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shot from the cruiser exploded at the prow of my little craft. The
concussion nearly capsized her, and with a sickening plunge she hurtled
downward through the dark night.

How far I fell before I regained control of the plane I do not know,
but I must have been very close to the ground when I started to rise
again, as I plainly heard the squealing of animals below me. Rising
again I scanned the heavens for my pursuers, and finally making out
their lights far behind me, saw that they were landing, evidently in
search of me.

Not until their lights were no longer discernible did I venture to
flash my little lamp upon my compass, and then I found to my
consternation that a fragment of the projectile had utterly destroyed
my only guide, as well as my speedometer. It was true I could follow
the stars in the general direction of Helium, but without knowing the
exact location of the city or the speed at which I was traveling my
chances for finding it were slim.

Helium lies a thousand miles southwest of Zodanga, and with my compass
intact I should have made the trip, barring accidents, in between four
and five hours. As it turned out, however, morning found me speeding
over a vast expanse of dead sea bottom after nearly six hours of
continuous flight at high speed. Presently a great city showed below
me, but it was not Helium, as that alone of all Barsoomian metropolises
consists in two immense circular walled cities about seventy-five miles
apart and would have been easily distinguishable from the altitude at
which I was flying.

Believing that I had come too far to the north and west, I turned back
in a southeasterly direction, passing during the forenoon several other
large cities, but none resembling the description which Kantos Kan had
given me of Helium. In addition to the twin-city formation of Helium,
another distinguishing feature is the two immense towers, one of vivid
scarlet rising nearly a mile into the air from the center of one of the
cities, while the other, of bright yellow and of the same height, marks
her sister.




CHAPTER XXIV

TARS TARKAS FINDS A FRIEND


About noon I passed low over a great dead city of ancient Mars, and as
I skimmed out across the plain beyond I came full upon several thousand
green warriors engaged in a terrific battle. Scarcely had I seen them
than a volley of shots was directed at me, and with the almost
unfailing accuracy of their aim my little craft was instantly a ruined
wreck, sinking erratically to the ground.

I fell almost directly in the center of the fierce combat, among
warriors who had not seen my approach so busily were they engaged in
life and death struggles. The men were fighting on foot with
long-swords, while an occasional shot from a sharpshooter on the
outskirts of the conflict would bring down a warrior who might for an
instant separate himself from the entangled mass.

As my machine sank among them I realized that it was fight or die, with
good chances of dying in any event, and so I struck the ground with
drawn long-sword ready to defend myself as I could.

I fell beside a huge monster who was engaged with three antagonists,
and as I glanced at his fierce face, filled with the light of battle, I
recognized Tars Tarkas the Thark. He did not see me, as I was a trifle
behind him, and just then the three warriors opposing him, and whom I
recognized as Warhoons, charged simultaneously. The mighty fellow made
quick work of one of them, but in stepping back for another thrust he
fell over a dead body behind him and was down and at the mercy of his
foes in an instant. Quick as lightning they were upon him, and Tars
Tarkas would have been gathered to his fathers in short order had I not
sprung before his prostrate form and engaged his adversaries. I had
accounted for one of them when the mighty Thark regained his feet and
quickly settled the other.

He gave me one look, and a slight smile touched his grim lip as,
touching my shoulder, he said,

"I would scarcely recognize you, John Carter, but there is no other
mortal upon Barsoom who would have done what you have for me. I think
I have learned that there is such a thing as friendship, my friend."

He said no more, nor was there opportunity, for the Warhoons were
closing in about us, and together we fought, shoulder to shoulder,
during all that long, hot afternoon, until the tide of battle turned
and the remnant of the fierce Warhoon horde fell back upon their
thoats, and fled into the gathering darkness.

Ten thousand men had been engaged in that titanic struggle, and upon
the field of battle lay three thousand dead. Neither side asked or
gave quarter, nor did they attempt to take prisoners.

On our return to the city after the battle we had gone directly to Tars
Tarkas' quarters, where I was left alone while the chieftain attended
the customary council which immediately follows an engagement.

