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The New Ruler







From: Warlord Of Mars

The flier upon whose deck Dejah Thoris and I found ourselves after
twelve long years of separation proved entirely useless. Her
buoyancy tanks leaked badly. Her engine would not start. We were
helpless there in mid air above the arctic ice.

The craft had drifted across the chasm which held the corpses of
Matai Shang, Thurid, and Phaidor, and now hung above a low hill.
Opening the buoyancy escape valves I permitted her to come slowly
to the ground, and as she touched, Dejah Thoris and I stepped from
her deck and, hand in hand, turned back across the frozen waste
toward the city of Kadabra.

Through the tunnel that had led me in pursuit of them we passed,
walking slowly, for we had much to say to each other.

She told me of that last terrible moment months before when the
door of her prison cell within the Temple of the Sun was slowly
closing between us. Of how Phaidor had sprung upon her with
uplifted dagger, and of Thuvia's shriek as she had realized the
foul intention of the thern goddess.

It had been that cry that had rung in my ears all the long, weary
months that I had been left in cruel doubt as to my princess' fate;
for I had not known that Thuvia had wrested the blade from the
daughter of Matai Shang before it had touched either Dejah Thoris
or herself.

She told me, too, of the awful eternity of her imprisonment. Of
the cruel hatred of Phaidor, and the tender love of Thuvia, and
of how even when despair was the darkest those two red girls had
clung to the same hope and belief--that John Carter would find a
way to release them.

Presently we came to the chamber of Solan. I had been proceeding
without thought of caution, for I was sure that the city and the
palace were both in the hands of my friends by this time.

And so it was that I bolted into the chamber full into the midst
of a dozen nobles of the court of Salensus Oll. They were passing
through on their way to the outside world along the corridors we
had just traversed.

At sight of us they halted in their tracks, and then an ugly smile
overspread the features of their leader.

"The author of all our misfortunes!" he cried, pointing at me. "We
shall have the satisfaction of a partial vengeance at least when we
leave behind us here the dead and mutilated corpses of the Prince
and Princess of Helium.


"When they find them," he went on, jerking his thumb upward toward
the palace above, "they will realize that the vengeance of the
yellow man costs his enemies dear. Prepare to die, John Carter,
but that your end may be the more bitter, know that I may change my
intention as to meting a merciful death to your princess--possibly
she shall be preserved as a plaything for my nobles."

I stood close to the instrument-covered wall--Dejah Thoris at my
side. She looked up at me wonderingly as the warriors advanced
upon us with drawn swords, for mine still hung within its scabbard
at my side, and there was a smile upon my lips.

The yellow nobles, too, looked in surprise, and then as I made no
move to draw they hesitated, fearing a ruse; but their leader urged
them on. When they had come almost within sword's reach of me
I raised my hand and laid it upon the polished surface of a great
lever, and then, still smiling grimly, I looked my enemies full in
the face.

As one they came to a sudden stop, casting affrighted glances at
me and at one another.

"Stop!" shrieked their leader. "You dream not what you do!"

"Right you are," I replied. "John Carter does not dream. He
knows--knows that should one of you take another step toward Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium, I pull this lever wide, and she and I
shall die together; but we shall not die alone."

The nobles shrank back, whispering together for a few moments. At
last their leader turned to me.

"Go your way, John Carter," he said, "and we shall go ours."

"Prisoners do not go their own way," I answered, "and you are
prisoners--prisoners of the Prince of Helium."

Before they could make answer a door upon the opposite side of the
apartment opened and a score of yellow men poured into the apartment.
For an instant the nobles looked relieved, and then as their eyes
fell upon the leader of the new party their faces fell, for he was
Talu, rebel Prince of Marentina, and they knew that they could look
for neither aid nor mercy at his hands.

"Well done, John Carter," he cried. "You turn their own mighty
power against them. Fortunate for Okar is it that you were here
to prevent their escape, for these be the greatest villains north
of the ice-barrier, and this one"--pointing to the leader of the
party--"would have made himself Jeddak of Jeddaks in the place
of the dead Salensus Oll. Then indeed would we have had a more
villainous ruler than the hated tyrant who fell before your sword."

