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The Phantom Bowmen

From: Thuvia, Maid Of Mars

As Jav leaped toward him Carthoris laid his hand upon the hilt of
his long-sword. The Lotharian halted. The great apartment was
empty save for the four at the dais, yet as Jav stepped back from
the menace of the Heliumite's threatening attitude the latter found
himself surrounded by a score of bowmen.

From whence had they sprung? Both Carthoris and Thuvia looked
their astonishment.

Now the former's sword leaped from its scabbard, and at the same
instant the bowmen drew back their slim shafts.

Tario had half raised himself upon one elbow. For the first time
he saw the full figure of Thuvia, who had been concealed behind
the person of Carthoris.

"Enough!" cried the jeddak, raising a protesting hand, but at
that very instant the sword of the Heliumite cut viciously at its
nearest antagonist.

As the keen edge reached its goal Carthoris let the point fall to
the floor, as with wide eyes he stepped backward in consternation,
throwing the back of his left hand across his brow. His steel
had cut but empty air--his antagonist had vanished--there were no
bowmen in the room!

"It is evident that these are strangers," said Tario to Jav. "Let
us first determine that they knowingly affronted us before we take
measures for punishment."

Then he turned to Carthoris, but ever his gaze wandered to the
perfect lines of Thuvia's glorious figure, which the harness of a
Barsoomian princess accentuated rather than concealed.

"Who are you," he asked, "who knows not the etiquette of the court
of the last of jeddaks?"

"I am Carthoris, Prince of Helium," replied the Heliumite. "And
this is Thuvia, Princess of Ptarth. In the courts of our fathers
men do not prostrate themselves before royalty. Not since the First
Born tore their immortal goddess limb from limb have men crawled
upon their bellies to any throne upon Barsoom. Now think you that
the daughter of one mighty jeddak and the son of another would so
humiliate themselves?"

Tario looked at Carthoris for a long time. At last he spoke.

"There is no other jeddak upon Barsoom than Tario," he said. "There
is no other race than that of Lothar, unless the hordes of Torquas
may be dignified by such an appellation. Lotharians are white;
your skins are red. There are no women left upon Barsoom. Your
companion is a woman."

He half rose from the couch, leaning far forward and pointing an
accusing finger at Carthoris.

"You are a lie!" he shrieked. "You are both lies, and you dare to
come before Tario, last and mightiest of the jeddaks of Barsoom,
and assert your reality. Some one shall pay well for this, Jav,
and unless I mistake it is yourself who has dared thus flippantly
to trifle with the good nature of your jeddak.

"Remove the man. Leave the woman. We shall see if both be lies.
And later, Jav, you shall suffer for your temerity. There be few
of us left, but--Komal must be fed. Go!"

Carthoris could see that Jav trembled as he prostrated himself once
more before his ruler, and then, rising, turned toward the Prince
of Helium.

"Come!" he said.

"And leave the Princess of Ptarth here alone?" cried Carthoris.

Jav brushed closely past him, whispering:

"Follow me--he cannot harm her, except to kill; and that he can do
whether you remain or not. We had best go now--trust me."

Carthoris did not understand, but something in the urgency of the
other's tone assured him, and so he turned away, but not without a
glance toward Thuvia in which he attempted to make her understand
that it was in her own interest that he left her.

For answer she turned her back full upon him, but not without first
throwing him such a look of contempt that brought the scarlet to
his cheek.

Then he hesitated, but Jav seized him by the wrist.

"Come!" he whispered. "Or he will have the bowmen upon you, and
this time there will be no escape. Did you not see how futile is
your steel against thin air!"

Carthoris turned unwillingly to follow. As the two left the room
he turned to his companion.

"If I may not kill thin air," he asked, "how, then, shall I fear
that thin air may kill me?"

"You saw the Torquasians fall before the bowmen?" asked Jav.

Carthoris nodded.

"So would you fall before them, and without one single chance for
self-defence or revenge."

As they talked Jav led Carthoris to a small room in one of the
numerous towers of the palace. Here were couches, and Jav bid the
Heliumite be seated.

For several minutes the Lotharian eyed his prisoner, for such
Carthoris now realized himself to be.

"I am half convinced that you are real," he said at last.

Carthoris laughed.

"Of course I am real," he said. "What caused you to doubt it? Can
you not see me, feel me?"

"So may I see and feel the bowmen," replied Jav, "and yet we all
know that they, at least, are not real."

Carthoris showed by the expression of his face his puzzlement at
each new reference to the mysterious bowmen--the vanishing soldiery
of Lothar.

"What, then, may they be?" he asked.

"You really do not know?" asked Jav.

Carthoris shook his head negatively.

"I can almost believe that you have told us the truth and that you
are really from another part of Barsoom, or from another world. But
tell me, in your own country have you no bowmen to strike terror
to the hearts of the green hordesmen as they slay in company with
the fierce banths of war?"

"We have soldiers," replied Carthoris. "We of the red race are
all soldiers, but we have no bowmen to defend us, such as yours.
We defend ourselves."

"You go out and get killed by your enemies!" cried Jav incredulously.

"Certainly," replied Carthoris. "How do the Lotharians?"

