cell as accurate a map of the south polar regions as was
possible with the crude instruments at our disposal--a buckle
from my harness, and the sharp edge of the wondrous gem I had
taken from Sator Throg.
Then I had him draw a map of Omean, indicating plainly the
position of Shador and of the opening in the dome which led to
the outer world.
The pace of the sentries, Xodar said, was very slow, requiring
nearly ten minutes to make a single round. This meant that for
practically five minutes at a time each side of the prison was
unguarded as the sentry pursued his snail like pace upon the
"We will get out all right," I replied, laughing. "Leave that
"The first night that finds a small craft moored near the
shore of Shador," I replied.
"Not so, friend Xodar; look!"
Several small craft and two large battleships lay within a
hundred yards of Shador.
If the fellow saw me there our chances of escape might quickly
go glimmering, for I knew that they would put me in irons if they
had the slightest conception of the wonderful agility which my
earthly muscles gave me upon Mars.
There was my only chance to escape detection. If the fellow
turned, I was lost; nor could I have dropped to the floor
undetected, since he was no nearly below me that I would have
struck him had I done so.
I scrambled up the iron grating of the window until I could
catch a good footing on the sill with one foot; then I let go my
hold and sprang for the partition top.
"Where is the white slave?" again cried the guard.
The black grumbled something that I could not understand, and
then I heard him unlocking the door into one of the other cells
on the further side. Listening intently, I caught the sound as
the door closed behind him. Then I sprang once more to the top of
the partition and dropped into my own cell beside the astonished
"I see how you may," he replied, "but I am no wiser than
before as to how I am to pass these walls. Certain it is that I
cannot bounce over them as you do."
"By the shell of my first ancestor!" he roared. "Where have
He glared at me in mingled rage and relief.
He conducted me outside the prison, leaving Xodar behind.
There we found several other guards, and with them the red
Martian youth who occupied another cell upon Shador.
The youth's face had haunted me. Where had I seen him before.
There was something strangely familiar in every line of him; in
his carriage, his manner of speaking, his gestures. I could have
sworn that I knew him, and yet I knew too that I had never seen
Massive gates gave egress upon a small plain, surrounded by
the same gorgeous forests that I had seen at the foot of the
The brutal beasts moved among the crowd as pet dogs might. If
they were in the way the blacks pushed them roughly to one side,
or whacked them with the flat of a sword, and the animals slunk
away as in great fear.
Through a massive arched gateway the blacks poured in to take
their seats, while our guards led us to a smaller entrance near
one end of the structure.
During the trip from Shador I had had no opportunity to talk
with my fellow-prisoner, but now that we were safely within the
barred paddock our guards abated their watchfulness, with the
result that I found myself able to approach the red Martian youth
for whom I felt such a strange attraction.
"It is a part of the monthly rites of Issus," he replied, "in
which black men wash the sins from their souls in the blood of
men from the outer world. If, perchance, the black is killed, it
is evidence of his disloyalty to Issus-the unpardonable sin. If
he lives through the contest he is held acquitted of the charge
that forced the sentence of the rites, as it is called, upon
"And if we are victorious," I asked, "what then--freedom?"
"Freedom, forsooth. The only freedom for us death. None who
enters the domains of the First Born ever leave. If we prove able
fighters we are permitted to fight often. If we are not mighty
fighters--" He shrugged his shoulders. "Sooner or later we die in
"Very often," he replied. "It is my only pleasure. Some
hundred black devils have I accounted for during nearly a year of
the rites of Issus. My mother would be very proud could she only
know how well I have maintained the traditions of my father's
"My father was--"
The amphitheatre, like all I had ever seen upon Barsoom, was
built in a large excavation. Only the highest seats, which formed
the low wall surrounding the pit, were above the level of the
ground. The arena itself was far below the surface.
Directly opposite my cage was the throne of Issus. Here the
horrid creature squatted, surrounded by a hundred slave maidens
sparkling in jewelled trappings. Brilliant cloths of many hues
and strange patterns formed the soft cushion covering of the dais
upon which they reclined about her.
On both sides of the throne stretched a solid mass of humanity
from top to bottom of the amphitheatre. There were as many women
as men, and each was clothed in the wondrously wrought harness of
his station and his house. With each black was from one to three
slaves, drawn from the domains of the therns and from the outer
world. The blacks are all "noble." There is no peasantry among
the First Born. Even the lowest soldier is a god, and has his
slaves to wait upon him.
The first event of the day was the Tribute to Issus. It marked
the end of those poor unfortunates who had looked upon the divine
glory of the goddess a full year before. There were ten of
them--splendid beauties from the proud courts of mighty Jeddaks
and from the temples of the Holy Therns. For a year they had
served in the retinue of Issus; to-day they were to pay the price
of this divine preferment with their lives; tomorrow they would
grace the tables of the court functionaries.
"Issus will dine well to-night," said a prisoner beside
"That was her dinner that old Thabis is taking to the
kitchens. Didst not note how carefully he selected the plumpest
and tenderest of the lot?"
"Fume not," admonished my companion; "you will see far worse
than that if you live even a month among the First Born."
One was on her knees with imploring hands outstretched toward
Issus; but the hideous deity only leaned further forward in
keener anticipation of the entertainment to come. At length the
apes spied the huddled knot of terror-stricken maidens and with
demoniacal shrieks of bestial frenzy, charged upon them.
The guard lolled before the unbarred gate of the cage which
confined me. What need of bars, indeed, to keep those poor
victims from rushing into the arena which the edict of the gods
had appointed as their death place!
For an instant silence reigned in the great amphitheatre, then
a wild shout arose from the cages of the doomed. My long-sword
circled whirring through the air, and a great ape sprawled,
headless, at the feet of the fainting girls.
He paused a moment before the cages, with upraised sword.
Without waiting to note the outcome of his plea, he turned and
bounded toward me. From every cage that harboured red men a
thunderous shout went up in answer to his exhortation. The inner
guards went down beneath howling mobs, and the cages vomited
forth their inmates hot with the lust to kill.
The great apes, towering in all their fifteen feet of height,
had gone down before my sword while the charging guards were
still some distance away. Close behind them pursued the youth. At
my back were the young girls, and as it was in their service that
I fought, I remained standing there to meet my inevitable death,
but with the determination to give such an account of myself as
would long be remembered in the land of the First Born.
The guards had not reached me when he fell upon them from the
rear, and as they turned, thinking from the fierceness of his
onslaught that a dozen were attacking them, I rushed them from my
On the handsome face of the boy a grim smile played, and ever
and anon he threw a taunting challenge to the foes that faced
him. In this and other ways his manner of fighting was similar to
that which had always marked me on the field of combat.
For my part, I was fighting as I had fought a thousand times
before--now sidestepping a wicked thrust, now stepping quickly in
to let my sword's point drink deep in a foeman's heart, before it
buried itself in the throat of his companion.
For half an hour it was as though all hell had broken loose.
In the walled confines of the arena we fought in an inextricable
mass--howling, cursing, blood-streaked demons; and ever the sword
of the young red man flashed beside me.
Many had gone down on both sides, but by far the greater havoc
had been wrought in the ranks of the guards of Issus. I could see
messengers running swiftly through the audience, and as they
passed the nobles there unsheathed their swords and sprang into
the arena. They were going to annihilate us by force of
numbers--that was quite evidently their plan.
Quickly I ordered fifty of the prisoners to drop back behind
us and form a new circle about the maidens.
Then, turning to those who formed the outer line, I cried,
"Down with Issus! Follow me to the throne; we will reap vengeance
where vengeance is deserved."
As one man we moved, an irresistible fighting mass, over the
bodies of dead and dying foes toward the gorgeous throne of the
Martian deity. Hordes of the doughtiest fighting-men of the First
Born poured from the audience to check our progress. We mowed
them down before us as they had been paper men.
On both sides of me the prisoners broke to left and right for
the seats, vaulting the low wall with dripping swords lusting for
the crowded victims who awaited them.
Side by side the young red man and I, with perhaps a dozen
others, fought our way to the foot of the throne. The remaining
guards, reinforced by the high dignitaries and nobles of the
First Born, closed in between us and Issus, who sat leaning far
forward upon her carved sorapus bench, now screaming high-pitched
commands to her following, now hurling blighting curses upon
those who sought to desecrate her godhood.
The men with us fought well, but never since Tars Tarkas and I
fought out that long, hot afternoon shoulder to shoulder against
the hordes of Warhoon in the dead sea bottom before Thark, had I
seen two men fight to such good purpose and with such
unconquerable ferocity as the young red man and I fought that day
before the throne of Issus, Goddess of Death, and of Life
Presently a cry went up from a section of the stands near
by--"Rise slaves!" "Rise slaves!" it rose and fell until it
swelled to a mighty volume of sound that swept in great billows
around the entire amphitheatre.
It was at once a sight to make one shudder and to cheer; but
in a brief second we were engaged once more in our own battle
with only the unquenchable battle cry of the women to remind us
that they still fought--"Rise slaves!" "Rise slaves!"
I should have died even then but for that as my sword was
tight wedged in the breastbone of a Dator of the First Born. As
the fellow went down I snatched his sword from him and over his
prostrate body looked into the eyes of the one whose quick hand
had saved me from the first cut of his sword--it was Phaidor,
daughter of Matai Shang.
But that was not my mission, nor could I see much to be
preferred in the cruel hospitality of the Holy Therns to that of
the First Born.
DOOMED TO DIE
We struck a polished chute, the opening above us closed as
magically as it had opened, and we shot down, unharmed, into a
dimly lighted apartment far below the arena.
"Rash mortal!" she shrilled. "You shall pay the awful penalty
for your blasphemy in this secret cell. Here you shall lie alone
and in darkness with the carcass of your accomplice festering in
its rottenness by your side, until crazed by loneliness and
hunger you feed upon the crawling maggots that were once a
"Pleasant old lady," said a voice at my side.
"'Tis I, your companion, who has had the honour this day of
fighting shoulder to shoulder with the greatest warrior that ever
wore metal upon Barsoom."
"It but stunned me," he replied. "A mere scratch."
"Where are we?"
He laughed a low laugh of pleasure and relief, and then
reaching out through the inky blackness he sought my shoulder and
pulled my ear close to his mouth.
"What do you mean?"
"There are miles of corridors honeycombing the ground beneath
the gardens and the temple itself, and there is one passage that
leads down to and connects with the lower regions that open on
the water shaft that gives passage to Omean.
He had spoken all in a low whisper, evidently fearing spying
ears even here, and so I answered him in the samesubdued
"No," said the boy, "one cannot desert a friend. It were
better to be recaptured ourselves than that."
"There is a drop here of about ten feet," he whispered. "Hang
by your hands and you will alight safely on a level floor of soft
For an instant I hung in mid air. There is a strange sensation
connected with an experience of that nature which is quite
difficult to describe. When the feet tread empty air and the
distance below is shrouded in darkness there is a feeling akin to
panic at the thought of releasing the hold and taking the plunge
into unknown depths.
The boy followed me.
This done he took me by the hand, leading me very slowly, with
much feeling about and frequent halts to assure himself that he
did not stray into wrong passageways.
"It will not be long," he said, "before we shall have light.
At the lower levels we meet the same strata of phosphorescent
rock that illuminates Omean."
In addition to the green men there had been three principal
races upon Barsoom. The blacks, the whites, and a race of yellow
men. As the waters of the planet dried and the seas receded, all
other resources dwindled until life upon the planet became a
constant battle for survival.
I had always supposed that all traces of the original races
had disappeared from the face of Mars, yet within the past four
days I had found both whites and blacks in great multitudes.
Could it be possible that in some far-off corner of the planet
there still existed a remnant of the ancient race of yellow
"At last, the lighted way," he cried, and looking up I beheld
at a long distance before us a dim radiance.
The craft lay at her moorings with uncovered hatch. Raising
his finger to his lips and then tapping his sword in a
significant manner, the youth crept noiselessly toward the
vessel. I was close at his heels.
