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Sola's Story

From: The Gods Of Mars

Once within the palace, I drew Sola to the dining hall, and, when she
had greeted her father after the formal manner of the green men, she
told the story of the pilgrimage and capture of Dejah Thoris.

"Seven days ago, after her audience with Zat Arras, Dejah Thoris
attempted to slip from the palace in the dead of night. Although I had
not heard the outcome of her interview with Zat Arras I knew that
something had occurred then to cause her the keenest mental agony, and
when I discovered her creeping from the palace I did not need to be
told her destination.

"Hastily arousing a dozen of her most faithful guards, I explained my
fears to them, and as one they enlisted with me to follow our beloved
Princess in her wanderings, even to the Sacred Iss and the Valley Dor.
We came upon her but a short distance from the palace. With her was
faithful Woola the hound, but none other. When we overtook her she
feigned anger, and ordered us back to the palace, but for once we
disobeyed her, and when she found that we would not let her go upon the
last long pilgrimage alone, she wept and embraced us, and together we
went out into the night toward the south.

"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 were spared.

"When she realized that she was in the clutches of the black pirates,
she attempted to take her own life, but one of the blacks tore her
dagger from her, and then they bound us both so that we could not use
our hands.

"The fleet continued north after capturing us. There were about twenty
large battleships in all, besides a number of small swift cruisers.
That evening one of the smaller cruisers that had been far in advance
of the fleet returned with a prisoner--a young red woman whom they had
picked up in a range of hills under the very noses, they said, of a
fleet of three red Martian battleships.

"From scraps of conversation which we overheard it was evident that the
black pirates were searching for a party of fugitives that had escaped
them several days prior. That they considered the capture of the young
woman important was evident from the long and earnest interview the
commander of the fleet held with her when she was brought to him.
Later she was bound and placed in the compartment with Dejah Thoris and

"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.

"Dejah Thoris could not believe her at first, but finally when the girl
had narrated all the strange adventures that had befallen her since she
had met John Carter, and told her of the things John Carter, and
Carthoris, and Xodar had narrated of their adventures in the Land of
the First Born, Dejah Thoris knew that it could be none other than the
Prince of Helium; 'For who,' she said, 'upon all Barsoom other than
John Carter could have done the deeds you tell of.' And when Thuvia
told Dejah Thoris of her love for John Carter, and his loyalty and
devotion to the Princess of his choice, Dejah Thoris broke down and
wept--cursing Zat Arras and the cruel fate that had driven her from
Helium but a few brief days before the return of her beloved lord.

"'I do not blame you for loving him, Thuvia,' she said; 'and that your
affection for him is pure and sincere I can well believe from the
candour of your avowal of it to me.'

"The fleet continued north nearly to Helium, but last night they
evidently realized that John Carter had indeed escaped them and so they
turned toward the south once more. Shortly thereafter a guard entered
our compartment and dragged me to the deck.

"'There is no place in the Land of the First Born for a green one,' he
said, and with that he gave me a terrific shove that carried me
toppling from the deck of the battleship. Evidently this seemed to him
the easiest way of ridding the vessel of my presence and killing me at
the same time.

"But a kind fate intervened, and by a miracle I escaped with but slight
bruises. The ship was moving slowly at the time, and as I lunged
overboard into the darkness beneath I shuddered at the awful plunge I
thought awaited me, for all day the fleet had sailed thousands of feet
above the ground; but to my utter surprise I struck upon a soft mass of
vegetation not twenty feet from the deck of the ship. In fact, the
keel of the vessel must have been grazing the surface of the ground at
the time.

"I lay all night where I had fallen and the next morning brought an
explanation of the fortunate coincidence that had saved me from a
terrible death. As the sun rose I saw a vast panorama of sea bottom
and distant hills lying far below me. I was upon the highest peak of a
lofty range. The fleet in the darkness of the preceding night had
barely grazed the crest of the hills, and in the brief span that they
hovered close to the surface the black guard had pitched me, as he
supposed, to my death.

"A few miles west of me was a great waterway. When I reached it I
found to my delight that it belonged to Helium. Here a thoat was
procured for me--the rest you know."

For many minutes none spoke. Dejah Thoris in the clutches of the First
Born! I shuddered at the thought, but of a sudden the old fire of
unconquerable self-confidence surged through me. I sprang to my feet,
and with back-thrown shoulders and upraised sword took a solemn vow to
reach, rescue, and revenge my Princess.

A hundred swords leaped from a hundred scabbards, and a hundred
fighting-men sprang to the table-top and pledged me their lives and
fortunes to the expedition. Already my plans were formulated. I
thanked each loyal friend, and leaving Carthoris to entertain them,
withdrew to my own audience chamber with Kantos Kan, Tars Tarkas,
Xodar, and Hor Vastus.

Here we discussed the details of our expedition until long after dark.
Xodar was positive that Issus would choose both Dejah Thoris and Thuvia
to serve her for a year.

"For that length of time at least they will be comparatively safe," he
said, "and we will at least know where to look for them."

In the matter of equipping a fleet to enter Omean the details were left
to Kantos Kan and Xodar. The former agreed to take such vessels as we
required into dock as rapidly as possible, where Xodar would direct
their equipment with water propellers.

For many years the black had been in charge of the refitting of
captured battleships that they might navigate Omean, and so was
familiar with the construction of the propellers, housings, and the
auxiliary gearing required.

It was estimated that it would require six months to complete our
preparations in view of the fact that the utmost secrecy must be
maintained to keep the project from the ears of Zat Arras. Kantos Kan
was confident now that the man's ambitions were fully aroused and that
nothing short of the title of Jeddak of Helium would satisfy him.