"You have seen," replied the other. "We send out our deathless
archers--deathless because they are lifeless, existing only in the
imaginations of our enemies. It is really our giant minds that
defend us, sending out legions of imaginary warriors to materialize
before the mind's eye of the foe.

"They see them--they see their bows drawn back--they see their
slender arrows speed with unerring precision toward their hearts.
And they die--killed by the power of suggestion."

"But the archers that are slain?" exclaimed Carthoris. "You call
them deathless, and yet I saw their dead bodies piled high upon
the battlefield. How may that be?"

"It is but to lend reality to the scene," replied Jav. "We picture
many of our own defenders killed that the Torquasians may not guess
that there are really no flesh and blood creatures opposing them.

"Once that truth became implanted in their minds, it is the theory
of many of us, no longer would they fall prey to the suggestion
of the deadly arrows, for greater would be the suggestion of the
truth, and the more powerful suggestion would prevail--it is law."

"And the banths?" questioned Carthoris. "They, too, were but
creatures of suggestion?"

"Some of them were real," replied Jav. "Those that accompanied
the archers in pursuit of the Torquasians were unreal. Like the
archers, they never returned, but, having served their purpose,
vanished with the bowmen when the rout of the enemy was assured.

"Those that remained about the field were real. Those we loosed
as scavengers to devour the bodies of the dead of Torquas. This
thing is demanded by the realists among us. I am a realist. Tario
is an etherealist.

"The etherealists maintain that there is no such thing as
matter--that all is mind. They say that none of us exists, except
in the imagination of his fellows, other than as an intangible,
invisible mentality.

"According to Tario, it is but necessary that we all unite in
imagining that there are no dead Torquasians beneath our walls,
and there will be none, nor any need of scavenging banths."

"You, then, do not hold Tario's beliefs?" asked Carthoris.

"In part only," replied the Lotharian. "I believe, in fact I know,
that there are some truly ethereal creatures. Tario is one, I am
convinced. He has no existence except in the imaginations of his

"Of course, it is the contention of all us realists that all
etherealists are but figments of the imagination. They contend
that no food is necessary, nor do they eat; but any one of the most
rudimentary intelligence must realize that food is a necessity to
creatures having actual existence."

"Yes," agreed Carthoris, "not having eaten to-day I can readily
agree with you."

"Ah, pardon me," exclaimed Jav. "Pray be seated and satisfy your
hunger," and with a wave of his hand he indicated a bountifully
laden table that had not been there an instant before he spoke. Of
that Carthoris was positive, for he had searched the room diligently
with his eyes several times.

"It is well," continued Jav, "that you did not fall into the hands
of an etherealist. Then, indeed, would you have gone hungry."

"But," exclaimed Carthoris, "this is not real food--it was not here
an instant since, and real food does not materialize out of thin

Jav looked hurt.

"There is no real food or water in Lothar," he said; "nor has there
been for countless ages. Upon such as you now see before you have
we existed since the dawn of history. Upon such, then, may you

"But I thought you were a realist," exclaimed Carthoris.

"Indeed," cried Jav, "what more realistic than this bounteous feast?
It is just here that we differ most from the etherealists. They
claim that it is unnecessary to imagine food; but we have found
that for the maintenance of life we must thrice daily sit down to
hearty meals.

"The food that one eats is supposed to undergo certain chemical
changes during the process of digestion and assimilation, the
result, of course, being the rebuilding of wasted tissue.

"Now we all know that mind is all, though we may differ in the
interpretation of its various manifestations. Tario maintains
that there is no such thing as substance, all being created from
the substanceless matter of the brain.

"We realists, however, know better. We know that mind has the
power to maintain substance even though it may not be able to create
substance--the latter is still an open question. And so we know
that in order to maintain our physical bodies we must cause all
our organs properly to function.

"This we accomplish by materializing food-thoughts, and by partaking
of the food thus created. We chew, we swallow, we digest. All our
organs function precisely as if we had partaken of material food.
And what is the result? What must be the result? The chemical
changes take place through both direct and indirect suggestion,
and we live and thrive."

Carthoris eyed the food before him. It seemed real enough. He
lifted a morsel to his lips. There was substance indeed. And
flavour as well. Yes, even his palate was deceived.

Jav watched him, smiling, as he ate.

"Is it not entirely satisfying?" he asked.

"I must admit that it is," replied Carthoris. "But tell me, how
does Tario live, and the other etherealists who maintain that food
is unnecessary?"

Jav scratched his head.

"That is a question we often discuss," he replied. "It is the
strongest evidence we have of the non-existence of the etherealists;
but who may know other than Komal?"

"Who is Komal?" asked Carthoris. "I heard your jeddak speak of

Jav bent low toward the ear of the Heliumite, looking fearfully
about before he spoke.

"Komal is the essence," he whispered. "Even the etherealists
admit that mind itself must have substance in order to transmit to
imaginings the appearance of substance. For if there really was
no such thing as substance it could not be suggested--what never
has been cannot be imagined. Do you follow me?"

"I am groping," replied Carthoris dryly.