Then the boy stepped into the pilot house, touched a button
and the boat sank amid swirling waters toward the bottom of the
shaft. Even then there was no scurrying of feet as we had
expected, and while the boy remained to direct the boat I slid
from cabin to cabin in futile search for some member of the crew.
The craft was entirely deserted. Such good fortune seemed almost
"This may explain the absence of the crew," he said.
"The slaves have risen. Come with what men you have and those
that you can gather on the way. Too late to get aid from Omean.
They are massacring all within the amphitheatre. Issus is
"Zithad is Dator of the guards of Issus," explained the youth.
"We gave them a bad scare--one that they will not soon
"Only our first ancestor knows," he replied.
We were now in a quandary as to how to pass the guards who
patrolled the island about the pool. At last I hit upon a
"A fellow named Torith was on duty when we entered this
morning," he replied.
"Dator Torith: Return these two slaves at once to Shador.
That will be the simpler way to return," I said, smiling, as I
handed the forged order to the boy. "Come, we shall see now how
well it works."
"Since we cannot explain them we shall have to leave them
behind us," I replied.
"It is the only way," I answered. "You may trust me to find a
way out of the prison of Shador, and I think, once out, that we
shall find no great difficulty in arming ourselves once more in a
country which abounds so plentifully in armed men."
Boldly we emerged from the hatchway of the craft, leaving our
swords behind us, and strode to the main exit which led to the
sentry's post and the office of the Dator of the guard.
The black read the order, and for a moment eyed us with
"His orders were to return immediately to the temple landing,"
"Were you connected with the rising of the slaves?" asked
Torith. "We have just had meagre reports of some such event."
He seemed satisfied with this reply. "Take them to Shador," he
ordered, turning to one of his subordinates. We entered a small
boat lying beside the island, and in a few minutes were
disembarking upon Shador. Here we were returned to our respective
cells; I with Xodar, the boy by himself; and behind locked doors
we were again prisoners of the First Born.
Xodar listened in incredulous astonishment to my narration of
the events which had transpired within the arena at the rites of
Issus. He could scarce conceive, even though he had already
professed his doubt as to the deity of Issus, that one could
threaten her with sword in hand and not be blasted into a
thousand fragments by the mere fury of her divine wrath.
"She is still all-powerful here, however," I replied. "So it
behooves us to leave at the first moment that appears at all
"To-night will do as well as any," I replied.
"Can you swim?" I asked him.
"Good. The red one in all probability cannot swim," I said,
"since there is scarce enough water in all their domains to float
the tiniest craft. One of us therefore will have to support him
through the sea to the craft we select. I had hoped that we might
make the entire distance below the surface, but I fear that the
red youth could not thus perform the trip. Even the bravest of
the brave among them are terrorized at the mere thought of deep
water, for it has been ages since their forebears saw a lake, a
river or a sea."
"Be that as it may, Xodar, he is a great fighter. I think that
we will make a trio difficult to overcome, and if my friend Tars
Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, were but one of us we could fight our
way from one end of Barsoom to the other even though the whole
world were pitted against us."
"The therns for their part have temples dotted about the
entire civilized world. Here priests whom the people never see
communicate the doctrine of the Mysterious River Iss, the Valley
Dor, and the Lost Sea of Korus to persuade the poor deluded
creatures to take the voluntary pilgrimage that swells the wealth
of the Holy Therns and adds to the numbers of their slaves.
"We are a non-productive race, priding ourselves upon our
non-productiveness. It is criminal for a First Born to labour or
invent. That is the work of the lower orders, who live merely
that the First Born may enjoy long lives of luxury and idleness.
With us fighting is all that counts; were it not for that there
would be more of the First Born than all the creatures of Barsoom
could support, for in so far as I know none of us ever dies a
natural death. Our females would live for ever but for the fact
that we tire of them and remove them to make place for others.
Issus alone of all is protected against death. She has lived for
"I feel now that there is no doubt but that they are precisely
the same species of creature as the First Born, and I hope that I
shall live to fight for them in atonement of the sins I have
committed against them through the ignorance born of generations
of false teaching."
Our guard entered to inspect us for the last time before the
new day broke upon the world above. His duty was soon performed
and the heavy door of our prison closed behind him --we were
alone for the night.
Presently I dropped to the floor again and talked with Xodar,
describing the various craft I had seen.
In his explanation I recognized a trick of gearing that Kantos
Kan had taught me that time we sailed under false names in the
navy of Zodanga beneath Sab Than, the Prince. And I knew then
that the First Born had stolen it from the ships of Helium, for
only they are thus geared. And I knew too that Xodar spoke the
truth when he lauded the speed of his little craft, for nothing
that cleaves the thin air of Mars can approximate the speed of
the ships of Helium.
I sprang to the top of our partition wall and pulled myself up
on to it. There I found a flat surface about a foot in width and
along this I walked until I came to the cell in which I saw the
boy sitting upon his bench. He had been leaning back against the
wall looking up at the glowing dome above Omean, and when he
spied me balancing upon the partition wall above him his eyes
opened wide in astonishment. Then a wide grin of appreciative
understanding spread across his countenance.
I lay upon my belly across the wall and reached my hand far
down toward him. With a little run from the centre of the cell he
sprang up until I grasped his outstretched hand, and thus I
pulled him to the wall's top beside me.
He smiled. "It is not strange. I will tell you why when we
have more time."
There we made our plans for the immediate future, binding
ourselves by a solemn oath to fight to the death for one another
against whatsoever enemies should confront us, for we knew that
even should we succeed in escaping the First Born we might still
have a whole world against us--the power of religious
superstition is mighty.
"Why Helium?" asked the red youth.
He gave me a peculiar look, but said nothing further on the
subject. I wondered at the time what the significance of his
expression might be, but in the press of other matters it soon
left my mind, nor did I have occasion to think of it again until
Another moment found me at the top of the partition wall again
with the boy beside me. Unbuckling my harness I snapped it
together with a single long strap which I lowered to the waiting
Xodar below. He grasped the end and was soon sitting beside
"The balance should be even simpler," I replied. Then I raised
myself to the top of the outer wall of the prison, just so that I
could peer over and locate the passing sentry. For a matter of
five minutes I waited and then he came in sight on his slow and
snail-like beat about the structure.
In accordance with our arrangement they did not wait for me,
but walked slowly toward the water, a matter of a hundred yards,
directly past the guard-house filled with sleeping soldiers.
I glanced toward Xodar and the youth and saw that they had
slipped over the edge of the dock into the water. In accordance
with our plan they were to remain there clinging to the metal
rings which studded the concrete-like substance of the dock at
the water's level, with only their mouths and noses above the
surface of the sea, until I should join them.
Gently I pressed it open a crack; enough to discover a dozen
blacks stretched upon their silks in profound slumber. At the far
side of the room a rack held the swords and firearms of the men.
Warily I pushed the door a trifle wider to admit my body. A hinge
gave out a resentful groan. One of the men stirred, and my heart
stood still. I cursed myself for a fool to have thus jeopardized
our chances for escape; but there was nothing for it now but to
see the adventure through.
Carefully I picked my way between and over the soldiers until
I had gained the rack at the far side of the room. Here I turned
to survey the sleeping men. All were quiet. Their regular
breathing rose and fell in a soothing rhythm that seemed to me
the sweetest music I ever had heard.
The second sword I withdrew noiselessly, but the third clanked
in its scabbard with a frightful din. I knew that it must awaken
some of the men at least, and was on the point of forestalling
their attack by a rapid charge for the doorway, when again, to my
intense surprise, not a black moved. Either they were wondrous
heavy sleepers or else the noises that I made were really much
less than they seemed to me.
And as I congratulated myself, I heard the door opposite me
open, and there looking me full in the face stood the officer of
the guard. He evidently took in the situation at a glance and
appreciated the gravity of it as quickly as I, for our revolvers
came up simultaneously and the sounds of the two reports were as
one as we touched the buttons on the grips that exploded the
Xodar was burdened with the boy, and I with the three
long-swords. The revolver I had dropped, so that while we were
both strong swimmers it seemed to me that we moved at a snail's
pace through the water. I was swimming entirely beneath the
surface, but Xodar was compelled to rise often to let the youth
breathe, so it was a wonder that we were not discovered long
before we were.
Instantly the sleeping thousands were awake. The decks of a
thousand monster craft teemed with fighting-men, for an alarm on
Omean was a thing of rare occurrence.
"Rise high," whispered Xodar. "They dare not fire their heavy
guns toward the dome--the fragments of the shells would drop back
among their own craft. If we are high enough our keel plates will
protect us from rifle fire."
"A little to your right," cried Xodar, for there are no points
of compass upon Omean where every direction is due north.
I had not dared pull my speed lever to the highest for fear of
overrunning the mouth of the shaft that passed from Omean's dome
to the world above, but even so we were hitting a clip that I
doubt has ever been equalled on the windless sea.
A ten-man cruiser was rising directly in front to cut off our
escape. It was the only vessel that stood in our way, but at the
rate that it was traveling it would come between us and the shaft
in plenty of time to thwart our plans.
There was but one forlorn hope for us, and I took it. It was
useless to try to pass over her, for that would have allowed her
to force us against the rocky dome above, and we were already too
near that as it was. To have attempted to dive below her would
have put us entirely at her mercy, and precisely where she wanted
us. On either side a hundred other menacing craft were hastening
toward us. The alternative was filled with risk--in fact it was
all risk, with but a slender chance of success.
Her commander may have seen my intentions then, but it was too
late. Almost at the instant of impact I turned my bows upward,
and then with a shattering jolt we were in collision. What I had
hoped for happened. The cruiser, already tilted at a perilous
angle, was carried completely over backward by the impact of my
smaller vessel. Her crew fell twisting and screaming through the
air to the water far below, while the cruiser, her propellers
still madly churning, dived swiftly headforemost after them to
the bottom of the Sea of Omean.
Unguided, our vessel careened wildly in its mad flight, rising
ever nearer the rocks above. It took but an instant, however, for
me to regain the levers, and with the roof barely fifty feet
above I turned her nose once more into the horizontal plane and
headed her again for the black mouth of the shaft.
As many boats were now quite close to us it was inevitable
that we would be quickly overhauled in the shaft, and captured or
killed in short order.
"Reverse?" screamed Xodar, behind me. "For the love of your
first ancestor, reverse. We are at the shaft."
The words were scarce out of my mouth as we swept beneath the
pitch-black opening. I threw the bow hard up, dragged the speed
lever to its last notch, and clutching a stanchion with one hand
and the steering-wheel with the other hung on like grim death and
consigned my soul to its author.
I looked above my head, hoping to catch the gleam of stars by
which I could direct our course and hold the hurtling thing that
bore us true to the centre of the shaft. To have touched the side
at the speed we were making would doubtless have resulted in
instant death for us all. But not a star showed above--only utter
and impenetrable darkness.
We were not long in the shaft, and possibly the very fact of
our enormous speed saved us, for evidently we started in the
right direction and so quickly were we out again that we had no
time to alter our course. Omean lies perhaps two miles below the
surface crust of Mars. Our speed must have approximated two
hundred miles an hour, for Martian fliers are swift, so that at
most we were in the shaft not over forty seconds.
Fortunate indeed it was for us, nor did it take me long to
grasp the opportunity for escape which this happy condition
offered us. Keeping the boat's nose at a stiff angle I raced her
for the impenetrable curtain which Nature had hung above this
dying world to shut us out from the sight of our pursuing
I said as much to Xodar, over my shoulder.
At the sound of that name the boy jumped to his feet.
THE EYES IN THE DARK
The boy stood facing me, half hope and half uncertainty in his
With a cry of pleasure he sprang toward me and threw his arms
about my neck, and for a brief moment as I held my boy close to
me the tears welled to my eyes and I was like to have choked
after the manner of some maudlin fool--but I do not regret it,
nor am I ashamed. A long life has taught me that a man may seem
weak where women and children are concerned and yet be anything
but a weakling in the sterner avenues of life.
"What, my boy?" I asked.
"For long years, my son, I can scarce recall a moment that the
radiant vision of your mother's face has not been ever before me.
Tell me of her."