As I sat awaiting the return of the green warrior I heard something
move in an adjoining apartment, and as I glanced up there rushed
suddenly upon me a huge and hideous creature which bore me backward
upon the pile of silks and furs upon which I had been reclining. It
was Woola - faithful, loving Woola. He had found his way back to Thark
and, as Tars Tarkas later told me, had gone immediately to my former
quarters where he had taken up his pathetic and seemingly hopeless
watch for my return.

"Tal Hajus knows that you are here, John Carter," said Tars Tarkas, on
his return from the jeddak's quarters; "Sarkoja saw and recognized you
as we were returning. Tal Hajus has ordered me to bring you before him
tonight. I have ten thoats, John Carter; you may take your choice from
among them, and I will accompany you to the nearest waterway that leads
to Helium. Tars Tarkas may be a cruel green warrior, but he can be a
friend as well. Come, we must start."

"And when you return, Tars Tarkas?" I asked.

"The wild calots, possibly, or worse," he replied. "Unless I should
chance to have the opportunity I have so long waited of battling with
Tal Hajus."

"We will stay, Tars Tarkas, and see Tal Hajus tonight. You shall not
sacrifice yourself, and it may be that tonight you can have the chance
you wait."

He objected strenuously, saying that Tal Hajus often flew into wild
fits of passion at the mere thought of the blow I had dealt him, and
that if ever he laid his hands upon me I would be subjected to the most
horrible tortures.

While we were eating I repeated to Tars Tarkas the story which Sola had
told me that night upon the sea bottom during the march to Thark.

He said but little, but the great muscles of his face worked in passion
and in agony at recollection of the horrors which had been heaped upon
the only thing he had ever loved in all his cold, cruel, terrible
existence.

He no longer demurred when I suggested that we go before Tal Hajus,
only saying that he would like to speak to Sarkoja first. At his
request I accompanied him to her quarters, and the look of venomous
hatred she cast upon me was almost adequate recompense for any future
misfortunes this accidental return to Thark might bring me.

"Sarkoja," said Tars Tarkas, "forty years ago you were instrumental in
bringing about the torture and death of a woman named Gozava. I have
just discovered that the warrior who loved that woman has learned of
your part in the transaction. He may not kill you, Sarkoja, it is not
our custom, but there is nothing to prevent him tying one end of a
strap about your neck and the other end to a wild thoat, merely to test
your fitness to survive and help perpetuate our race. Having heard
that he would do this on the morrow, I thought it only right to warn
you, for I am a just man. The river Iss is but a short pilgrimage,
Sarkoja. Come, John Carter."

The next morning Sarkoja was gone, nor was she ever seen after.

In silence we hastened to the jeddak's palace, where we were
immediately admitted to his presence; in fact, he could scarcely wait
to see me and was standing erect upon his platform glowering at the
entrance as I came in.

"Strap him to that pillar," he shrieked. "We shall see who it is dares
strike the mighty Tal Hajus. Heat the irons; with my own hands I shall
burn the eyes from his head that he may not pollute my person with his
vile gaze."

"Chieftains of Thark," I cried, turning to the assembled council and
ignoring Tal Hajus, "I have been a chief among you, and today I have
fought for Thark shoulder to shoulder with her greatest warrior. You
owe me, at least, a hearing. I have won that much today. You claim to
be a just people - "

"Silence," roared Tal Hajus. "Gag the creature and bind him as I
command."

"Justice, Tal Hajus," exclaimed Lorquas Ptomel. "Who are you to set
aside the customs of ages among the Tharks."

"Yes, justice!" echoed a dozen voices, and so, while Tal Hajus fumed
and frothed, I continued.

"You are a brave people and you love bravery, but where was your mighty
jeddak during the fighting today? I did not see him in the thick of
battle; he was not there. He rends defenseless women and little
children in his lair, but how recently has one of you seen him fight
with men? Why, even I, a midget beside him, felled him with a single
blow of my fist. Is it of such that the Tharks fashion their jeddaks?
There stands beside me now a great Thark, a mighty warrior and a noble
man. Chieftains, how sounds, Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark?"

A roar of deep-toned applause greeted this suggestion.

"It but remains for this council to command, and Tal Hajus must prove
his fitness to rule. Were he a brave man he would invite Tars Tarkas
to combat, for he does not love him, but Tal Hajus is afraid; Tal
Hajus, your jeddak, is a coward. With my bare hands I could kill him,
and he knows it."

