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The Jeddak Of Lothar







From: Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

The girl looked her incredulity.

"They lay in piles," she murmured. "There were thousands of them
but a minute ago."

"And now," continued Carthoris, "there remain but the banths and
the carcasses of the green men."

"They must have sent forth and carried the dead bowmen away while
we were talking," said the girl.

"It is impossible!" replied Carthoris. "Thousands of dead lay
there upon the field but a moment since. It would have required
many hours to have removed them. The thing is uncanny."

"I had hoped," said Thuvia, "that we might find an asylum with
these fair-skinned people. Notwithstanding their valour upon the
field of battle, they did not strike me as a ferocious or warlike
people. I had been about to suggest that we seek entrance to the
city, but now I scarce know if I care to venture among people whose
dead vanish into thin air."

"Let us chance it," replied Carthoris. "We can be no worse off within
their walls than without. Here we may fall prey to the banths or
the no less fierce Torquasians. There, at least, we shall find
beings moulded after our own images.

"All that causes me to hesitate," he added, "is the danger of taking
you past so many banths. A single sword would scarce prevail were
even a couple of them to charge simultaneously."

"Do not fear on that score," replied the girl, smiling. "The banths
will not harm us."

As she spoke she descended from the platform, and with Carthoris
at her side stepped fearlessly out upon the bloody field in the
direction of the walled city of mystery.

They had advanced but a short distance when a banth, looking up
from its gory feast, descried them. With an angry roar the beast
walked quickly in their direction, and at the sound of its voice
a score of others followed its example.

Carthoris drew his long-sword. The girl stole a quick glance
at his face. She saw the smile upon his lips, and it was as wine
to sick nerves; for even upon warlike Barsoom where all men are
brave, woman reacts quickly to quiet indifference to danger--to
dare-deviltry that is without bombast.

"You may return your sword," she said. "I told you that the banths
would not harm us. Look!" and as she spoke she stepped quickly
toward the nearest animal.

Carthoris would have leaped after her to protect her, but with a
gesture she motioned him back. He heard her calling to the banths
in a low, singsong voice that was half purr.

Instantly the great heads went up and all the wicked eyes
were riveted upon the figure of the girl. Then, stealthily, they
commenced moving toward her. She had stopped now and was standing
waiting them.

One, closer to her than the others, hesitated. She spoke to him
imperiously, as a master might speak to a refractory hound.

The great carnivore let its head droop, and with tail between its
legs came slinking to the girl's feet, and after it came the others
until she was entirely surrounded by the savage maneaters.

Turning she led them to where Carthoris stood. They growled a little
as they neared the man, but a few sharp words of command put them
in their places.

"How do you do it?" exclaimed Carthoris.

"Your father once asked me that same question in the galleries of
the Golden Cliffs within the Otz Mountains, beneath the temples of
the therns. I could not answer him, nor can I answer you. I do
not know whence comes my power over them, but ever since the day
that Sator Throg threw me among them in the banth pit of the Holy
Therns, and the great creatures fawned upon instead of devouring
me, I ever have had the same strange power over them. They come
at my call and do my bidding, even as the faithful Woola does the
bidding of your mighty sire."

With a word the girl dispersed the fierce pack. Roaring, they
returned to their interrupted feast, while Carthoris and Thuvia
passed among them toward the walled city.

As they advanced the man looked with wonder upon the dead bodies
of those of the green men that had not been devoured or mauled by
the banths.

He called the girl's attention to them. No arrows protruded from
the great carcasses. Nowhere upon any of them was the sign of
mortal wound, nor even slightest scratch or abrasion.

Before the bowmen's dead had disappeared the corpses of the Torquasians
had bristled with the deadly arrows of their foes. Where had the
slender messengers of death departed? What unseen hand had plucked
them from the bodies of the slain?

Despite himself Carthoris could scarce repress a shudder of
apprehension as he glanced toward the silent city before them. No
longer was sign of life visible upon wall or roof top. All was
quiet--brooding, ominous quiet.

Yet he was sure that eyes watched them from somewhere behind that
blank wall.

He glanced at Thuvia. She was advancing with wide eyes fixed upon
the city gate. He looked in the direction of her gaze, but saw
nothing.

His gaze upon her seemed to arouse her as from a lethargy. She
glanced up at him, a quick, brave smile touching her lips, and then,
as though the act was involuntary, she came close to his side and
placed one of her hands in his.

