Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

Through Carnage To Joy

From: A Princess Of Mars

Sometime later Tars Tarkas and Kantos Kan returned to report that
Zodanga had been completely reduced. Her forces were entirely
destroyed or captured, and no further resistance was to be expected
from within. Several battleships had escaped, but there were thousands
of war and merchant vessels under guard of Thark warriors.

The lesser hordes had commenced looting and quarreling among
themselves, so it was decided that we collect what warriors we could,
man as many vessels as possible with Zodangan prisoners and make for
Helium without further loss of time.

Five hours later we sailed from the roofs of the dock buildings with a
fleet of two hundred and fifty battleships, carrying nearly one hundred
thousand green warriors, followed by a fleet of transports with our

Behind us we left the stricken city in the fierce and brutal clutches
of some forty thousand green warriors of the lesser hordes. They were
looting, murdering, and fighting amongst themselves. In a hundred
places they had applied the torch, and columns of dense smoke were
rising above the city as though to blot out from the eye of heaven the
horrid sights beneath.

In the middle of the afternoon we sighted the scarlet and yellow towers
of Helium, and a short time later a great fleet of Zodangan battleships
rose from the camps of the besiegers without the city, and advanced to
meet us.

The banners of Helium had been strung from stem to stern of each of our
mighty craft, but the Zodangans did not need this sign to realize that
we were enemies, for our green Martian warriors had opened fire upon
them almost as they left the ground. With their uncanny marksmanship
they raked the on-coming fleet with volley after volley.

The twin cities of Helium, perceiving that we were friends, sent out
hundreds of vessels to aid us, and then began the first real air battle
I had ever witnessed.

The vessels carrying our green warriors were kept circling above the
contending fleets of Helium and Zodanga, since their batteries were
useless in the hands of the Tharks who, having no navy, have no skill
in naval gunnery. Their small-arm fire, however, was most effective,
and the final outcome of the engagement was strongly influenced, if not
wholly determined, by their presence.

At first the two forces circled at the same altitude, pouring broadside
after broadside into each other. Presently a great hole was torn in
the hull of one of the immense battle craft from the Zodangan camp;
with a lurch she turned completely over, the little figures of her crew
plunging, turning and twisting toward the ground a thousand feet below;
then with sickening velocity she tore after them, almost completely
burying herself in the soft loam of the ancient sea bottom.

A wild cry of exultation arose from the Heliumite squadron, and with
redoubled ferocity they fell upon the Zodangan fleet. By a pretty
maneuver two of the vessels of Helium gained a position above their
adversaries, from which they poured upon them from their keel bomb
batteries a perfect torrent of exploding bombs.

Then, one by one, the battleships of Helium succeeded in rising above
the Zodangans, and in a short time a number of the beleaguering
battleships were drifting hopeless wrecks toward the high scarlet tower
of greater Helium. Several others attempted to escape, but they were
soon surrounded by thousands of tiny individual fliers, and above each
hung a monster battleship of Helium ready to drop boarding parties upon
their decks.

Within but little more than an hour from the moment the victorious
Zodangan squadron had risen to meet us from the camp of the besiegers
the battle was over, and the remaining vessels of the conquered
Zodangans were headed toward the cities of Helium under prize crews.

There was an extremely pathetic side to the surrender of these mighty
fliers, the result of an age-old custom which demanded that surrender
should be signalized by the voluntary plunging to earth of the
commander of the vanquished vessel. One after another the brave
fellows, holding their colors high above their heads, leaped from the
towering bows of their mighty craft to an awful death.

Not until the commander of the entire fleet took the fearful plunge,
thus indicating the surrender of the remaining vessels, did the
fighting cease, and the useless sacrifice of brave men come to an end.

We now signaled the flagship of Helium's navy to approach, and when she
was within hailing distance I called out that we had the Princess Dejah
Thoris on board, and that we wished to transfer her to the flagship
that she might be taken immediately to the city.

As the full import of my announcement bore in upon them a great cry
arose from the decks of the flagship, and a moment later the colors of
the Princess of Helium broke from a hundred points upon her upper
works. When the other vessels of the squadron caught the meaning of
the signals flashed them they took up the wild acclaim and unfurled her
colors in the gleaming sunlight.

The flagship bore down upon us, and as she swung gracefully to and
touched our side a dozen officers sprang upon our decks. As their
astonished gaze fell upon the hundreds of green warriors, who now came
forth from the fighting shelters, they stopped aghast, but at sight of
Kantos Kan, who advanced to meet them, they came forward, crowding
about him.

Dejah Thoris and I then advanced, and they had no eyes for other than
her. She received them gracefully, calling each by name, for they were
men high in the esteem and service of her grandfather, and she knew
them well.

"Lay your hands upon the shoulder of John Carter," she said to them,
turning toward me, "the man to whom Helium owes her princess as well as
her victory today."

They were very courteous to me and said many kind and complimentary
things, but what seemed to impress them most was that I had won the aid
of the fierce Tharks in my campaign for the liberation of Dejah Thoris,
and the relief of Helium.

"You owe your thanks more to another man than to me," I said, "and here
he is; meet one of Barsoom's greatest soldiers and statesmen, Tars
Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark."