After I ceased there was tense silence, as all eyes were riveted upon
Tal Hajus. He did not speak or move, but the blotchy green of his
countenance turned livid, and the froth froze upon his lips.

"Tal Hajus," said Lorquas Ptomel in a cold, hard voice, "never in my
long life have I seen a jeddak of the Tharks so humiliated. There
could be but one answer to this arraignment. We wait it." And still
Tal Hajus stood as though petrified.

"Chieftains," continued Lorquas Ptomel, "shall the jeddak, Tal Hajus,
prove his fitness to rule over Tars Tarkas?"

There were twenty chieftains about the rostrum, and twenty swords
flashed high in assent.

There was no alternative. That decree was final, and so Tal Hajus drew
his long-sword and advanced to meet Tars Tarkas.

The combat was soon over, and, with his foot upon the neck of the dead
monster, Tars Tarkas became jeddak among the Tharks.

His first act was to make me a full-fledged chieftain with the rank I
had won by my combats the first few weeks of my captivity among them.

Seeing the favorable disposition of the warriors toward Tars Tarkas, as
well as toward me, I grasped the opportunity to enlist them in my cause
against Zodanga. I told Tars Tarkas the story of my adventures, and in
a few words had explained to him the thought I had in mind.

"John Carter has made a proposal," he said, addressing the council,
"which meets with my sanction. I shall put it to you briefly. Dejah
Thoris, the Princess of Helium, who was our prisoner, is now held by
the jeddak of Zodanga, whose son she must wed to save her country from
devastation at the hands of the Zodangan forces.

"John Carter suggests that we rescue her and return her to Helium. The
loot of Zodanga would be magnificent, and I have often thought that had
we an alliance with the people of Helium we could obtain sufficient
assurance of sustenance to permit us to increase the size and frequency
of our hatchings, and thus become unquestionably supreme among the
green men of all Barsoom. What say you?"

It was a chance to fight, an opportunity to loot, and they rose to the
bait as a speckled trout to a fly.

For Tharks they were wildly enthusiastic, and before another half hour
had passed twenty mounted messengers were speeding across dead sea
bottoms to call the hordes together for the expedition.

In three days we were on the march toward Zodanga, one hundred thousand
strong, as Tars Tarkas had been able to enlist the services of three
smaller hordes on the promise of the great loot of Zodanga.

At the head of the column I rode beside the great Thark while at the
heels of my mount trotted my beloved Woola.

We traveled entirely by night, timing our marches so that we camped
during the day at deserted cities where, even to the beasts, we were
all kept indoors during the daylight hours. On the march Tars Tarkas,
through his remarkable ability and statesmanship, enlisted fifty
thousand more warriors from various hordes, so that, ten days after we
set out we halted at midnight outside the great walled city of Zodanga,
one hundred and fifty thousand strong.

The fighting strength and efficiency of this horde of ferocious green
monsters was equivalent to ten times their number of red men. Never in
the history of Barsoom, Tars Tarkas told me, had such a force of green
warriors marched to battle together. It was a monstrous task to keep
even a semblance of harmony among them, and it was a marvel to me that
he got them to the city without a mighty battle among themselves.

But as we neared Zodanga their personal quarrels were submerged by
their greater hatred for the red men, and especially for the Zodangans,
who had for years waged a ruthless campaign of extermination against
the green men, directing special attention toward despoiling their
incubators.

Now that we were before Zodanga the task of obtaining entry to the city
devolved upon me, and directing Tars Tarkas to hold his forces in two
divisions out of earshot of the city, with each division opposite a
large gateway, I took twenty dismounted warriors and approached one of
the small gates that pierced the walls at short intervals. These gates
have no regular guard, but are covered by sentries, who patrol the
avenue that encircles the city just within the walls as our
metropolitan police patrol their beats.

The walls of Zodanga are seventy-five feet in height and fifty feet
thick. They are built of enormous blocks of carborundum, and the task
of entering the city seemed, to my escort of green warriors, an
impossibility. The fellows who had been detailed to accompany me were
of one of the smaller hordes, and therefore did not know me.

Placing three of them with their faces to the wall and arms locked, I
commanded two more to mount to their shoulders, and a sixth I ordered
to climb upon the shoulders of the upper two. The head of the topmost
warrior towered over forty feet from the ground.