He guessed that something within her that was beyond her conscious
control was appealing to him for protection. He threw an arm about
her, and thus they crossed the field. She did not draw away from
him. It is doubtful that she realized that his arm was there, so
engrossed was she in the mystery of the strange city before them.

They stopped before the gate. It was a mighty thing. From its
construction Carthoris could but dimly speculate upon its unthinkable
antiquity.

It was circular, closing a circular aperture, and the Heliumite knew
from his study of ancient Barsoomian architecture that it rolled
to one side, like a huge wheel, into an aperture in the wall.

Even such world-old cities as ancient Aaanthor were as yet undreamed
of when the races lived that built such gates as these.

As he stood speculating upon the identity of this forgotten city,
a voice spoke to them from above. Both looked up. There, leaning
over the edge of the high wall, was a man.

His hair was auburn, his skin fair--fairer even than that of John
Carter, the Virginian. His forehead was high, his eyes large and
intelligent.

The language that he used was intelligible to the two below,
yet there was a marked difference between it and their Barsoomian
tongue.

"Who are you?" he asked. "And what do you here before the gate of
Lothar?"

"We are friends," replied Carthoris. "This be the princess,
Thuvia of Ptarth, who was captured by the Torquasian horde. I am
Carthoris of Helium, Prince of the house of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
Helium, and son of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, and of his wife,
Dejah Thoris."

"'Ptarth'?" repeated the man. "'Helium'?" He shook his head. "I
never have heard of these places, nor did I know that there dwelt
upon Barsoom a race of thy strange colour. Where may these cities
lie, of which you speak? From our loftiest tower we have never
seen another city than Lothar."

Carthoris pointed toward the north-east.

"In that direction lie Helium and Ptarth," he said. "Helium is over
eight thousand haads from Lothar, while Ptarth lies nine thousand
five hundred haads north-east of Helium."[1]


[1]On Barsoom the AD is the basis of linear measurement. It is
the equivalent of an Earthly foot, measuring about 11.694 Earth
inches. As has been my custom in the past, I have generally
translated Barsoomian symbols of time, distance, etc., into their
Earthly equivalent, as being more easily understood by Earth readers.
For those of a more studious turn of mind it may be interesting
to know the Martian table of linear measurement, and so I give it
here:

10 sofads = 1 ad
200 ads = 1 haad
100 haads = 1 karad
360 karads = 1 circumference of Mars at equator.

A haad, or Barsoomian mile, contains about 2,339 Earth feet. A
karad is one degree. A sofad about 1.17 Earth inches.


Still the man shook his head.

"I know of nothing beyond the Lotharian hills," he said. "Naught
may live there beside the hideous green hordes of Torquas. They
have conquered all Barsoom except this single valley and the city
of Lothar. Here we have defied them for countless ages, though
periodically they renew their attempts to destroy us. From whence
you come I cannot guess unless you be descended from the slaves
the Torquasians captured in early times when they reduced the outer
world to their vassalage; but we had heard that they destroyed all
other races but their own."

Carthoris tried to explain that the Torquasians ruled but a
relatively tiny part of the surface of Barsoom, and even this only
because their domain held nothing to attract the red race; but the
Lotharian could not seem to conceive of anything beyond the valley
of Lothar other than a trackless waste peopled by the ferocious
green hordes of Torquas.

After considerable parleying he consented to admit them to the
city, and a moment later the wheel-like gate rolled back within
its niche, and Thuvia and Carthoris entered the city of Lothar.

All about them were evidences of fabulous wealth. The facades of
the buildings fronting upon the avenue within the wall were richly
carven, and about the windows and doors were ofttimes set foot-wide
borders of precious stones, intricate mosaics, or tablets of beaten
gold bearing bas-reliefs depicting what may have been bits of the
history of this forgotten people.

He with whom they had conversed across the wall was in the avenue
to receive them. About him were a hundred or more men of the same
race. All were clothed in flowing robes and all were beardless.

Their attitude was more of fearful suspicion than antagonism. They
followed the new-comers with their eyes; but spoke no word to them.

Carthoris could not but notice the fact that though the city had
been but a short time before surrounded by a horde of bloodthirsty
demons yet none of the citizens appeared to be armed, nor was there
sign of soldiery about.

He wondered if all the fighting men had sallied forth in one supreme
effort to rout the foe, leaving the city all unguarded. He asked
their host.