The Okarian nobles now submitted to arrest, since nothing but death
faced them should they resist, and, escorted by the warriors of
Talu, we made our way to the great audience chamber that had been
Salensus Oll's. Here was a vast concourse of warriors.

Red men from Helium and Ptarth, yellow men of the north, rubbing
elbows with the blacks of the First Born who had come under my
friend Xodar to help in the search for me and my princess. There
were savage, green warriors from the dead sea bottoms of the south,
and a handful of white-skinned therns who had renounced their
religion and sworn allegiance to Xodar.

There was Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak, and tall and mighty in his
gorgeous warrior trappings, Carthoris, my son. These three fell
upon Dejah Thoris as we entered the apartment, and though the lives
and training of royal Martians tend not toward vulgar demonstration,
I thought that they would suffocate her with their embraces.

And there were Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, and Kantos Kan,
my old-time friends, and leaping and tearing at my harness in the
exuberance of his great love was dear old Woola--frantic mad with
happiness.

Long and loud was the cheering that burst forth at sight of us;
deafening was the din of ringing metal as the veteran warriors of
every Martian clime clashed their blades together on high in token
of success and victory, but as I passed among the throng of saluting
nobles and warriors, jeds and jeddaks, my heart still was heavy,
for there were two faces missing that I would have given much to
have seen there--Thuvan Dihn and Thuvia of Ptarth were not to be
found in the great chamber.

I made inquiries concerning them among men of every nation, and at
last from one of the yellow prisoners of war I learned that they
had been apprehended by an officer of the palace as they sought to
reach the Pit of Plenty while I lay imprisoned there.

I did not need to ask to know what had sent them thither--the
courageous jeddak and his loyal daughter. My informer said that
they lay now in one of the many buried dungeons of the palace
where they had been placed pending a decision as to their fate by
the tyrant of the north.

A moment later searching parties were scouring the ancient pile in
search of them, and my cup of happiness was full when I saw them
being escorted into the room by a cheering guard of honor.

Thuvia's first act was to rush to the side of Dejah Thoris, and I
needed no better proof of the love these two bore for each other
than the sincerity with which they embraced.

Looking down upon that crowded chamber stood the silent and empty
throne of Okar.

Of all the strange scenes it must have witnessed since that long-dead
age that had first seen a Jeddak of Jeddaks take his seat upon
it, none might compare with that upon which it now looked down,
and as I pondered the past and future of that long-buried race of
black-bearded yellow men I thought that I saw a brighter and more
useful existence for them among the great family of friendly nations
that now stretched from the south pole almost to their very doors.

Twenty-two years before I had been cast, naked and a stranger, into
this strange and savage world. The hand of every race and nation
was raised in continual strife and warring against the men of
every other land and color. Today, by the might of my sword and the
loyalty of the friends my sword had made for me, black man and white,
red man and green rubbed shoulders in peace and good-fellowship.
All the nations of Barsoom were not yet as one, but a great
stride forward toward that goal had been taken, and now if I could
but cement the fierce yellow race into this solidarity of nations
I should feel that I had rounded out a great lifework, and repaid
to Mars at least a portion of the immense debt of gratitude I owed
her for having given me my Dejah Thoris.

And as I thought, I saw but one way, and a single man who could
insure the success of my hopes. As is ever the way with me, I acted
then as I always act--without deliberation and without consultation.

Those who do not like my plans and my ways of promoting them have
always their swords at their sides wherewith to back up their
disapproval; but now there seemed to be no dissenting voice, as,
grasping Talu by the arm, I sprang to the throne that had once been
Salensus Oll's.

"Warriors of Barsoom," I cried, "Kadabra has fallen, and with her
the hateful tyrant of the north; but the integrity of Okar must be
preserved. The red men are ruled by red jeddaks, the green warriors
of the ancient seas acknowledge none but a green ruler, the First
Born of the south pole take their law from black Xodar; nor would
it be to the interests of either yellow or red man were a red jeddak
to sit upon the throne of Okar.