In this way, with ten warriors, I built a series of three steps from
the ground to the shoulders of the topmost man. Then starting from a
short distance behind them I ran swiftly up from one tier to the next,
and with a final bound from the broad shoulders of the highest I
clutched the top of the great wall and quietly drew myself to its broad
expanse. After me I dragged six lengths of leather from an equal
number of my warriors. These lengths we had previously fastened
together, and passing one end to the topmost warrior I lowered the
other end cautiously over the opposite side of the wall toward the
avenue below. No one was in sight, so, lowering myself to the end of
my leather strap, I dropped the remaining thirty feet to the pavement
below.

I had learned from Kantos Kan the secret of opening these gates, and in
another moment my twenty great fighting men stood within the doomed
city of Zodanga.

I found to my delight that I had entered at the lower boundary of the
enormous palace grounds. The building itself showed in the distance a
blaze of glorious light, and on the instant I determined to lead a
detachment of warriors directly within the palace itself, while the
balance of the great horde was attacking the barracks of the soldiery.

Dispatching one of my men to Tars Tarkas for a detail of fifty Tharks,
with word of my intentions, I ordered ten warriors to capture and open
one of the great gates while with the nine remaining I took the other.
We were to do our work quietly, no shots were to be fired and no
general advance made until I had reached the palace with my fifty
Tharks. Our plans worked to perfection. The two sentries we met were
dispatched to their fathers upon the banks of the lost sea of Korus,
and the guards at both gates followed them in silence.




CHAPTER XXV

THE LOOTING OF ZODANGA


As the great gate where I stood swung open my fifty Tharks, headed by
Tars Tarkas himself, rode in upon their mighty thoats. I led them to
the palace walls, which I negotiated easily without assistance. Once
inside, however, the gate gave me considerable trouble, but I finally
was rewarded by seeing it swing upon its huge hinges, and soon my
fierce escort was riding across the gardens of the jeddak of Zodanga.

As we approached the palace I could see through the great windows of
the first floor into the brilliantly illuminated audience chamber of
Than Kosis. The immense hall was crowded with nobles and their women,
as though some important function was in progress. There was not a
guard in sight without the palace, due, I presume, to the fact that the
city and palace walls were considered impregnable, and so I came close
and peered within.

At one end of the chamber, upon massive golden thrones encrusted with
diamonds, sat Than Kosis and his consort, surrounded by officers and
dignitaries of state. Before them stretched a broad aisle lined on
either side with soldiery, and as I looked there entered this aisle at
the far end of the hall, the head of a procession which advanced to the
foot of the throne.

First there marched four officers of the jeddak's Guard bearing a huge
salver on which reposed, upon a cushion of scarlet silk, a great golden
chain with a collar and padlock at each end. Directly behind these
officers came four others carrying a similar salver which supported the
magnificent ornaments of a prince and princess of the reigning house of
Zodanga.

At the foot of the throne these two parties separated and halted,
facing each other at opposite sides of the aisle. Then came more
dignitaries, and the officers of the palace and of the army, and
finally two figures entirely muffled in scarlet silk, so that not a
feature of either was discernible. These two stopped at the foot of
the throne, facing Than Kosis. When the balance of the procession had
entered and assumed their stations Than Kosis addressed the couple
standing before him. I could not hear his words, but presently two
officers advanced and removed the scarlet robe from one of the figures,
and I saw that Kantos Kan had failed in his mission, for it was Sab
Than, Prince of Zodanga, who stood revealed before me.

Than Kosis now took a set of the ornaments from one of the salvers and
placed one of the collars of gold about his son's neck, springing the
padlock fast. After a few more words addressed to Sab Than he turned
to the other figure, from which the officers now removed the
enshrouding silks, disclosing to my now comprehending view Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium.

The object of the ceremony was clear to me; in another moment Dejah
Thoris would be joined forever to the Prince of Zodanga. It was an
impressive and beautiful ceremony, I presume, but to me it seemed the
most fiendish sight I had ever witnessed, and as the ornaments were
adjusted upon her beautiful figure and her collar of gold swung open in
the hands of Than Kosis I raised my long-sword above my head, and, with
the heavy hilt, I shattered the glass of the great window and sprang
into the midst of the astonished assemblage. With a bound I was on the
steps of the platform beside Than Kosis, and as he stood riveted with
surprise I brought my long-sword down upon the golden chain that would
have bound Dejah Thoris to another.