"So the essence must be substance," continued Jav. "Komal is the
essence of the All, as it were. He is maintained by substance.
He eats. He eats the real. To be explicit, he eats the realists.
That is Tario's work.

"He says that inasmuch as we maintain that we alone are real we
should, to be consistent, admit that we alone are proper food for
Komal. Sometimes, as to-day, we find other food for him. He is
very fond of Torquasians."

"And Komal is a man?" asked Carthoris.

"He is All, I told you," replied Jav. "I know not how to explain
him in words that you will understand. He is the beginning and
the end. All life emanates from Komal, since the substance which
feeds the brain with imaginings radiates from the body of Komal.

"Should Komal cease to eat, all life upon Barsoom would cease to be.
He cannot die, but he might cease to eat, and, thus, to radiate."

"And he feeds upon the men and women of your belief?" cried Carthoris.

"Women!" exclaimed Jav. "There are no women in Lothar. The last
of the Lotharian females perished ages since, upon that cruel and
terrible journey across the muddy plains that fringed the half-dried
seas, when the green hordes scourged us across the world to this
our last hiding-place--our impregnable fortress of Lothar.

"Scarce twenty thousand men of all the countless millions of our
race lived to reach Lothar. Among us were no women and no children.
All these had perished by the way.

"As time went on, we, too, were dying and the race fast approaching
extinction, when the Great Truth was revealed to us, that mind is
all. Many more died before we perfected our powers, but at last
we were able to defy death when we fully understood that death was
merely a state of mind.

"Then came the creation of mind-people, or rather the materialization
of imaginings. We first put these to practical use when the
Torquasians discovered our retreat, and fortunate for us it was
that it required ages of search upon their part before they found
the single tiny entrance to the valley of Lothar.

"That day we threw our first bowmen against them. The intention
was purely to frighten them away by the vast numbers of bowmen which
we could muster upon our walls. All Lothar bristled with the bows
and arrows of our ethereal host.

"But the Torquasians did not frighten. They are lower than the
beasts--they know no fear. They rushed upon our walls, and standing
upon the shoulders of others they built human approaches to the
wall tops, and were on the very point of surging in upon us and
overwhelming us.

"Not an arrow had been discharged by our bowmen--we did but cause
them to run to and fro along the wall top, screaming taunts and
threats at the enemy.

"Presently I thought to attempt the thing--THE GREAT THING. I centred
all my mighty intellect upon the bowmen of my own creation--each
of us produces and directs as many bowmen as his mentality and
imagination is capable of.

"I caused them to fit arrows to their bows for the first time. I
made them take aim at the hearts of the green men. I made the
green men see all this, and then I made them see the arrows fly,
and I made them think that the points pierced their hearts.

"It was all that was necessary. By hundreds they toppled from
our walls, and when my fellows saw what I had done they were quick
to follow my example, so that presently the hordes of Torquas had
retreated beyond the range of our arrows.

"We might have killed them at any distance, but one rule of war we
have maintained from the first--the rule of realism. We do nothing,
or rather we cause our bowmen to do nothing within sight of the
enemy that is beyond the understanding of the foe. Otherwise they
might guess the truth, and that would be the end of us.

"But after the Torquasians had retreated beyond bowshot, they turned
upon us with their terrible rifles, and by constant popping at us
made life miserable within our walls.

"So then I bethought the scheme to hurl our bowmen through the
gates upon them. You have seen this day how well it works. For
ages they have come down upon us at intervals, but always with the
same results."

"And all this is due to your intellect, Jav?" asked Carthoris. "I
should think that you would be high in the councils of your people."

"I am," replied Jav, proudly. "I am next to Tario."

"But why, then, your cringing manner of approaching the throne?"

"Tario demands it. He is jealous of me. He only awaits the
slightest excuse to feed me to Komal. He fears that I may some
day usurp his power."

Carthoris suddenly sprang from the table.

"Jav!" he exclaimed. "I am a beast! Here I have been eating my
fill, while the Princess of Ptarth may perchance be still without
food. Let us return and find some means of furnishing her with

The Lotharian shook his head.

"Tario would not permit it," he said. "He will, doubtless, make
an etherealist of her."

"But I must go to her," insisted Carthoris. "You say that there
are no women in Lothar. Then she must be among men, and if this
be so I intend to be near where I may defend her if the need arises."

"Tario will have his way," insisted Jav. "He sent you away and
you may not return until he sends for you."

"Then I shall go without waiting to be sent for."

"Do not forget the bowmen," cautioned Jav.

"I do not forget them," replied Carthoris, but he did not tell
Jav that he remembered something else that the Lotharian had let
drop--something that was but a conjecture, possibly, and yet one
well worth pinning a forlorn hope to, should necessity arise.

Carthoris started to leave the room. Jav stepped before him,
barring his way.

"I have learned to like you, red man," he said; "but do not forget
that Tario is still my jeddak, and that Tario has commanded that
you remain here."

Carthoris was about to reply, when there came faintly to the ears
of both a woman's cry for help.

With a sweep of his arm the Prince of Helium brushed the Lotharian
aside, and with drawn sword sprang into the corridor without.

Next: The Hall Of Doom

Previous: The Jeddak Of Lothar

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