"There be but one warrior best fitted for the ancient and mighty
title of Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North. Men of Okar, raise your
swords to your new ruler--Talu, the rebel prince of Marentina!"

And then a great cry of rejoicing rose among the free men of
Marentina and the Kadabran prisoners, for all had thought that the
red men would retain that which they had taken by force of arms,
for such had been the way upon Barsoom, and that they should be
ruled henceforth by an alien Jeddak.

The victorious warriors who had followed Carthoris joined in the
mad demonstration, and amidst the wild confusion and the tumult
and the cheering, Dejah Thoris and I passed out into the gorgeous
garden of the jeddaks that graces the inner courtyard of the palace
of Kadabra.

At our heels walked Woola, and upon a carved seat of wondrous
beauty beneath a bower of purple blooms we saw two who had preceded
us--Thuvia of Ptarth and Carthoris of Helium.

The handsome head of the handsome youth was bent low above the
beautiful face of his companion. I looked at Dejah Thoris, smiling,
and as I drew her close to me I whispered: "Why not?"

Indeed, why not? What matter ages in this world of perpetual youth?

We remained at Kadabra, the guests of Talu, until after his formal
induction into office, and then, upon the great fleet which I had
been so fortunate to preserve from destruction, we sailed south
across the ice-barrier; but not before we had witnessed the total
demolition of the grim Guardian of the North under orders of the
new Jeddak of Jeddaks.

"Henceforth," he said, as the work was completed, "the fleets
of the red men and the black are free to come and go across the
ice-barrier as over their own lands.

"The Carrion Caves shall be cleansed, that the green men may find
an easy way to the land of the yellow, and the hunting of the sacred
apt shall be the sport of my nobles until no single specimen of
that hideous creature roams the frozen north."

We bade our yellow friends farewell with real regret, as we set
sail for Ptarth. There we remained, the guest of Thuvan Dihn, for
a month; and I could see that Carthoris would have remained forever
had he not been a Prince of Helium.

Above the mighty forests of Kaol we hovered until word from Kulan
Tith brought us to his single landing-tower, where all day and half
a night the vessels disembarked their crews. At the city of Kaol
we visited, cementing the new ties that had been formed between
Kaol and Helium, and then one long-to-be-remembered day we sighted
the tall, thin towers of the twin cities of Helium.

The people had long been preparing for our coming. The sky was
gorgeous with gaily trimmed fliers. Every roof within both cities
was spread with costly silks and tapestries.

Gold and jewels were scattered over roof and street and plaza,
so that the two cities seemed ablaze with the fires of the hearts
of the magnificent stones and burnished metal that reflected the
brilliant sunlight, changing it into countless glorious hues.

At last, after twelve years, the royal family of Helium was reunited
in their own mighty city, surrounded by joy-mad millions before
the palace gates. Women and children and mighty warriors wept in
gratitude for the fate that had restored their beloved Tardos Mors
and the divine princess whom the whole nation idolized. Nor did
any of us who had been upon that expedition of indescribable danger
and glory lack for plaudits.

That night a messenger came to me as I sat with Dejah Thoris and
Carthoris upon the roof of my city palace, where we had long since
caused a lovely garden to be made that we three might find seclusion
and quiet happiness among ourselves, far from the pomp and ceremony
of court, to summon us to the Temple of Reward--"where one is to
be judged this night," the summons concluded.

I racked my brain to try and determine what important case there
might be pending which could call the royal family from their palaces
on the eve of their return to Helium after years of absence; but
when the jeddak summons no man delays.

As our flier touched the landing stage at the temple's top we saw
countless other craft arriving and departing. In the streets below
a great multitude surged toward the great gates of the temple.

Slowly there came to me the recollection of the deferred doom that
awaited me since that time I had been tried here in the Temple by
Zat Arras for the sin of returning from the Valley Dor and the Lost
Sea of Korus.