"Each year that brings its anniversary of the day that saw you
racing across a near dead world to unlock the secret of that
awful portal behind which lay the mighty power of life for
countless millions a great festival is held in your honour; but
there are tears mingled with the thanksgiving--tears of real
regret that the author of the happiness is not with them to share
the joy of living he died to give them. Upon all Barsoom there is
no greater name than John Carter."
"The people of Helium asked that I be named with my father's
name, but my mother said no, that you and she had chosen a name
for me together, and that your wish must be honoured before all
others, so the name that she called me is the one that you
desired, a combination of hers and yours--Carthoris."
"She is dropping badly by the head, John Carter," he said. "So
long as we were rising at a stiff angle it was not noticeable,
but now that I am trying to keep a horizontal course it is
different. The wound in her bow has opened one of her forward ray
We had slightly reduced our speed with the dawning of a sense
of security, but now I took the helm once more and pulled the
noble little engine wide open, so that again we raced north at
terrific velocity. In the meantime Carthoris and Xodar with tools
in hand were puttering with the great rent in the bow in a
hopeless endeavour to stem the tide of escaping rays.
It was becoming more and more difficult to maintain our little
vessel in a horizontal position. Lower and lower sagged the bow
until it became necessary to stop the engine to prevent our
flight terminating in a swift dive to the ground.
To hand-rail and stanchion we clung, and finally as we saw the
end approaching, snapped the buckles of our harness to the rings
at her sides. In another moment the deck reared at an angle of
ninety degrees and we hung in our leather with feet dangling a
thousand yards above the ground.
It was fully half an hour before we touched. Directly north of
us rose a rather lofty range of hills, toward which we decided to
make our way, since they afforded greater opportunity for
concealment from the pursuers we were confident might stumble in
Beneath a cluster of these which afforded perfect concealment
from wandering air scouts, we lay down to sleep--for me the first
time in many hours. This was the beginning of my fifth day upon
Barsoom since I had found myself suddenly translated from my
cottage on the Hudson to Dor, the valley beautiful, the valley
hideous. In all this time I had slept but twice, though once the
clock around within the storehouse of the therns.
"My Prince! My Prince!" she cried, in an ecstasy of happiness.
"'Tis you whom I had mourned as dead. My ancestors have been good
to me; I have not lived in vain."
"Come, come, Thuvia," I said soothingly; "you are overwrought
by the danger and hardships you have passed through. You forget
yourself, as you forget that I am the husband of the Princess of
As I have before said, I am no ladies' man, and I must admit
that I seldom have felt so uncomfortable and embarrassed as I did
that moment. While I was quite familiar with the Martian custom
which allows female slaves to Martian men, whose high and
chivalrous honour is always ample protection for every woman in
his household, yet I had never myself chosen other than men as my
"You are my master; it shall be as you say," she replied
simply, but there was a note of sadness in her voice.
"The great Thark, I fear, is dead," she replied sadly. "He was
a mighty fighter, but a multitude of green warriors of another
horde than his overwhelmed him. The last that I saw of him they
were bearing him, wounded and bleeding, to the deserted city from
which they had sallied to attack us."
"It is just beyond this range of hills. The vessel in which
you so nobly resigned a place that we might find escape defied
our small skill in navigation, with the result that we drifted
aimlessly about for two days. Then we decided to abandon the
craft and attempt to make our way on foot to the nearest
waterway. Yesterday we crossed these hills and came upon the dead
city beyond. We had passed within its streets and were walking
toward the central portion, when at an intersecting avenue we saw
a body of green warriors approaching.
"'There will be no escape for me now,' he said, 'for these be
the Warhoon of the South. When they have seen my metal it will be
to the death.'
"Before we go farther we must be sure," I said. "I cannot
leave Tars Tarkas alive among the Warhoons. To-night I shall
enter the city and make sure."
"And I," said Xodar.
They did not like it, but both were good soldiers, and it had
been agreed that I should command. The sun already was low, so
that I did not have long to wait before the sudden darkness of
Barsoom engulfed us.
As I emerged from the hills the nearer moon was winging its
wild flight through the heavens, its bright beams turning to
burnished silver the barbaric splendour of the ancient
metropolis. The city had been built upon the gently rolling
foothills that in the dim and distant past had sloped down to
meet the sea. It was due to this fact that I had no difficulty in
entering the streets unobserved.
Once within the streets, I kept close in the dense shadows of
the walls. At intersections I halted a moment to make sure that
none was in sight before I sprang quickly to the shadows of the
opposite side. Thus I made the journey to the vicinity of the
plaza without detection. As I approached the purlieus of the
inhabited portion of the city I was made aware of the proximity
of the warriors' quarters by the squealing and grunting of the
thoats and zitidars corralled within the hollow courtyards formed
by the buildings surrounding each square.
As I stood in the shadows at the far corner of the first
square which housed members of the horde, I saw warriors emerging
from several of the buildings. They all went in the same
direction, toward a great building which stood in the centre of
the plaza. My knowledge of green Martian customs convinced me
that this was either the quarters of the principal chieftain or
contained the audience chamber wherein the Jeddak met his jeds
and lesser chieftains. In either event, it was evident that
something was afoot which might have a bearing on the recent
capture of Tars Tarkas.
To pass undetected among all these people was in itself a
difficult task, but if I was to find and rescue the great Thark I
must expect even more formidable obstacles before success could
be mine. I had entered the city from the south and now stood on
the corner of the avenue through which I had passed and the first
intersecting avenue south of the plaza. The buildings upon the
south side of this square did not appear to be inhabited, as I
could see no lights, and so I decided to gain the inner courtyard
through one of them.
Close to the east wall, beneath the overhanging balconies of
the second floors, I crept in dense shadows the full length of
the courtyard, until I came to the buildings at the north end.
These were lighted for about three floors up, but above the third
floor all was dark.
Here through the open windows I saw the green folk squatting
upon their sleeping silks and furs, grunting an occasional
monosyllable, which, in connection with their wondrous telepathic
powers, is ample for their conversational requirements. As I drew
closer to listen to their words a warrior entered the room from
the hall beyond.
The warrior addressed arose and, beckoning to a fellow
squatting near, the three turned and left the apartment.
At my right was a door leading from the balcony into the
building. It was at the end of an unlighted hall, and on the
impulse of the moment I stepped within. The hall was broad and
led straight through to the front of the building. On either side
were the doorways of the various apartments which lined it.
At the far end of the corridor I found a spiral stairway
leading to the floors above and below. The three had evidently
left the floor by this avenue. That they had gone down and not up
I was sure from my knowledge of these ancient buildings and the
methods of the Warhoons.
Nor was I wrong. At the bottom of the runway, or rather at the
landing on the floor below, I saw that the shaft descended into
the pits beneath, and as I glanced down the flickering light of a
torch revealed the presence of the three I was trailing.
Hustling him roughly between them, they came immediately from
the chamber, so quickly in fact that I was near to being
apprehended. But I managed to run along the corridor in the
direction I had been going in my pursuit of them far enough to be
without the radius of their meagre light as they emerged from the
The sensation of moving rapidly through these dark passages
was far from reassuring. I knew not at what moment I might plunge
headlong into some terrible pit or meet with some of the ghoulish
creatures that inhabit these lower worlds beneath the dead cities
of dying Mars. There filtered to me a faint radiance from the
torch of the men behind--just enough to permit me to trace the
direction of the winding passageways directly before me, and so
keep me from dashing myself against the walls at the turns.
Quickly I realized that the warriors had taken one of the
other corridors with their prisoner, and so I hastened back with
a feeling of considerable relief to take up a much safer and more
desirable position behind them. It was much slower work
returning, however, than it had been coming, for now the darkness
was as utter as the silence.
I listened intently, but the naked feet of the green men sent
back no guiding echoes, though presently I thought I detected the
clank of side arms in the far distance of the middle corridor. Up
this, then, I hastened, searching for the light, and stopping to
listen occasionally for a repetition of the sound; but soon I was
forced to admit that I must have been following a blind lead, as
only darkness and silence rewarded my efforts.
But unless I could find my way back to that point the chances
were most excellent that I would wander for days through the
awful blackness, until, overcome by thirst and hunger, I lay down
to die, or-- What was that!
And now in these black pits of the other Warhoons I looked
into those same fiery eyes, blazing at me through the terrible
darkness, revealing no sign of the beast behind them. I think
that the most fearsome attribute of these awesome creatures is
their silence and the fact that one never sees them--nothing but
those baleful eyes glaring unblinkingly out of the dark void
On and on I went, but I could not escape my sinister pursuer.
Suddenly I heard the shuffling noise at my right, and, looking,
saw another pair of eyes, evidently approaching from an
intersecting corridor. As I started to renew my slow retreat I
heard the noise repeated behind me, and then before I could turn
I heard it again at my left.
Why is it that darkness so magnifies our dangers? By day I
would have charged the great banth itself, had I thought it
necessary, but hemmed in by the darkness of these silent pits I
hesitated before a pair of eyes.
For what seemed hours the eyes approached gradually closer and
closer, until I felt that I should go mad for the horror of it. I
had been constantly turning this way and that to prevent any
sudden rush from behind, until I was fairly worn out. At length I
could endure it no longer, and, taking a fresh grasp upon my
long-sword, I turned suddenly and charged down upon one of my
Thus we continued, the eyes always a little closer in the end
than they had been before, until I thought that I should go mad
with the terrible strain of the ordeal. That they were waiting to
spring upon my back seemed evident, and that it would not be long
before they succeeded was equally apparent, for I could not
endure the wear of this repeated charge and countercharge
indefinitely. In fact, I could feel myself weakening from the
mental and physical strain I had been undergoing.
There was no sound in the corridor, only that of my own
breathing, yet I knew that those three uncanny creatures were
almost upon me. The eyes in front were not retreating so rapidly
now; I was almost within sword reach of them. I raised my sword
arm to deal the blow that should free me, and then I felt a heavy
body upon my back. A cold, moist, slimy something fastened itself
upon my throat. I stumbled and went down.
I could not have been unconscious more than a few seconds, and
yet I know that I was unconscious, for the next thing I realized
was that a growing radiance was illuminating the corridor about
me and the eyes were gone.
I sprang to my feet to ascertain the cause of the light. It
came from a torch in the hand of one of a party of four green
warriors, who were coming rapidly down the corridor toward me.
They had not yet seen me, and so I lost no time in slipping into
the first intersecting corridor that I could find. This time,
however, I did not advance so far away from the main corridor as
on the other occasion that had resulted in my losing Tars Tarkas
and his guards.
I fell in behind them and soon we were at the cell in which
the great Thark had been chained. Two of the warriors remained
without while the man with the keys entered with the Thark to
fasten his irons upon him once more. The two outside started to
stroll slowly in the direction of the spiral runway which led to
the floors above, and in a moment were lost to view beyond a turn
in the corridor.
While I disliked the thought of carrying out the thing that I
had decided upon, there seemed no alternative if Tars Tarkas and
I were to go back together to my little camp in the hills.
I dislike to dwell upon what followed after I heard the
footsteps of the man as he approached the doorway. It is enough
that within another minute or two, Tars Tarkas, wearing the metal
of a Warhoon chief, was hurrying down the corridor toward the
spiral runway, bearing the Warhoon's torch to light his way. A
dozen paces behind him followed John Carter, Prince of
"Why so long, Tan Gama?" cried one of the men.
"As you will, Tan Gama," replied he who had before spoken. "We
shall see you above directly."
At the first floor we found that the hallway ran but halfway
through, necessitating the crossing of a rear room full of green
folk, ere we could reach the inner courtyard, so there was but
one thing left for us to do, and that was to gain the second
floor and the hallway through which I had traversed the length of
At our right was the window letting into the room in which I
had seen Tan Gama and the other warriors as they started to Tars
Tarkas' cell earlier in the evening. His companions had returned
here, and we now overheard a portion of their conversation.
"He certainly could not be all this time fetching his
shortsword from the Thark's cell," spoke another.
"Tan Gama left his short-sword in the Thark's cell," explained
the first speaker, "and left us at the runway, to return and get
The warriors sprang to their feet.