"I doubt," he said, "if he would even welcome Dejah Thoris' return, for
it would mean another nearer the throne than he. With you and
Carthoris out of the way there would be little to prevent him from
assuming the title of Jeddak, and you may rest assured that so long as
he is supreme here there is no safety for either of you."

"There is a way," cried Hor Vastus, "to thwart him effectually and for

"What?" I asked.

He smiled.

"I shall whisper it here, but some day I shall stand upon the dome of
the Temple of Reward and shout it to cheering multitudes below."

"What do you mean?" asked Kantos Kan.

"John Carter, Jeddak of Helium," said Hor Vastus in a low voice.

The eyes of my companions lighted, and grim smiles of pleasure and
anticipation overspread their faces, as each eye turned toward me
questioningly. But I shook my head.

"No, my friends," I said, smiling, "I thank you, but it cannot be. Not
yet, at least. When we know that Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak are gone
to return no more; if I be here, then I shall join you all to see that
the people of Helium are permitted to choose fairly their next Jeddak.
Whom they choose may count upon the loyalty of my sword, nor shall I
seek the honour for myself. Until then Tardos Mors is Jeddak of
Helium, and Zat Arras is his representative."

"As you will, John Carter," said Hor Vastus, "but--What was that?" he
whispered, pointing toward the window overlooking the gardens.

The words were scarce out of his mouth ere he had sprung to the balcony

"There he goes!" he cried excitedly. "The guards! Below there! The

We were close behind him, and all saw the figure of a man run quickly
across a little piece of sward and disappear in the shrubbery beyond.

"He was on the balcony when I first saw him," cried Hor Vastus.
"Quick! Let us follow him!"

Together we ran to the gardens, but even though we scoured the grounds
with the entire guard for hours, no trace could we find of the night

"What do you make of it, Kantos Kan?" asked Tars Tarkas.

"A spy sent by Zat Arras," he replied. "It was ever his way."

"He will have something interesting to report to his master then,"
laughed Hor Vastus.

"I hope he heard only our references to a new Jeddak," I said. "If he
overheard our plans to rescue Dejah Thoris, it will mean civil war, for
he will attempt to thwart us, and in that I will not be thwarted.
There would I turn against Tardos Mors himself, were it necessary. If
it throws all Helium into a bloody conflict, I shall go on with these
plans to save my Princess. Nothing shall stay me now short of death,
and should I die, my friends, will you take oath to prosecute the
search for her and bring her back in safety to her grandfather's court?"

Upon the hilt of his sword each of them swore to do as I had asked.

It was agreed that the battleships that were to be remodelled should be
ordered to Hastor, another Heliumetic city, far to the south-west.
Kantos Kan thought that the docks there, in addition to their regular
work, would accommodate at least six battleships at a time. As he was
commander-in-chief of the navy, it would be a simple matter for him to
order the vessels there as they could be handled, and thereafter keep
the remodelled fleet in remote parts of the empire until we should be
ready to assemble it for the dash upon Omean.

It was late that night before our conference broke up, but each man
there had his particular duties outlined, and the details of the entire
plan had been mapped out.

Kantos Kan and Xodar were to attend to the remodelling of the ships.
Tars Tarkas was to get into communication with Thark and learn the
sentiments of his people toward his return from Dor. If favourable, he
was to repair immediately to Thark and devote his time to the
assembling of a great horde of green warriors whom it was our plan to
send in transports directly to the Valley Dor and the Temple of Issus,
while the fleet entered Omean and destroyed the vessels of the First

Upon Hor Vastus devolved the delicate mission of organising a secret
force of fighting-men sworn to follow John Carter wherever he might
lead. As we estimated that it would require over a million men to man
the thousand great battleships we intended to use on Omean and the
transports for the green men as well as the ships that were to convoy
the transports, it was no trifling job that Hor Vastus had before him.

After they had left I bid Carthoris good-night, for I was very tired,
and going to my own apartments, bathed and lay down upon my sleeping
silks and furs for the first good night's sleep I had had an
opportunity to look forward to since I had returned to Barsoom. But
even now I was to be disappointed.

How long I slept I do not know. When I awoke suddenly it was to find a
half-dozen powerful men upon me, a gag already in my mouth, and a
moment later my arms and legs securely bound. So quickly had they
worked and to such good purpose, that I was utterly beyond the power to
resist them by the time I was fully awake.

Never a word spoke they, and the gag effectually prevented me speaking.
Silently they lifted me and bore me toward the door of my chamber. As
they passed the window through which the farther moon was casting its
brilliant beams, I saw that each of the party had his face swathed in
layers of silk--I could not recognize one of them.

When they had come into the corridor with me, they turned toward a
secret panel in the wall which led to the passage that terminated in
the pits beneath the palace. That any knew of this panel outside my
own household, I was doubtful. Yet the leader of the band did not
hesitate a moment. He stepped directly to the panel, touched the
concealed button, and as the door swung open he stood aside while his
companions entered with me. Then he closed the panel behind him and
followed us.

Down through the passageways to the pits we went. The leader rapped
upon it with the hilt of his sword--three quick, sharp blows, a pause,
then three more, another pause, and then two. A second later the wall
swung in, and I was pushed within a brilliantly lighted chamber in
which sat three richly trapped men.

One of them turned toward me with a sardonic smile upon his thin, cruel
lips--it was Zat Arras.

Next: Black Despair

Previous: The Death Sentence

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