Could it be possible that the strict sense of justice which dominates
the men of Mars had caused them to overlook the great good that
had come out of my heresy? Could they ignore the fact that to me,
and me alone, was due the rescue of Carthoris, of Dejah Thoris, of
Mors Kajak, of Tardos Mors?

I could not believe it, and yet for what other purpose could I have
been summoned to the Temple of Reward immediately upon the return
of Tardos Mors to his throne?

My first surprise as I entered the temple and approached the Throne
of Righteousness was to note the men who sat there as judges. There
was Kulan Tith, Jeddak of Kaol, whom we had but just left within
his own palace a few days since; there was Thuvan Dihn, Jeddak of
Ptarth--how came he to Helium as soon as we?

There was Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, and Xodar, Jeddak of the
First Born; there was Talu, Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North, whom
I could have sworn was still in his ice-bound hothouse city beyond
the northern barrier, and among them sat Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak,
with enough lesser jeds and jeddaks to make up the thirty-one who
must sit in judgment upon their fellow-man.

A right royal tribunal indeed, and such a one, I warrant, as never
before sat together during all the history of ancient Mars.

As I entered, silence fell upon the great concourse of people that
packed the auditorium. Then Tardos Mors arose.

"John Carter," he said in his deep, martial voice, "take your place
upon the Pedestal of Truth, for you are to be tried by a fair and
impartial tribunal of your fellow-men."

With level eye and high-held head I did as he bade, and as I glanced
about that circle of faces that a moment before I could have sworn
contained the best friends I had upon Barsoom, I saw no single
friendly glance--only stern, uncompromising judges, there to do
their duty.

A clerk rose and from a great book read a long list of the more
notable deeds that I had thought to my credit, covering a long period
of twenty-two years since first I had stepped the ocher sea bottom
beside the incubator of the Tharks. With the others he read of
all that I had done within the circle of the Otz Mountains where
the Holy Therns and the First Born had held sway.

It is the way upon Barsoom to recite a man's virtues with his sins
when he is come to trial, and so I was not surprised that all that
was to my credit should be read there to my judges--who knew it
all by heart--even down to the present moment. When the reading
had ceased Tardos Mors arose.

"Most righteous judges," he exclaimed, "you have heard recited all
that is known of John Carter, Prince of Helium--the good with the
bad. What is your judgment?"

Then Tars Tarkas came slowly to his feet, unfolding all his mighty,
towering height until he loomed, a green-bronze statue, far above
us all. He turned a baleful eye upon me--he, Tars Tarkas, with whom
I had fought through countless battles; whom I loved as a brother.

I could have wept had I not been so mad with rage that I almost
whipped my sword out and had at them all upon the spot.

"Judges," he said, "there can be but one verdict. No longer may
John Carter be Prince of Helium"--he paused--"but instead let him
be Jeddak of Jeddaks, Warlord of Barsoom!"

As the thirty-one judges sprang to their feet with drawn and
upraised swords in unanimous concurrence in the verdict, the storm
broke throughout the length and breadth and height of that mighty
building until I thought the roof would fall from the thunder of
the mad shouting.

Now, at last, I saw the grim humor of the method they had adopted
to do me this great honor, but that there was any hoax in the reality
of the title they had conferred upon me was readily disproved by
the sincerity of the congratulations that were heaped upon me by
the judges first and then the nobles.

Presently fifty of the mightiest nobles of the greatest courts of
Mars marched down the broad Aisle of Hope bearing a splendid car
upon their shoulders, and as the people saw who sat within, the
cheers that had rung out for me paled into insignificance beside
those which thundered through the vast edifice now, for she whom
the nobles carried was Dejah Thoris, beloved Princess of Helium.

Straight to the Throne of Righteousness they bore her, and there
Tardos Mors assisted her from the car, leading her forward to my
side.

"Let a world's most beautiful woman share the honor of her husband,"
he said.

Before them all I drew my wife close to me and kissed her upon the lips.





Next: The Last Evolution

Previous: Rewards



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