The man smiled.

"No creature other than a score or so of our sacred banths has left
Lothar to-day," he replied.

"But the soldiers--the bowmen!" exclaimed Carthoris. "We saw
thousands emerge from this very gate, overwhelming the hordes of
Torquas and putting them to rout with their deadly arrows and their
fierce banths."

Still the man smiled his knowing smile.

"Look!" he cried, and pointed down a broad avenue before him.

Carthoris and Thuvia followed the direction indicated, and there,
marching bravely in the sunlight, they saw advancing toward them
a great army of bowmen.

"Ah!" exclaimed Thuvia. "They have returned through another gate,
or perchance these be the troops that remained to defend the city?"

Again the fellow smiled his uncanny smile.

"There are no soldiers in Lothar," he said. "Look!"

Both Carthoris and Thuvia had turned toward him while he spoke,
and now as they turned back again toward the advancing regiments
their eyes went wide in astonishment, for the broad avenue before
them was as deserted as the tomb.

"And those who marched out upon the hordes to-day?" whispered
Carthoris. "They, too, were unreal?"

The man nodded.

"But their arrows slew the green warriors," insisted Thuvia.

"Let us go before Tario," replied the Lotharian. "He will tell you
that which he deems it best you know. I might tell you too much."

"Who is Tario?" asked Carthoris.

"Jeddak of Lothar," replied the guide, leading them up the broad
avenue down which they had but a moment since seen the phantom army
marching.

For half an hour they walked along lovely avenues between the most
gorgeous buildings that the two had ever seen. Few people were in
evidence. Carthoris could not but note the deserted appearance of
the mighty city.

At last they came to the royal palace. Carthoris saw it from a
distance, and guessing the nature of the magnificent pile wondered
that even here there should be so little sign of activity and life.

Not even a single guard was visible before the great entrance gate,
nor in the gardens beyond, into which he could see, was there sign
of the myriad life that pulses within the precincts of the royal
estates of the red jeddaks.

"Here," said their guide, "is the palace of Tario."

As he spoke Carthoris again let his gaze rest upon the wondrous
palace. With a startled exclamation he rubbed his eyes and looked
again. No! He could not be mistaken. Before the massive gate
stood a score of sentries. Within, the avenue leading to the main
building was lined on either side by ranks of bowmen. The gardens
were dotted with officers and soldiers moving quickly to and fro,
as though bent upon the duties of the minute.

What manner of people were these who could conjure an army out
of thin air? He glanced toward Thuvia. She, too, evidently had
witnessed the transformation.

With a little shudder she pressed more closely toward him.

"What do you make of it?" she whispered. "It is most uncanny."

"I cannot account for it," replied Carthoris, "unless we have gone
mad."

Carthoris turned quickly toward the Lotharian. The fellow was
smiling broadly.

"I thought that you just said that there were no soldiers in
Lothar," said the Heliumite, with a gesture toward the guardsmen.
"What are these?"

"Ask Tario," replied the other. "We shall soon be before him."

Nor was it long before they entered a lofty chamber at one end of
which a man reclined upon a rich couch that stood upon a high dais.

As the trio approached, the man turned dreamy eyes sleepily upon
them. Twenty feet from the dais their conductor halted, and,
whispering to Thuvia and Carthoris to follow his example, threw
himself headlong to the floor. Then rising to hands and knees,
he commenced crawling toward the foot of the throne, swinging his
head to and fro and wiggling his body as you have seen a hound do
when approaching its master.

Thuvia glanced quickly toward Carthoris. He was standing erect,
with high-held head and arms folded across his broad chest. A
haughty smile curved his lips.

The man upon the dais was eyeing him intently, and Carthoris of
Helium was looking straight in the other's face.

"Who be these, Jav?" asked the man of him who crawled upon his
belly along the floor.

"O Tario, most glorious Jeddak," replied Jav, "these be strangers
who came with the hordes of Torquas to our gates, saying that they
were prisoners of the green men. They tell strange tales of cities
far beyond Lothar."

"Arise, Jav," commanded Tario, "and ask these two why they show
not to Tario the respect that is his due."

Jav arose and faced the strangers. At sight of their erect positions
his face went livid. He leaped toward them.

"Creatures!" he screamed. "Down! Down upon your bellies before
the last of the jeddaks of Barsoom!"





Next: The Phantom Bowmen

Previous: The Fair Race



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