"'Tis even what I myself thought when Tan Gama left us at the
runway," said another. "Methought then that his voice sounded
We waited to hear no more. Slinging my harness into a long
single strap, I lowered Tars Tarkas to the courtyard beneath, and
an instant later dropped to his side.
"By this time," he had said, "I should have learned to wonder
at nothing which John Carter accomplishes." That was all. He did
not need to tell me that he appreciated the friendship which had
prompted me to risk my life to rescue him, nor did he need to say
that he was glad to see me.
As we reached the courtyard we stood in the shadows beneath
the balcony for a moment to discuss our plans.
"Carthoris!" he cried. "Your son?"
"I know not any of these places, John Carter. Be they upon
In safety we reached the great gates at the far end of the
courtyard, through which it was necessary to take our thoats to
the avenue beyond. It is no easy matter to handle five of these
great, fierce beasts, which by nature are as wild and ferocious
as their masters and held in subjection by cruelty and brute
As the thoats are guided by telepathic means alone, there is
no need for rein or bridle, and so our object now was to find two
that would obey our unspoken commands. As they charged about us
we succeeded in mastering them sufficiently to prevent any
concerted attack upon us, but the din of their squealing was
certain to bring investigating warriors into the courtyard were
it to continue much longer.
Tars Tarkas rode ahead and, leaning down to the latch, threw
the barriers open, while I held the loose thoats from breaking
back to the herd. Then together we rode through into the avenue
with our stolen mounts and, without waiting to close the gates,
hurried off toward the southern boundary of the city.
Here a low whistle, the prearranged signal, apprised the
balance of our party that I was returning, and we were met by the
three with every manifestation of enthusiastic rejoicing.
Xodar and the green Jeddak were formally presented to each
other. Then Thuvia was lifted to the least fractious thoat, Xodar
and Carthoris mounted two others, and we set out at a rapid pace
toward the east. At the far extremity of the city we circled
toward the north, and under the glorious rays of the two moons we
sped noiselessly across the dead sea bottom, away from the
Warhoons and the First Born, but to what new dangers and
adventures we knew not.
It seemed to me that I had but closed my eyes when I felt her
hand upon my shoulder and heard her soft voice warning me of a
The girl stood pointing in the direction from whence we had
come, and as I arose and looked, I, too, thought that I could
detect a thin dark line on the far horizon. I awoke the others.
Tars Tarkas, whose giant stature towered high above the rest of
us, could see the farthest.
There was no time to be lost. We sprang to our hobbled thoats,
freed them, and mounted. Then we turned our faces once more
toward the north and took our flight again at the highest speed
of our slowest beast.
As the sun rose on the second day of our flight it disclosed
the pursuing horde not a half-mile in our rear. As they saw us a
fiendish shout of triumph rose from their ranks.
This double burden soon proved too much for my already
overtaxed beast, and thus our speed was terribly diminished, for
the others would proceed no faster than the slowest of us could
go. In that little party there was not one who would desert
another; yet we were of different countries, different colours,
different races, different religions--and one of us was of a
I turned and saw that she had deliberately slipped to the
ground in the very path of the cruel demons who pursued us,
thinking that by lightening the burden of my mount it might thus
be enabled to bear me to the safety of the hills. Poor child! She
should have known John Carter better than that.
The brave boy's act of chivalrous self-sacrifice filled me
with pride, nor did I care that it had wrested from us our last
frail chance for escape. The Warhoons were now close upon us.
Tars Tarkas and Xodar had discovered our absence and were
charging rapidly to our support. Everything pointed toward a
splendid ending of my second journey to Barsoom. I hated to go
out without having seen my divine Princess, and held her in my
arms once again; but if it were not writ upon the book of Fate
that such was to be, then would I take the most that was coming
to me, and in these last few moments that were to be vouchsafed
me before I passed over into that unguessed future I could at
least give such an account of myself in my chosen vocation as
would leave the Warhoons of the South food for discourse for the
next twenty generations.
The Warhoons were perhaps a hundred yards from us when a loud
explosion sounded from above and behind us, and almost at the
same instant a shell burst in their advancing ranks. At once all
was confusion. A hundred warriors toppled to the ground.
Riderless thoats plunged hither and thither among the dead and
dying. Dismounted warriors were trampled underfoot in the
stampede which followed. All semblance of order had left the
ranks of the green men, and as they looked far above our heads to
trace the origin of this unexpected attack, disorder turned to
retreat and retreat to a wild panic. In another moment they were
racing as madly away from us as they had before been charging
down upon us.
As she drew nearer I could not repress a wild cry of elation,
for upon her bows I saw the device of Helium.
As Carthoris, Xodar, Tars Tarkas, and I stood gazing at the
magnificent vessel which meant so much to all of us, we saw a
second and then a third top the summit of the hills and glide
gracefully after their sister.
In another instant we were surrounded by armed sailors, and an
officer had stepped forward to address us, when his eyes fell
upon Carthoris. With an exclamation of surprised pleasure he
sprang forward, and, placing his hands upon the boy's shoulder,
called him by name.
"Grieve not, my good Hor Vastus," cried Carthoris, "since I
bring not back myself alone to cheer my mother's heart and the
hearts of my beloved people, but also one whom all Barsoom loved
best--her greatest warrior and her saviour--John Carter, Prince
"John Carter!" he exclaimed, and then a sudden troubled look
came into his eyes. "My Prince," he started, "where hast thou--"
and then he stopped, but I knew the question that his lips dared
not frame. The loyal fellow would not be the one to force from
mine a confession of the terrible truth that I had returned from
the bosom of the Iss, the River of Mystery, back from the shore
of the Lost Sea of Korus, and the Valley Dor.
Could you know the customs and the character of red Martians
you would appreciate the depth of meaning that that simple act
conveyed to me and to all about us who witnessed it. The thing
was equivalent to saying, "My sword, my body, my life, my soul
are yours to do with as you wish. Until death and after death I
look to you alone for authority for my every act. Be you right or
wrong, your word shall be my only truth. Whoso raises his hand
against you must answer to my sword."
"Hor Vastus," I said, placing my hand upon his shoulder, "you
know best the promptings of your own heart. That I shall need
your sword I have little doubt, but accept from John Carter upon
his sacred honour the assurance that he will never call upon you
to draw this sword other than in the cause of truth, justice, and
As we spoke other fliers came and went between the ground and
the battleship, and presently a larger boat was launched from
above, one capable of carrying a dozen persons, perhaps, and
dropped lightly near us. As she touched, an officer sprang from
her deck to the ground, and, advancing to Hor Vastus,
As we approached the little craft I looked about for the
members of my party and for the first time noticed that Thuvia
was not among them. Questioning elicited the fact that none had
seen her since Carthoris had sent her thoat galloping madly
toward the hills, in the hope of carrying her out of harm's
The first man to greet me was Kantos Kan himself. My old
friend had won to the highest place in the navy of Helium, but he
was still to me the same brave comrade who had shared with me the
privations of a Warhoon dungeon, the terrible atrocities of the
Great Games, and later the dangers of our search for Dejah Thoris
within the hostile city of Zodanga.
He did not ask me where I had been. Like Hor Vastus, he too
dreaded the truth and would not be the one to wrest a statement
from me. That it must come some time he well knew, but until it
came he seemed satisfied to but know that I was with him once
more. He greeted Carthoris and Tars Tarkas with the keenest
delight, but he asked neither where he had been. He could
scarcely keep his hands off the boy.
"What mean you, Kantos Kan," I whispered, "by 'his poor
mother'?" for the words had seemed to carry a sinister meaning
which I could not fathom.
"For a year," he said, "Ever since Carthoris disappeared,
Dejah Thoris has grieved and mourned for her lost boy. The blow
of years ago, when you did not return from the atmosphere plant,
was lessened to some extent by the duties of motherhood, for your
son broke his white shell that very night."
"As a last resort, Mors Kajak, her father, and Tardos Mors,
her grandfather, took command of two mighty expeditions, and a
month ago sailed away to explore every inch of ground in the
northern hemisphere of Barsoom. For two weeks no word has come
back from them, but rumours were rife that they had met with a
terrible disaster and that all were dead.
"He had a secret audience with her six days ago. What took
place none knows, but the next day Dejah Thoris had disappeared,
and with her had gone a dozen of her household guard and body
servants, including Sola the green woman--Tars Tarkas' daughter,
you recall. No word left they of their intentions, but it is
always thus with those who go upon the voluntary pilgrimage from
which none returns. We cannot think aught than that Dejah Thoris
has sought the icy bosom of Iss, and that her devoted servants
have chosen to accompany her.
While we talked, Hor Vastus' fliers were returning to the
Xavarian. Not one, however, had discovered a trace of Thuvia. I
was much depressed over the news of Dejah Thoris' disappearance,
and now there was added the further burden of apprehension
concerning the fate of this girl whom I believed to be the
daughter of some proud Barsoomian house, and it had been my
intention to make every effort to return her to her people.
My friend read the dispatch and then turned to me.
"You know full well, my friend," I said, smiling, "that Zat
Arras has good cause to hate me. Nothing would please him better
than to humiliate me and then to kill me. Now that he has so
excellent an excuse, let us go and see if he has the courage to
take advantage of it."
As we approached the Jed of Zodanga no sign of greeting or
recognition crossed his face; not even to Carthoris did he
vouchsafe a friendly word. His attitude was cold, haughty, and
"Why were these prisoners not disarmed?" he asked to Kantos
"Two of them are of Helium's noblest family. Tars Tarkas,
Jeddak of Thark, is Tardos Mors' best beloved ally. The other is
a friend and companion of the Prince of Helium-that is enough for
me to know."
"I have just come from the Valley Dor and the Land of the
First Born, Zat Arras," I replied.
"I have come back from a land of false hope, from a valley of
torture and death; with my companions I have escaped from the
hideous clutches of lying fiends. I have come back to the Barsoom
that I saved from a painless death to again save her, but this
time from death in its most frightful form."
"Come I from heaven or hell, Zat Arras, you will find me still
the same John Carter that I have always been; nor did ever man
call me such names and live--without apologizing." And with that
I commenced to bend him back across my knee and tighten my grip
upon his throat.
Kantos Kan came close and whispered to me.
At his words I released Zat Arras and, turning my back upon
him, walked toward the ship's rail.
None interfered. Zat Arras stood white and trembling amidst
his officers. Some there were who looked upon him with scorn and
drew toward me, while one, a man long in the service and
confidence of Tardos Mors, spoke to me in a low tone as I passed
I thanked him and passed on. In silence we embarked, and
shortly after stepped once more upon the deck of the Xavarian.
Fifteen minutes later we received orders from the flagship to
proceed toward Helium.
"Let us hope that we may at least go out with good red blood
upon our blades," he said. It was a simple wish and one most
likely to be gratified.
By returning from Dor we had committed a sacrilege; by
recounting our adventures there, and stating the facts as they
existed we had outraged the religion of their fathers. We were
blasphemers--lying heretics. Even those who still clung to us
from personal love and loyalty I think did so in the face of the
fact that at heart they questioned our veracity--it is very hard
to accept a new religion for an old, no matter how alluring the
promises of the new may be; but to reject the old as a tissue of
falsehoods without being offered anything in its stead is indeed
a most difficult thing to ask of any people.
"It is enough," he said, "that I jeopardize my life here and
hereafter by countenancing you at all--do not ask me to add still
further to my sins by listening to what I have always been taught
was the rankest heresy."
On the other hand, the majority of the populace unquestionably
would demand that we pay the penalty of our sacrilege. The
outlook seemed dark from whatever angle I viewed it, but my mind
was so torn with anguish at the thought of Dejah Thoris that I
realize now that I gave the terrible question of Helium's plight
but scant attention at that time.
It was in the forenoon that we arrived above the milehigh
scarlet tower which marks greater Helium from her twin city. As
we descended in great circles toward the navy docks a mighty
multitude could be seen surging in the streets beneath. Helium
had been notified by radio-aerogram of our approach.