With the same polished courtesy that had marked their manner toward me
they extended their greetings to the great Thark, nor, to my surprise,
was he much behind them in ease of bearing or in courtly speech.
Though not a garrulous race, the Tharks are extremely formal, and their
ways lend themselves amazingly well to dignified and courtly manners.

Dejah Thoris went aboard the flagship, and was much put out that I
would not follow, but, as I explained to her, the battle was but partly
won; we still had the land forces of the besieging Zodangans to account
for, and I would not leave Tars Tarkas until that had been accomplished.

The commander of the naval forces of Helium promised to arrange to have
the armies of Helium attack from the city in conjunction with our land
attack, and so the vessels separated and Dejah Thoris was borne in
triumph back to the court of her grandfather, Tardos Mors, Jeddak of

In the distance lay our fleet of transports, with the thoats of the
green warriors, where they had remained during the battle. Without
landing stages it was to be a difficult matter to unload these beasts
upon the open plain, but there was nothing else for it, and so we put
out for a point about ten miles from the city and began the task.

It was necessary to lower the animals to the ground in slings and this
work occupied the remainder of the day and half the night. Twice we
were attacked by parties of Zodangan cavalry, but with little loss,
however, and after darkness shut down they withdrew.

As soon as the last thoat was unloaded Tars Tarkas gave the command to
advance, and in three parties we crept upon the Zodangan camp from the
north, the south and the east.

About a mile from the main camp we encountered their outposts and, as
had been prearranged, accepted this as the signal to charge. With
wild, ferocious cries and amidst the nasty squealing of battle-enraged
thoats we bore down upon the Zodangans.

We did not catch them napping, but found a well-entrenched battle line
confronting us. Time after time we were repulsed until, toward noon, I
began to fear for the result of the battle.

The Zodangans numbered nearly a million fighting men, gathered from
pole to pole, wherever stretched their ribbon-like waterways, while
pitted against them were less than a hundred thousand green warriors.
The forces from Helium had not arrived, nor could we receive any word
from them.

Just at noon we heard heavy firing all along the line between the
Zodangans and the cities, and we knew then that our much-needed
reinforcements had come.

Again Tars Tarkas ordered the charge, and once more the mighty thoats
bore their terrible riders against the ramparts of the enemy. At the
same moment the battle line of Helium surged over the opposite
breastworks of the Zodangans and in another moment they were being
crushed as between two millstones. Nobly they fought, but in vain.

The plain before the city became a veritable shambles ere the last
Zodangan surrendered, but finally the carnage ceased, the prisoners
were marched back to Helium, and we entered the greater city's gates, a
huge triumphal procession of conquering heroes.

The broad avenues were lined with women and children, among which were
the few men whose duties necessitated that they remain within the city
during the battle. We were greeted with an endless round of applause
and showered with ornaments of gold, platinum, silver, and precious
jewels. The city had gone mad with joy.

My fierce Tharks caused the wildest excitement and enthusiasm. Never
before had an armed body of green warriors entered the gates of Helium,
and that they came now as friends and allies filled the red men with

That my poor services to Dejah Thoris had become known to the
Heliumites was evidenced by the loud crying of my name, and by the
loads of ornaments that were fastened upon me and my huge thoat as we
passed up the avenues to the palace, for even in the face of the
ferocious appearance of Woola the populace pressed close about me.

As we approached this magnificent pile we were met by a party of
officers who greeted us warmly and requested that Tars Tarkas and his
jeds with the jeddaks and jeds of his wild allies, together with
myself, dismount and accompany them to receive from Tardos Mors an
expression of his gratitude for our services.

At the top of the great steps leading up to the main portals of the
palace stood the royal party, and as we reached the lower steps one of
their number descended to meet us.

He was an almost perfect specimen of manhood; tall, straight as an
arrow, superbly muscled and with the carriage and bearing of a ruler of
men. I did not need to be told that he was Tardos Mors, Jeddak of

The first member of our party he met was Tars Tarkas and his first
words sealed forever the new friendship between the races.

"That Tardos Mors," he said, earnestly, "may meet the greatest living
warrior of Barsoom is a priceless honor, but that he may lay his hand
on the shoulder of a friend and ally is a far greater boon."

"Jeddak of Helium," returned Tars Tarkas, "it has remained for a man of
another world to teach the green warriors of Barsoom the meaning of
friendship; to him we owe the fact that the hordes of Thark can
understand you; that they can appreciate and reciprocate the sentiments
so graciously expressed."

Tardos Mors then greeted each of the green jeddaks and jeds, and to
each spoke words of friendship and appreciation.

As he approached me he laid both hands upon my shoulders.

"Welcome, my son," he said; "that you are granted, gladly, and without
one word of opposition, the most precious jewel in all Helium, yes, on
all Barsoom, is sufficient earnest of my esteem."

We were then presented to Mors Kajak, Jed of lesser Helium, and father
of Dejah Thoris. He had followed close behind Tardos Mors and seemed
even more affected by the meeting than had his father.

He tried a dozen times to express his gratitude to me, but his voice
choked with emotion and he could not speak, and yet he had, as I was to
later learn, a reputation for ferocity and fearlessness as a fighter
that was remarkable even upon warlike Barsoom. In common with all
Helium he worshiped his daughter, nor could he think of what she had
escaped without deep emotion.

Next: From Joy To Death

Previous: The Looting Of Zodanga

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 198