In an instant all was confusion; a thousand drawn swords menaced me
from every quarter, and Sab Than sprang upon me with a jeweled dagger
he had drawn from his nuptial ornaments. I could have killed him as
easily as I might a fly, but the age-old custom of Barsoom stayed my
hand, and grasping his wrist as the dagger flew toward my heart I held
him as though in a vise and with my long-sword pointed to the far end
of the hall.

"Zodanga has fallen," I cried. "Look!"

All eyes turned in the direction I had indicated, and there, forging
through the portals of the entranceway rode Tars Tarkas and his fifty
warriors on their great thoats.

A cry of alarm and amazement broke from the assemblage, but no word of
fear, and in a moment the soldiers and nobles of Zodanga were hurling
themselves upon the advancing Tharks.

Thrusting Sab Than headlong from the platform, I drew Dejah Thoris to
my side. Behind the throne was a narrow doorway and in this Than Kosis
now stood facing me, with drawn long-sword. In an instant we were
engaged, and I found no mean antagonist.

As we circled upon the broad platform I saw Sab Than rushing up the
steps to aid his father, but, as he raised his hand to strike, Dejah
Thoris sprang before him and then my sword found the spot that made Sab
Than jeddak of Zodanga. As his father rolled dead upon the floor the
new jeddak tore himself free from Dejah Thoris' grasp, and again we
faced each other. He was soon joined by a quartet of officers, and,
with my back against a golden throne, I fought once again for Dejah
Thoris. I was hard pressed to defend myself and yet not strike down
Sab Than and, with him, my last chance to win the woman I loved. My
blade was swinging with the rapidity of lightning as I sought to parry
the thrusts and cuts of my opponents. Two I had disarmed, and one was
down, when several more rushed to the aid of their new ruler, and to
avenge the death of the old.

As they advanced there were cries of "The woman! The woman! Strike
her down; it is her plot. Kill her! Kill her!"

Calling to Dejah Thoris to get behind me I worked my way toward the
little doorway back of the throne, but the officers realized my
intentions, and three of them sprang in behind me and blocked my
chances for gaining a position where I could have defended Dejah Thoris
against an army of swordsmen.

The Tharks were having their hands full in the center of the room, and
I began to realize that nothing short of a miracle could save Dejah
Thoris and myself, when I saw Tars Tarkas surging through the crowd of
pygmies that swarmed about him. With one swing of his mighty longsword
he laid a dozen corpses at his feet, and so he hewed a pathway before
him until in another moment he stood upon the platform beside me,
dealing death and destruction right and left.

The bravery of the Zodangans was awe-inspiring, not one attempted to
escape, and when the fighting ceased it was because only Tharks
remained alive in the great hall, other than Dejah Thoris and myself.

Sab Than lay dead beside his father, and the corpses of the flower of
Zodangan nobility and chivalry covered the floor of the bloody shambles.

My first thought when the battle was over was for Kantos Kan, and
leaving Dejah Thoris in charge of Tars Tarkas I took a dozen warriors
and hastened to the dungeons beneath the palace. The jailers had all
left to join the fighters in the throne room, so we searched the
labyrinthine prison without opposition.

I called Kantos Kan's name aloud in each new corridor and compartment,
and finally I was rewarded by hearing a faint response. Guided by the
sound, we soon found him helpless in a dark recess.

He was overjoyed at seeing me, and to know the meaning of the fight,
faint echoes of which had reached his prison cell. He told me that the
air patrol had captured him before he reached the high tower of the
palace, so that he had not even seen Sab Than.

We discovered that it would be futile to attempt to cut away the bars
and chains which held him prisoner, so, at his suggestion I returned to
search the bodies on the floor above for keys to open the padlocks of
his cell and of his chains.

Fortunately among the first I examined I found his jailer, and soon we
had Kantos Kan with us in the throne room.

The sounds of heavy firing, mingled with shouts and cries, came to us
from the city's streets, and Tars Tarkas hastened away to direct the
fighting without. Kantos Kan accompanied him to act as guide, the


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