I knew that Zat Arras dared not trust the people near to us,
for he feared that their love for Carthoris and myself might
break into a demonstration which would wipe out their
superstitious horror of the crime we were to be charged with.
What his plans were I could only guess, but that they were
sinister was evidenced by the fact that only his most trusted
servitors accompanied us upon the flier to the Temple of
Late in the afternoon a messenger arrived from Zat Arras to
inform us that we would be tried by an impartial body of nobles
in the great hall of the temple at the 1st zode* on the following
day, or about 8:40 A.M. Earth time.
50 xats . . . . . . . . . 1 zode
A few moments before the appointed time on the following
morning a strong guard of Zat Arras' officers appeared at our
quarters to conduct us to the great hall of the temple.
As we reached the raised enclosure I saw our judges. As is the
custom upon Barsoom there were thirty-one, supposedly selected by
lot from men of the noble class, for nobles were on trial. But to
my amazement I saw no single friendly face among them.
Practically all were Zodangans, and it was I to whom Zodanga owed
her defeat at the hands of the green hordes and her subsequent
vassalage to Helium. There could be little justice here for John
Carter, or his son, or for the great Thark who had commanded the
savage tribesmen who overran Zodanga's broad avenues, looting,
burning, and murdering.
The judges were seated in a great circle about the periphery
of the circular platform. We were assigned seats with our backs
toward a small platform in the exact centre of the larger one.
This placed us facing the judges and the audience. Upon the
smaller platform each would take his place while his case was
"John Carter," he cried, "take your place upon the Pedestal of
Truth to be judged impartially according to your acts and here to
know the reward you have earned thereby." Then turning to and fro
toward the audience he narrated the acts upon the value of which
my reward was to be determined.
"He who be once dead may not live again. He who attempts it
must be made dead for ever. Judges, your duty lies plain before
you--here can be no testimony in contravention of truth. What
reward shall be meted to John Carter in accordance with the acts
he has committed?"
And then a man sprang to his feet in the audience, and raising
his hand on high, cried: "Justice! Justice! Justice!" It was
Kantos Kan, and as all eyes turned toward him he leaped past the
Zodangan soldiery and sprang upon the platform.
A great cry arose from the audience then: "Justice! Justice!
Justice!" and Zat Arras dared not deny them.
"Men of Helium," I cried, turning to the spectators, and
speaking over the heads of my judges, "how can John Carter expect
justice from the men of Zodanga? He cannot nor does he ask it. It
is to the men of Helium that he states his case; nor does he
appeal for mercy to any. It is not in his own cause that he
speaks now--it is in thine. In the cause of your wives and
daughters, and of wives and daughters yet unborn. It is to save
them from the unthinkably atrocious indignities that I have seen
heaped upon the fair women of Barsoom in the place men call the
Temple of Issus. It is to save them from the sucking embrace of
the plant men, from the fangs of the great white apes of Dor,
from the cruel lust of the Holy Therns, from all that the cold,
dead Iss carries them to from homes of love and life and
"There be no man here, or elsewhere upon Barsoom to-day who
does not owe his life directly to a single act of mine, in which
I sacrificed myself and the happiness of my Princess that you
might live. And so, men of Helium, I think that I have the right
to demand that I be heard, that I be believed, and that you let
me serve you and save you from the false hereafter of Dor and
Issus as I saved you from the real death that other day.
"Speak, John Carter, Prince of Helium," cried a great noble
from the audience, and the multitude echoed his permission, until
the building rocked with the noise of their demonstration.
But when I had finished, Zat Arras arose and, turning to the
judges, said in a low tone: "My nobles, you have heard John
Carter's plea; every opportunity has been given him to prove his
innocence if he be not guilty; but instead he has but utilized
the time in further blasphemy. What, gentlemen, is your
If the people did not hear Zat Arras' charge, they certainly
did hear the verdict of the tribunal. A sullen murmur rose louder
and louder about the packed coliseum, and then Kantos Kan, who
had not left the platform since first he had taken his place near
me, raised his hand for silence. When he could be heard he spoke
to the people in a cool and level voice.
In an instant soldiers and citizens, officers and nobles were
crowding past the soldiers of Zodanga and forcing their way to
the Throne of Righteousness. A hundred men surged upon the
platform, and a hundred blades rattled and clanked to the floor
at my feet. Zat Arras and his officers were furious, but they
were helpless. One by one I raised the swords to my lips and
buckled them again upon their owners.
"Stop!" cried Zat Arras. "Soldiers of Helium, let no prisoner
leave the Throne of Righteousness."
From every quarter of the coliseum swords flashed and men
rushed threateningly upon the Zodangans. Some one raised a cry:
"Tardos Mors is dead--a thousand years to John Carter, Jeddak of
Helium." As I heard that and saw the ugly attitude of the men of
Helium toward the soldiers of Zat Arras, I knew that only a
miracle could avert a clash that would end in civil war.
"Let us each give in a point to the other, and let this entire
matter rest until Tardos Mors returns, or Mors Kajak, his son. If
neither be back at the end of a year a second trial may be
held--the thing has a precedent." And then turning to Zat Arras,
I said in a low voice: "Unless you be a bigger fool than I take
you to be, you will grasp the chance I am offering you ere it is
too late. Once that multitude of swords below is drawn against
your soldiery no man upon Barsoom-not even Tardos Mors
himself--can avert the consequences. What say you? Speak
"Stay your hands, men of Helium," he shouted, his voice
trembling with rage. "The sentence of the court is passed, but
the day of retribution has not been set. I, Zat Arras, Jed of
Zodanga, appreciating the royal connections of the prisoner and
his past services to Helium and Barsoom, grant a respite of one
year, or until the return of Mors Kajak, or Tardos Mors to
Helium. Disperse quietly to your houses. Go."
"Clear the temple," commanded Zat Arras, in a low tone to one
of his officers.
Kantos Kan with the others who had sworn allegiance to me
still stood upon the Throne of Righteousness with me.
In the avenues we found a press of people, but they opened a
pathway for us, and many were the swords that were flung at my
feet as I passed through the city of Helium toward my palace upon
the outskirts. Here my old slaves fell upon their knees and
kissed my hands as I greeted them. They cared not where I had
been. It was enough that I had returned to them.
Tears came to my eyes, so that I was forced to turn away that
I might hide my emotions. Carthoris wept openly as the slaves
pressed about him with expressions of affection, and words of
sorrow for our common loss. It was now that Tars Tarkas for the
first time learned that his daughter, Sola, had accompanied Dejah
Thoris upon the last long pilgrimage. I had not had the heart to
tell him what Kantos Kan had told me. With the stoicism of the
green Martian he showed no sign of suffering, yet I knew that his
grief was as poignant as my own. In marked contrast to his kind,
he had in well-developed form the kindlier human characteristics
of love, friendship, and charity.
The board, according to red Martian custom, was triangular,
for there were three in our family. Carthoris and I presided in
the centre of our sides of the table--midway of the third side
Dejah Thoris' high-backed, carven chair stood vacant except for
her gorgeous wedding trappings and jewels which were draped upon
it. Behind stood a slave as in the days when his mistress had
occupied her place at the board, ready to do her bidding. It was
the way upon Barsoom, so I endured the anguish of it, though it
wrung my heart to see that silent chair where should have been my
laughing and vivacious Princess keeping the great hall ringing
with her merry gaiety.
Hor Vastus sat in the seat of honour upon Carthoris' side of
the table. There was little general conversation. It was a quiet
and saddened party. The loss of Dejah Thoris was still fresh in
the minds of all, and to this was added fear for the safety of
Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak, as well as doubt and uncertainty as
to the fate of Helium, should it prove true that she was
permanently deprived of her great Jeddak.
"Dejah Thoris is found!" he cried. "A messenger from Dejah
As I came near to them I saw that the figure on the thoat was
The green girl slid from her mighty mount and ran toward
"Seven days ago, after her audience with Zat Arras, Dejah
Thoris attempted to slip from the palace in the dead of night.
Although I had not heard the outcome of her interview with Zat
Arras I knew that something had occurred then to cause her the
keenest mental agony, and when I discovered her creeping from the
palace I did not need to be told her destination.
"The following day we came upon a herd of small thoats, and
thereafter we were mounted and made good time. We travelled very
fast and very far due south until the morning of the fifth day we
sighted a great fleet of battleships sailing north. They saw us
before we could seek shelter, and soon we were surrounded by a
horde of black men. The Princess's guard fought nobly to the end,
but they were soon overcome and slain. Only Dejah Thoris and I
"The fleet continued north after capturing us. There were
about twenty large battleships in all, besides a number of small
swift cruisers. That evening one of the smaller cruisers that had
been far in advance of the fleet returned with a prisoner--a
young red woman whom they had picked up in a range of hills under
the very noses, they said, of a fleet of three red Martian
"The new captive was a very beautiful girl. She told Dejah
Thoris that many years ago she had taken the voluntary pilgrimage
from the court of her father, the Jeddak of Ptarth. She was
Thuvia, the Princess of Ptarth. And then she asked Dejah Thoris
who she might be, and when she heard she fell upon her knees and
kissed Dejah Thoris' fettered hands, and told her that that very
morning she had been with John Carter, Prince of Helium, and
Carthoris, her son.
"'I do not blame you for loving him, Thuvia,' she said; 'and
that your affection for him is pure and sincere I can well
believe from the candour of your avowal of it to me.'
"'There is no place in the Land of the First Born for a green
one,' he said, and with that he gave me a terrific shove that
carried me toppling from the deck of the battleship. Evidently
this seemed to him the easiest way of ridding the vessel of my
presence and killing me at the same time.
"I lay all night where I had fallen and the next morning
brought an explanation of the fortunate coincidence that had
saved me from a terrible death. As the sun rose I saw a vast
panorama of sea bottom and distant hills lying far below me. I
was upon the highest peak of a lofty range. The fleet in the
darkness of the preceding night had barely grazed the crest of
the hills, and in the brief span that they hovered close to the
surface the black guard had pitched me, as he supposed, to my
For many minutes none spoke. Dejah Thoris in the clutches of
the First Born! I shuddered at the thought, but of a sudden the
old fire of unconquerable self-confidence surged through me. I
sprang to my feet, and with back-thrown shoulders and upraised
sword took a solemn vow to reach, rescue, and revenge my
Here we discussed the details of our expedition until long
after dark. Xodar was positive that Issus would choose both Dejah
Thoris and Thuvia to serve her for a year.
In the matter of equipping a fleet to enter Omean the details
were left to Kantos Kan and Xodar. The former agreed to take such
vessels as we required into dock as rapidly as possible, where
Xodar would direct their equipment with water propellers.
It was estimated that it would require six months to complete
our preparations in view of the fact that the utmost secrecy must
be maintained to keep the project from the ears of Zat Arras.
Kantos Kan was confident now that the man's ambitions were fully
aroused and that nothing short of the title of Jeddak of Helium
would satisfy him.
"There is a way," cried Hor Vastus, "to thwart him effectually
and for ever."
"What do you mean?" asked Kantos Kan.
The eyes of my companions lighted, and grim smiles of pleasure
and anticipation overspread their faces, as each eye turned
toward me questioningly. But I shook my head.
"As you will, John Carter," said Hor Vastus, "but-What was
that?" he whispered, pointing toward the window overlooking the
"There he goes!" he cried excitedly. "The guards! Below there!
"He was on the balcony when I first saw him," cried Hor
Vastus. "Quick! Let us follow him!"
"What do you make of it, Kantos Kan?" asked Tars Tarkas.
"He will have something interesting to report to his master
then," laughed Hor Vastus.
Upon the hilt of his sword each of them swore to do as I had
It was late that night before our conference broke up, but
each man there had his particular duties outlined, and the
details of the entire plan had been mapped out.
Upon Hor Vastus devolved the delicate mission of organising a
secret force of fighting-men sworn to follow John Carter wherever
he might lead. As we estimated that it would require over a
million men to man the thousand great battleships we intended to
use on Omean and the transports for the green men as well as the
ships that were to convoy the transports, it was no trifling job
that Hor Vastus had before him.
How long I slept I do not know. When I awoke suddenly it was
to find a half-dozen powerful men upon me, a gag already in my
mouth, and a moment later my arms and legs securely bound. So
quickly had they worked and to such good purpose, that I was
utterly beyond the power to resist them by the time I was fully
When they had come into the corridor with me, they turned
toward a secret panel in the wall which led to the passage that
terminated in the pits beneath the palace. That any knew of this
panel outside my own household, I was doubtful. Yet the leader of
the band did not hesitate a moment. He stepped directly to the
panel, touched the concealed button, and as the door swung open
he stood aside while his companions entered with me. Then he
closed the panel behind him and followed us.
One of them turned toward me with a sardonic smile upon his
thin, cruel lips--it was Zat Arras.
"Ah," said Zat Arras, "to what kindly circumstance am I
indebted for the pleasure of this unexpected visit from the
Prince of Helium?"
The eyes of those within the chamber were fixed first upon me
and then upon Zat Arras, until finally a flush of anger crept
slowly over his face.
"John Carter," he said, "by the edict of custom, by the law of
our religion, and by the verdict of an impartial court, you are
condemned to die. The people cannot save you--I alone may
accomplish that. You are absolutely in my power to do with as I
wish--I may kill you, or I may free you, and should I elect to
kill you, none would be the wiser.
"You may go free within two minutes, upon one condition.
Tardos Mors will never return to Helium. Neither will Mors Kajak,
nor Dejah Thoris. Helium must select a new Jeddak within the
year. Zat Arras would be Jeddak of Helium. Say that you will
espouse my cause. This is the price of your freedom. I am
For a moment I was perplexed, but for a moment only. The proud
daughter of a thousand Jeddaks would choose death to a
dishonorable alliance such as this, nor could John Carter do less
for Helium than his Princess would do.
"There can be no alliance," I said, "between a traitor to
Helium and a prince of the House of Tardos Mors. I do not
believe, Zat Arras, that the great Jeddak is dead."
"It will not be long, John Carter," he said, "that your
opinions will be of interest even to yourself, so make the best
of them while you can. Zat Arras will permit you in due time to
reflect further upon the magnanimous offer he has made you. Into
the silence and darkness of the pits you will enter upon your
reflection this night with the knowledge that should you fail
within a reasonable time to agree to the alternative which has
been offered you, never shall you emerge from the darkness and
the silence again. Nor shall you know at what minute the hand
will reach out through the darkness and the silence with the keen
dagger that shall rob you of your last chance to win again the
warmth and the freedom and joyousness of the outer world."
Zat Arras waved his hand in my direction.
At length they halted within a fair-sized chamber. There were
rings set in the rocky walls. To them chains were fastened, and
at the ends of many of the chains were human skeletons. One of
these they kicked aside, and, unlocking the huge padlock that had
held a chain about what had once been a human ankle, they snapped
the iron band about my own leg. Then they left me, taking the
light with them.
How long I stood listening in the darkness I do not know, but
the silence was unbroken, and at last I sunk to the hard floor of
my prison, where, leaning my head against the stony wall, I
"Zat Arras sends you greetings," said the young man, "and
commands me to inform you that though he is fully advised of the
plot to make you Jeddak of Helium, he is, however, not inclined
to withdraw the offer which he has made you. To gain your freedom
you have but to request me to advise Zat Arras that you accept
the terms of his proposition."
Twice a day for many days this youth came to my cell with
food, and ever the same greetings from Zat Arras. For a long time
I tried to engage him in conversation upon other matters, but he
would not talk, and so, at length, I desisted.
I was beside myself with anxiety for knowledge of the progress
of the expedition which was to rescue Dejah Thoris. I felt that
Carthoris would not let the matter drop, were he free to act, but
in so far as I knew, he also might be a prisoner in Zat Arras'
I determined to make at least one more effort to learn
something, and to this end I adopted strategy when next the youth
came to my cell. I had noticed that he was a handsome fellow,
about the size and age of Carthoris. And I had also noticed that
his shabby trappings but illy comported with his dignified and
"You have been very kind to me during my imprisonment here," I
said to him, "and as I feel that I have at best but a very short
time to live, I wish, ere it is too late, to furnish substantial
testimony of my appreciation of all that you have done to render
my imprisonment bearable.
"In the guard-room of my palace are many fine trappings. Go
thou there and select the harness which most pleases you --it
shall be yours. All I ask is that you wear it, that I may know
that my wish has been realized. Tell me that you will do it."
"And I went to the palace of the Prince of Helium with any
such demand, they would laugh at me and, into the bargain, would
more than likely throw me headforemost into the avenue. No, it
cannot be, though I thank you for the offer. Why, if Zat Arras
even dreamed that I contemplated such a thing he would have my
heart cut out of me."
Again he stood silently in deep thought.
"Bring writing materials when you come next to my cell, and
within a few hours we shall see you garbed in a style befitting
your birth and carriage."
If he accepted a message to Carthoris it would mean to me that
Carthoris still lived and was free. If the youth returned wearing
the harness and the sword, I would know that Carthoris had
received my note and that he knew that I still lived. That the
bearer of the note was a Zodangan would be sufficient to explain
to Carthoris that I was a prisoner of Zat Arras.
My heart fairly bounded for joy. I had won my point. For a
moment I looked at the materials in feigned surprise, but soon I
permitted an expression of dawning comprehension to come into my
face, and then, picking them up, I penned a brief order to
Carthoris to deliver to Parthak a harness of his selection and
the short-sword which I described. That was all. But it meant
everything to me and to Carthoris.
As nearly as I could estimate, I had at this time been in the
pits for three hundred days. If anything was to be done to save
Dejah Thoris it must be done quickly, for, were she not already
dead, her end must soon come, since those whom Issus chose lived
but a single year.
"What has become of Parthak?" I asked, but the fellow would
not answer, and as soon as he had deposited my food, turned and
retraced his steps to the world above.
I could only speculate on the cause of Parthak's removal, but
that it was connected in some way directly with the note I had
given him was most apparent to me. After all my rejoicing, I was
no better off than before, for now I did not even know that
Carthoris lived, for if Parthak had wished to raise himself in
the estimation of Zat Arras he would have permitted me to go on
precisely as I did, so that he could carry my note to his master,
in proof of his own loyalty and devotion.
As the terrible picture forced itself vividly across my
imagination, I buried my face in my arms, and only with the
greatest difficulty was it that I repressed the tears that welled
to my eyes despite my every effort. To think of that beautiful
creature torn and rended by the cruel fangs of the hideous white
apes! It was unthinkable. Such a horrid fact could not be; and
yet my reason told me that within thirty days my incomparable
Princess would be fought over in the arena of the First Born by
those very wild beasts; that her bleeding corpse would be dragged
through the dirt and the dust, until at last a part of it would
be rescued to be served as food upon the tables of the black
With the thought came instant action. I threw myself upon the
floor of my cell close by the wall, in a strained and distorted
posture, as though I were dead after a struggle or convulsions.
When he should stoop over me I had but to grasp his throat with
one hand and strike him a terrific blow with the slack of my
chain, which I gripped firmly in my right hand for the
The thing worked just as I had planned. So brief was the
interval between the opening of my eyes and the fall of the chain
that I could not check it, though it that minute interval I
recognized the face so close to mine as that of my son,
When I regained consciousness it was to feel a cool, firm hand
pressed upon my forehead. For an instant I did not open my eyes.
I was endeavouring to gather the loose ends of many thoughts and
memories which flitted elusively through my tired and overwrought
Leaning over me was Carthoris, a great bruise upon his
forehead where the chain had struck, but alive, thank God, alive!
There was no one with him. Reaching out my arms, I took my boy
within them, and if ever there arose from any planet a fervent
prayer of gratitude, it was there beneath the crust of dying Mars
as I thanked the Eternal Mystery for my son's life.
"How came you here at all?" I asked, mystified that he had
found me without a guide.
"Finally I gave him a fair choice between freedom and the pits
beneath the palace--the price of freedom to be full information
as to where you were imprisoned and directions which would lead
us to you; but still he maintained his stubborn partisanship.
Despairing, I had him removed to the pits, where he still is.
"Finally, Xodar, who is a fiend for subtle craftiness, evolved
a plan whereby we might worm the information from him. And so I
caused Hor Vastus to be harnessed in the metal of a Zodangan
soldier and chained in Parthak's cell beside him. For fifteen
days the noble Hor Vastus has languished in the darkness of the
pits, but not in vain. Little by little he won the confidence and
friendship of the Zodangan, until only to-day Parthak, thinking
that he was speaking not only to a countryman, but to a dear
friend, revealed that Hor Vastus the exact cell in which you
"Of course, these openings which lead from contiguous pits to
those beneath government buildings are always guarded, and so,
while I easily came to the entrance to the pits beneath the
palace which Zat Arras is occupying, I found there a Zodangan
soldier on guard. There I left him when I had gone by, but his
soul was no longer with him.
As he talked Carthoris had been working at the lock which held
my fetters, and now, with an exclamation of pleasure, he dropped
the end of the chain to the floor, and I stood up once more,
freed from the galling irons I had chafed in for almost a
At the point where we left the pits of Zat Arras we found the
body of the guard Carthoris had slain. It had not yet been
discovered, and, in order to still further delay search and
mystify the jed's people, we carried the body with us for a short
distance, hiding it in a tiny cell off the main corridor of the
pits beneath an adjoining estate.
No time was lost in fruitless recounting of my imprisonment.
What I desired to know was how well the plans we had laid nearly
a year ago and had been carried out.
"To-night there lies about the great docks at Hastor a fleet
of a thousand of the mightiest battleships that ever sailed above
Barsoom, and each equipped to navigate the air of Omean and the
waters of Omean itself. Upon each battleship there are five
ten-man cruisers, and ten five-man scouts, and a hundred one-man
scouts; in all, one hundred and sixteen thousand craft fitted
with both air and water propellers.
"How is it, Tars Tarkas," I asked, "that the men of Thark take
not the accustomed action against one who returns from the bosom
"And thou, Hor Vastus," I asked, "what has been thy
"Good!" I cried. "Each has done his duty, and now, Kantos Kan,
may we not repair at once to Hastor and get under way before
Together we rushed to the balcony in time to see a dozen
members of my palace guard disappear in the shadows of some
distant shrubbery as in pursuit of one who fled. Directly beneath
us upon the scarlet sward a handful of guardsmen were stooping
above a still and prostrate form.
"Another of Zat Arras' spies," said Hor Vastus.
"Wait!" said Xodar. "If you will, Prince, ask that a cloth and
a little thoat oil be brought."
Guardsmen and nobles pressed close about the silent witness
upon the marble floor. Many were the exclamations of astonishment
and questioning wonder as Xodar's acts confirmed the suspicion
which he had held.
"Worse than that, I fear," replied Xodar. "But let us
"He was a Holy Thern," said Xodar. "Fortunate indeed it is for
us that he did not escape."
"My Prince," he said, "I have to report that this fellow's
companion escaped us. I think that it was with the connivance of
one or more of the men at the gate. I have ordered them all under
"With this you may discover the spy among you," he said.
A half-hour later the officer of the guard came again to
report. This time it was to confirm our worst fears--half the
guards at the gate that night had been therns disguised as red
Ten minutes later we were speeding through the night toward
Hastor, prepared to strike the first blow for the preservation of
Two hours after leaving my palace at Helium, or about
midnight, Kantos Kan, Xodar, and I arrived at Hastor. Carthoris,
Tars Tarkas, and Hor Vastus had gone directly to Thark upon
At Hastor we found all in readiness, and so perfectly had
Kantos Kan planned every detail of the campaign that within ten
minutes of our arrival the first of the fleet had soared aloft
from its dock, and thereafter, at the rate of one a second, the
great ships floated gracefully out into the night to form a long,
thin line which stretched for miles toward the south.
The expedition was no longer one of rescue but of revenge. I
did not remind Kantos Kan of the terrible fact that ere we could
hope to enter the Temple of Issus, the Princess of Helium would
be no more. In so far as I knew she might be already dead, for I
did not know the exact date on which she first viewed Issus.
If it could open to the red men the fair Valley Dor it would
have accomplished much, and in the Land of Lost Souls between the
Mountains of Otz and the ice barrier were many broad acres that
needed no irrigation to bear rich harvests.
On the morning of the second day we raised the great fleet of
transports and their consorts at the first flood of dawn, and
soon were near enough to exchange signals. I may mention here
that radio-aerograms are seldom if ever used in war time, or for
the transmission of secret dispatches at any time, for as often
as one nation discovers a new cipher, or invents a new instrument
for wireless purposes its neighbours bend every effort until they
are able to intercept and translate the messages. For so long a
time has this gone on that practically every possibility of
wireless communication has been exhausted and no nation dares
transmit dispatches of importance in this way.
Far in advance of all a thin line of one-man air scouts
protected us from surprise, and on either side they flanked us,
while a smaller number brought up the rear some twenty miles
behind the transports. In this formation we had progressed toward
the entrance to Omean for several hours when one of our scouts
returned from the front to report that the cone-like summit of
the entrance was in sight. At almost the same instant another
scout from the left flank came racing toward the flagship.
"A great fleet of battleships south-south-east, my Prince," he
cried. "There must be several thousands and they are bearing down
directly upon us."
"Dispatch ten battleships to guard the entrance to Omean, with
orders to let no hostile enter or leave the shaft. That will
bottle up the great fleet of the First Born.
"Here let them land and teach the Holy Therns such a lesson in
ferocious warfare as they will not forget for countless ages. It
had not been my intention to be distracted from the main issue of
the campaign, but we must settle this attack with the therns once
and for all, or there will be no peace for us while our fleet
remains near Dor, and our chances of ever returning to the outer
world will be greatly minimized."
The order of full speed ahead was given, the fleet sprang
through the air like coursing greyhounds, and in another moment
the ships of the enemy were in full view. They formed a ragged
line as far as the eye could reach in either direction and about
three ships deep. So sudden was our onslaught that they had no
time to prepare for it. It was as unexpected as lightning from a
Now the two great fleets closed in a titanic struggle far
above the fiendish din of battle in the gorgeous gardens of the
therns. Slowly the two lines of Helium's battleships joined their
ends, and then commenced the circling within the line of the
enemy which is so marked a characteristic of Barsoomian naval
From my position on the deck beside Kantos Kan I saw ship
after ship of the enemy take the awful, sickening dive which
proclaims its total destruction. Slowly we manoeuvered our circle
of death until we hung above the gardens where our green warriors
were engaged. The order was passed down for them to embark. Then
they rose slowly to a position within the centre of the
Whose or whither bound, we could not even conjecture. When
they had come close enough to make us out at all, Kantos Kan's
operator received a radio-aerogram, which he immediately handed
to my companion. He read the thing and handed it to me.
The therns must have caught and translated the message almost
as soon as did we, for they immediately renewed hostilities when
they realized that we were soon to be set upon by other
The thing could not last much longer. I ordered the transports
to descend again into the gardens of the therns.
Presently I saw the ten battleships that had been ordered to
hold the shaft of Omean. They were returning at full speed,
firing their stern batteries almost continuously. There could be
but one explanation. They were being pursued by another hostile
fleet. Well, the situation could be no worse. The expedition
already was doomed. No man that had embarked upon it would return
across that dreary ice cap. How I wished that I fight face Zat
Arras with my longsword for just an instant before I died! It was
he who had caused our failure.
My presence among the men so greatly inspirited them that they
fell upon the luckless whites with such terrible ferocity that
within a few moments we had turned the tables upon them and a
second later as we swarmed their own decks I had the satisfaction
of seeing their commander take the long leap from the bows of his
vessel in token of surrender and defeat.
Then Kantos Kan sprang his coup. A signal legible to every
sailor of all the fleets engaged in that fierce struggle was
strung aloft upon the flagship.
Zat Arras had brought five thousand ships. The sky was black
with the three enormous fleets. It was Helium against the field
now, and the fight had settled to countless individual duels.
There could be little or no manoeuvering of fleets in that
crowded, fire-split sky.
There was but a yard between the two mighty ships as the first
grappling irons were hurled. I rushed to the deck to be with my
men as they boarded. Just as the vessels came together with a
slight shock, I forced my way through the lines and was the first
to spring to the deck of Zat Arras' ship. After me poured a
yelling, cheering, cursing throng of Helium's best fighting-men.
Nothing could withstand them in the fever of battle lust which
"You are my prisoner, Zat Arras," I cried. "Yield and you
shall have quarter."
And thus came Zat Arras, Jed of Zodanga, to his end.
My commanders were further instructed than when engaged with
an enemy to draw him as rapidly as possible toward a ship of his
hereditary foeman, and by careful manoeuvring to force the two to
engage, thus leaving him- self free to withdraw. This stratagem
worked to perfection, and just before the sun went down I had the
satisfaction of seeing all that was left of my once mighty fleet
gathered nearly twenty miles southwest of the still terrific
battle between the blacks and whites.
Our plan now was to attempt to make a combined assault upon
Issus at dawn of the following day. Tars Tarkas with his green
warriors and Hor Vastus with the red men, guided by Xodar, were
to land within the garden of Issus or the surrounding plains;
while Carthoris, Kantos Kan, and I were to lead our smaller force
from the sea of Omean through the pits beneath the temple, which
Carthoris knew so well.
With great caution we approached the shaft, under cover of
darkness. At a distance of several miles I caused the fleet to be
halted, and from there Carthoris went ahead alone upon a one-man
flier to reconnoitre. In perhaps half an hour he returned to
report that there was no sign of a patrol boat or of the enemy in
any form, and so we moved swiftly and noiselessly forward once
more toward Omean.
We had decided to stake all on the chance that we would be
able to reach the temple by the subterranean way and so we left
no guard of vessels at the shaft's mouth. Nor would it have
profited us any to have done so, for we did not have sufficient
force all told to have withstood the vast navy of the First Born
had they returned to engage us.
And such proved to be the case. In fact, four hundred of my
fleet of five hundred rested safely upon the bosom of Omean
before the first shot was fired. The battle was short and hot,
but there could have been but one outcome, for the First Born in
the carelessness of fancied security had left but a handful of
ancient and obsolete hulks to guard their mighty harbour.
We now felt that it would be some time at least before the
returning First Born could reach the surface of Omean, and that
we would have ample opportunity to make for the subterranean
passages which lead to Issus. One of the first steps I took was
to hasten personally with a good-sized force to the island of the
submarine, which I took without resistance on the part of the
small guard there.
Among the prisoners was Yersted, commander of the submarine.
He recognized me from the three trips that I had taken with him
during my captivity among the First Born.
He smiled, a very grim smile pregnant with hidden meaning.
"So it would appear," I answered, "for you were all ready to
become my prisoners with scarce a blow struck on either
"I do not know that the fleet has missed me as yet," I said,
but of course he did not grasp my meaning, and only looked
"Very many," he assented.
"Well, indeed, for her great beauty, and then, too, for the
fact that she was wife to the first mortal that ever escaped from
Issus through all the countless ages of her godhood. And they way
that Issus remembers her best as the wife of one and the mother
of another who raised their hands against the Goddess of Life
"And where is Dejah Thoris now?" I asked, knowing that he
would say the words I most dreaded, but yet I loved her so that I
could not refrain from hearing even the worst about her fate so
that it fell from the lips of one who had seen her but recently.
It was to me as though it brought her closer to me.
"What," I cried, "she is not dead, then?"
"No year?" I interrupted.
A great light burst upon me. How stupid I had been! I could
scarcely retain an outward exhibition of my great joy. Why had I
forgotten the great difference in the length of Martian and
Earthly years! The ten Earth years I had spent upon Barsoom had
encompassed but five years and ninety-six days of Martian time,
whose days are forty-one minutes longer than ours, and whose
years number six hundred and eighty-seven days.
"In time to save your Princess?" he asked, and then without
waiting for my reply, "No, John Carter, Issus will not give up
her own. She knows that you are coming, and ere ever a vandal
foot is set within the precincts of the Temple of Issus, if such
a calamity should befall, Dejah Thoris will be put away for ever
from the last faint hope of rescue."
"Not that, other than as a last resort," he replied. "Hast
ever heard of the Temple of the Sun? It is there that they will
put her. It lies far within the inner court of the Temple of
Issus, a little temple that raises a thin spire far above the
spires and minarets of the great temple that surrounds it.
Beneath it, in the ground, there lies the main body of the temple
consisting in six hundred and eighty-seven circular chambers, one
below another. To each chamber a single corridor leads through
solid rock from the pits of Issus.
"Here Issus puts those who displease her, but whom she does
not care to execute forthwith. Or to punish a noble of the First
Born she may cause him to be placed within a chamber of the
Temple of the Sun for a year. Ofttimes she imprisons an
executioner with the condemned, that death may come in a certain
horrible form upon a given day, or again but enough food is
deposited in the chamber to sustain life but the number of days
that Issus has allotted for mental anguish.
So I was to be thwarted in the end, although I had performed
the miraculous and come within a few short moments of my divine
Princess, yet was I as far from her as when I stood upon the
banks of the Hudson forty-eight million miles away.
Yersted's information convinced me that there was no time to
be lost. I must reach the Temple of Issus secretly before the
forces under Tars Tarkas assaulted at dawn. Once within its hated
walls I was positive that I could overcome the guards of Issus
and bear away my Princess, for at my back I would have a force
ample for the occasion.
Many trips were required, but at last all stood safely
together again at the beginning of the end of our quest. Five
thousand strong we were, all seasoned fighting-men of the most
warlike race of the red men of Barsoom.
As we were about to leave the pool and enter the corridor, an
officer called my attention to the waters upon which the
submarine floated. At first they seemed to be merely agitated as
from the movement of some great body beneath the surface, and I
at once conjectured that another submarine was rising to the
surface in pursuit of us; but presently it became apparent that
the level of the waters was rising, not with extreme rapidity,
but very surely, and that soon they would overflow the sides of
the pool and submerge the floor of the chamber.
"Haste!" he cried. "If we delay, we all are lost. The pumps of
Omean have been stopped. They would drown us like rats in a trap.
We must reach the upper levels of the pits in advance of the
flood or we shall never reach them. Come."
At my command, the youth leaped into one of the corridors, and
in column of twos the soldiers followed him in good order, each
company entering the corridor only at the command of its dwar, or
I was the last to leave the chamber of the submarine, and as I
followed the rear of the column toward the corridor, I moved
through water to my knees. The corridor, too, was flooded to the
same depth, for its floor was on a level with the floor of the
chamber from which it led, nor was there any perceptible rise for
Long ere the last of the column could hope to reach the upper
pits which lay above the danger point I was convinced that the
waters would surge after us in overwhelming volume, and that
fully half the expedition would be snuffed out.
Raising my voice to its utmost, I shouted my command to the
dwars ahead of me.
My orders were obeyed by nearer thirty utans, so that some
three thousand men came about and hastened into the teeth of the
flood to reach the corridor up which I directed them.
The officer saluted and left me. The men filed rapidly past me
and entered the diverging corridor which I hoped would lead to
safety. The water rose breast high. Men stumbled, floundered, and
went down. Many I grasped and set upon their feet again, but
alone the work was greater than I could cope with. Soldiers were
being swept beneath the boiling torrent, never to rise. At length
the dwar of the 10th utan took a stand beside me. He was a
valorous soldier, Gur Tus by name, and together we kept the now
thoroughly frightened troops in the semblance of order and
rescued many that would have drowned otherwise.
As the last utan was filing past us the waters had risen until
they surged about our necks, but we clasped hands and stood our
ground until the last man had passed to the comparative safety of
the new passageway. Here we found an immediate and steep ascent,
so that within a hundred yards we had reached a point above the
Suddenly I heard a cry of "fire" far ahead, followed almost at
once by cries of terror and the loud commands of dwars and
padwars who were evidently attempting to direct their men away
from some grave danger. At last the report came back to us. "They
have fired the pits ahead." "We are hemmed in by flames in front
and flood behind." "Help, John Carter; we are suffocating," and
then there swept back upon us at the rear a wave of dense smoke
that sent us, stumbling and blinded, into a choking retreat.
Again I stood to one side while the soldiers hastened through
on the new way. Some two thousand must have passed at a rapid
run, when the stream ceased, but I was not sure that all had been
rescued who had not passed the point of origin of the flames, and
so to assure myself that no poor devil was left behind to die a
horrible death, unsuccoured, I ran quickly up the gallery in the
direction of the flames which I could now see burning with a dull
glow far ahead.
Having satisfied my sense of duty, I turned and ran rapidly
back to the corridor through which my men had passed. To my
horror, however, I found that my retreat in this direction had
been blocked--across the mouth of the corridor stood a massive
steel grating that had evidently been lowered from its
resting-place above for the purpose of effectually cutting off my
And now the dropping of the steel gate to pen me effectually
between fire and flood seemed to indicate that invisible eyes
were upon us at every moment. What chance had I, then, to rescue
Dejah Thoris were I to be compelled to fight foes who never
showed themselves. A thousand times I berated myself for being
drawn into such a trap as I might have known these pits easily
could be. Now I saw that it would have been much better to have
kept our force intact and made a concerted attack upon the temple
from the valley side, trusting to chance and our great fighting
ability to have overwhelmed the First Born and compelled the safe
delivery of Dejah Thoris to me.
Finally I felt the lapping waters about my feet. The smoke was
thick behind me. My suffering was intense. There seemed but one
thing to do, and that to choose the easier death which confronted
me, and so I moved on down the corridor until the cold waters of
Omean closed about me, and I swam on through utter blackness
But to my surprise I ran against a blank wall before I reached
a point where the waters came to the roof of the corridor. Could
I be mistaken? I felt around. No, I had come to the main
corridor, and still there was a breathing space between the
surface of the water and the rocky ceiling above. And then I
turned up the main corridor in the direction that Carthoris and
the head of the column had passed a half-hour before. On and on I
swam, my heart growing lighter at every stroke, for I knew that I
was approaching closer and closer to the point where there would
be no chance that the waters ahead could be deeper than they were
about me. I was positive that I must soon feel the solid floor
beneath my feet again and that once more my chance would come to
reach the Temple of Issus and the side of the fair prisoner who
There was but a single forlorn hope, and I took it. Filling my
lungs with air, I dived beneath the surface and swam through the
inky, icy blackness on and on along the submerged gallery. Time
and time again I rose with upstretched hand, only to feel the
disappointing rocks close above me.
One more frantic effort I made with my fast ebbing strength.
Weakly I rose for the last time--my tortured lungs gasped for the
breath that would fill them with a strange and numbing element,
but instead I felt the revivifying breath of life-giving air
surge through my starving nostrils into my dying lungs. I was
Sooner than I had expected I came to what appeared to me to be
a sudden exit into the temple above. It was at the right side of
the corridor, which ran on, probably, to other entrances to the
The portal swung slowly in, and before it could be slammed
against me I sprang into the chamber beyond. Although not yet
dawn, the room was brilliantly lighted. Its sole occupant lay
prone upon a low couch at the further side, apparently in sleep.
From the hangings and sumptuous furniture of the room I judged it
to be a living-room of some priestess, possibly of Issus
At first an expression of terror overspread the features of
the woman who confronted me--then startled incredulity--
VICTORY AND DEFEAT
"As the days passed, and moon after moon went by without
bringing even the faintest rumour of you, I resigned myself to my
fate. And now that you have come, scarce can I believe it. For an
hour I have heard the sounds of conflict within the palace. I
knew not what they meant, but I have hoped against hope that it
might be the men of Helium headed by my Prince.
"He was with me less than an hour since, Dejah Thoris," I
replied. "It must have been he whose men you have heard battling
within the precincts of the temple.
Dejah Thoris shrugged her shoulders.
The sounds of conflict, the clash of arms, the shouting and
the hurrying of many feet came to us from various parts of the
temple. I knew that I was needed there, but I dared not leave
Dejah Thoris, nor dared I take her with me into the turmoil and
danger of battle.
For a moment she clung more closely to me.
"I shall not leave you, then, my Princess," I replied.
"Go, John Carter," she said. "Our son is there, and the
soldiers of Helium, fighting for the Princess of Helium. Where
they are you should be. I must not think of myself now, but of
them and of my husband's duty. I may not stand in the way of
that. Hide me in the pits, and go."
Without hesitating longer, I hurried from the chamber in the
direction of the greatest tumult. Scarce half a dozen chambers
had I traversed before I came upon the theatre of a fierce
struggle. The blacks were massed at the entrance to a great
chamber where they were attempting to block the further progress
of a body of red men toward the inner sacred precincts of the
As I struck the first blow I cried aloud, "For Helium!" And
then I rained cut after cut upon the surprised warriors, while
the reds without took heart at the sound of my voice, and with
shouts of "John Carter! John Carter!" redoubled their efforts so
effectually that before the blacks could recover from their
temporary demoralization their ranks were broken and the red men
had burst into the chamber.
I think we all knew that upon the outcome of this battle would
hinge for ever the relative positions of these two races upon
Barsoom. It was a battle between the old and the new, but not for
once did I question the outcome of it. With Carthoris at my side
I fought for the red men of Barsoom and for their total
emancipation from the throttling bondage of a hideous
"Look!" I cried. "Men of the First Born, look!"
Across the gardens, from side to side, stood a wavering line
of black warriors, while beyond them and forcing them ever back
was a great horde of green warriors astride their mighty thoats.
And as we watched, one, fiercer and more grimly terrible than his
fellows, rode forward from the rear, and as he came he shouted
some fierce command to his terrible legion.
After them came utan upon utan of red men. The green horde
broke to surround the temple. The red men charged for the
interior, and then we turned to continue our interrupted battle;
but our foes had vanished.
The moment I entered the room I saw that some one had been
there since I had left. A silk lay upon the floor. It had not
been there before. There were also a dagger and several metal
ornaments strewn about as though torn from their wearer in a
struggle. But worst of all, the door leading to the pits where I
had hidden my Princess was ajar.
"Issus!" I cried. "Issus! Where is Issus? Search the temple
for her, but let no man harm her but John Carter. Carthoris,
where are the apartments of Issus?"
At last we came to a great carved door, and through this
Carthoris dashed, a foot ahead of me. Within, we came upon such a
scene as I had witnessed within the temple once before--the
throne of Issus, with the reclining slaves, and about it the
ranks of soldiery.
The repulsive creature, squatting there in terror, attempted
to escape me and leap into a trap behind her. But this time I was
not to be outwitted by any such petty subterfuge. Before she had
half arisen I had grasped her by the arm, and then, as I saw the
guard starting to make a concerted rush upon me from all sides, I
whipped out my dagger and, holding it close to that vile breast,
ordered them to halt.
For an instant they hesitated. Then an officer ordered them
back, while from the outer corridor there swept into the throne
room at the heels of my little party of survivors a full thousand
red men under Kantos Kan, Hor Vastus, and Xodar.
For a moment her eyes roved wildly about the scene beneath
her. I think that it took a moment for the true condition to make
any impression upon her--she could not at first realize that the
temple had fallen before the assault of men of the outer world.
When she did, there must have come, too, a terrible realization
of what it meant to her--the loss of power--humiliation--the
exposure of the fraud and imposture which she had for so long
played upon her own people.
"Issus, Goddess of Death, and of Life Eternal," he cried,
"arise in the might of thy righteous wrath and with one single
wave of thy omnipotent hand strike dead thy blasphemers! Let not
one escape. Issus, thy people depend upon thee. Daughter of the
Lesser Moon, thou only art all-powerful. Thou only canst save thy
people. I am done. We await thy will. Strike!"
Finally, I shook the thing, hoping to recall it for a moment
The awful creature in my grasp mumbled inarticulately for a
moment, then a sudden gleam of cunning shot into those hideous,
"Yes, Dejah Thoris--I know. And Thuvia, and Phaidor, daughter
of Matai Shang. They each love John Carter. Ha-ah! but it is
droll. Together for a year they will meditate within the Temple
of the Sun, but ere the year is quite gone there will be no more
food for them. Ho-oh! what divine entertainment," and she licked
the froth from her cruel lips. "There will be no more
food--except each other. Ha-ah! Ha-ah!"
"Countermand your orders!" I cried. "Recall the condemned.
Haste, or you die!"
Almost of its own volition, my dagger flew up above that
putrid heart. But something stayed my hand, and I am now glad
that it did. It were a terrible thing to have struck down a woman
with one's own hand. But a fitter fate occurred to me for this
Spying Xodar among the officers of the red men, I called him
to lead me quickly to the Temple of the Sun, and, without waiting
to learn what fate the First Born would wreak upon their goddess,
I rushed from the chamber with Xodar, Carthoris, Hor Vastus,
Kantos Kan, and a score of other red nobles.
"This way," cried Xodar, leading us toward the entrance to a
tunnel which opened in the courtyard beside the temple. Just as
we were on the point of descending we heard a deep-toned roar
burst from the Temple of Issus, which we had but just quitted,
and then a red man, Djor Kantos, padwar of the fifth utan, broke
from a nearby gate, crying to us to return.
As he spoke we saw smoke pouring from a dozen windows looking
out upon the courtyard of the Temple of the Sun, and far above
the highest minaret of Issus hung an ever-growing pall of
"Follow me, John Carter," replied Xodar, and without waiting
for my reply he dashed down into the tunnel at our feet. At his
heels I ran down through a half-dozen tiers of galleries, until
at last he led me along a level floor at the end of which I
discerned a lighted chamber.
But in the meantime what horrible things would go on within
"None, I fear, whom we could fetch in time, though I shall go
and make the attempt. Wait for me here."
Thuvia and Phaidor came close also, but when Thuvia saw that
we would be alone she withdrew to the further side of the
chamber. Not so the daughter of Matai Shang.
"I love only the Princess of Helium," I replied quietly. "I am
sorry, Phaidor, but it is as I have told you from the
For a few minutes we stood thus talking in low tones. Ever
smaller and smaller grew the opening. In a short time now it
would be too small even to permit the slender form of my Princess
to pass. Oh, why did not Xodar haste. Above we could hear the
faint echoes of a great tumult. It was the multitude of black and
red and green men fighting their way through the fire from the
burning Temple of Issus.
"Come back, John Carter, come back!" cried a voice, "even the
pits are burning."
"There is no hope, John Carter," cried Xodar. "The keeper of
the keys is dead and his keys are not upon his carcass. Our only
hope is to quench this conflagration and trust to fate that a
year will find your Princess alive and well. I have brought
sufficient food to last them. When this crack closes no smoke can
reach them, and if we hasten to extinguish the flames I believe
they will be safe."
As I spoke Xodar had been tossing a great number of tiny cans
within the prison cell. The remaining crack was not over an inch
in width a moment later. Dejah Thoris stood as close to it as she
could, whispering words of hope and courage to me, and urging me
to save myself.
"Think not, John Carter, that you may so lightly cast aside
the love of Phaidor, daughter of Matai Shang. Nor ever hope to
hold thy Dejah Thoris in thy arms again. Wait you the long, long
year; but know that when the waiting is over it shall be
Phaidor's arms which shall welcome you--not those of the Princess
of Helium. Behold, she dies!"
The smoke cleared away, but we stood gazing upon a blank wall.
The last crevice had closed, and for a long year that hideous
chamber would retain its secret from the eyes of men.
"In a moment it will be too late," cried Xodar. "There is, in
fact, but a bare chance that we can come through to the outer
garden alive even now. I have ordered the pumps started, and in
five minutes the pits will be flooded. If we would not drown like
rats in a trap we must hasten above and make a dash for safety
through the burning temple."
Of what happened after that I have only a confused
recollection. It seems as though I struggled with many men, and
then that I was picked bodily from the ground and borne away. I
do not know. I have never asked, nor has any other who was there
that day intruded on my sorrow or recalled to my mind the
occurrences which they know could but at best reopen the terrible
wound within my heart.
End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of The Gods of Mars