Sixteen: The Jeddak of Helium
The golden harnesses of matrimony were placed about the necks of Shis-Inday
and me by Thuvan Dihn.
Today, I cherish the pomp and circumstance of royal life. Courtly affairs
come easily to me now -- the formal state dinners, diplomatic negotiation,
receiving foreign dignitaries in the halls of Barsoom's most ancient and
majestic palace. Perhaps those duties take the place of an empty longing
in my heart.
But on the night of my wedding, it was still an alien sort of existence.
My brother had been born to it, as my father had been before him. To me,
it was a tedious chore.
It would always be such to Shis-Inday, whose savage sire practiced diplomacy
at the point of a wooden spear.
We slipped away to the Royal Observatory during the Dance of Barsoom.
Shis-Inday sat in the front row of the darkened theater. I worked the
controls at the back of the large room, casting images upon the ground
glass before the girl.
Without telling her my intent, I maneuvered the dials so that a refection
of Jasoom appeared. First, the view was from space. She was fascinated,
but did not understand what she saw.
"A brother of Kleego-na-ay," she marveled. "But so large! And blue."
Without a word, I shifted the focus so that we descended through the
atmosphere of Jasoom, a realistic experience for the viewer. Shis-Inday
swayed, dizzied by the illusion of movement. I saw her clutch the armrests
upon her chair. But she made no sound, and appeared captivated by the effect.
When the tumbling picture slowed, we had a perfectly clear birds-eye
view of rolling ocean.
It was my turn to marvel. Such a sight had not been seen upon Barsoom
for ages. Whenever I gaze upon your abundant planet, the sight of an ocean
never fails to amaze me. I feel small before such titanic depths. How do
you of Jasoom stand to be always reminded of your insignificance?
With the turn of a dial, our perspective shifted to land -- a green
Another twist, and we saw a primitive city on the continent I believe
is called Europe.
"El Caballo!" Shis-Inday cried. It was a four-legged thoat, diminutive
and covered with hair, pulling a wooden cart through the dirt streets of
the settlement. The man who held the beast's reigns also elicited comment:
"A Pindah-Lickoyee," the girl murmured.
Again the view changed, to an open plain of rock and sparse grasses.
Massive mountains ringed the horizon, more imposing than any Barsoomian
landscape. Forests were also visible in the mist of distance.
Shis-Inday leaped to her feet, rushing to touch the screen. She'd have
crawled inside, if she could.
"The World!" she breathed, reverently.
Wisps of smoke curled from another settlement -- which was very different
from the first we had seen. Simple shelters, made from wooden poles and
brush, housed people who looked like my princess.
"The Men of the Woods," she said quietly. "The Shis-Inday."
Night was falling upon The World. I rotated the view upward, toward
the sky, which stirred as much emotion in the girl as had the sight of
her people. The face of Night was a familiar companion to her.
I pointed out Barsoom.
"The Weeping Lover," she said softly.
Without another word, she left the room.
In all the years that Shis-Inday spent in the royal palace of Helium,
she never returned to the observatory. If she could not pass through that
tantalizing viewscreen, Shis-Inday wanted no part of it. The Jasoomian
princess believed it better to dream of The World, and visit it with her
Spirit Guide, than to be teased by ghostly reflections of it.
Selfishly, I hoped that The World was beginning to lose some of its
hold upon her.
And yet, I knew how alone I'd feel had I been cut off forever from my
Ceremony is prized among the people of Helium. On a dying planet, tradition
is all. It helps us remember our past, and keeps us focused upon the future.
My coronation was elaborate.
I rose to the throne of Helium with the grace and wisdom that I'd learned
by watching my father. Would that he'd been there to witness the solemn
spectacle. I felt his presence, and that of my brother.
Shis-Inday stood at my side, and I was content in the moment.
A year later, we stood upon the roof of the palace, embraced by Night.
Neither Thuria nor Cluros had risen.
"Do you still miss it so terribly, my princess?" I asked.
Without the diluting influence of the light from Kleego-na-ay's crazy
cousins, the stars stood out in brilliant glory. Among them, we picked
out the blue-green orb of The World.
"At times," Shis-Inday said softly, "I wonder about The Men of the Woods.
About my mother, and father. Do they weep for me? Do they still live, to
"Would you return to Jasoom, if you could?"
It was a difficult question for me to ask. I was surprised, and gratified,
by the quick answer.
"Not without you, my nantan," she said.
I took her in my arms. The Barsoomian endearment always thrilled me,
when spoken by my Jasoomian princess in her own language.
"The ways of Usen are mysterious," she purred. "But He is truly the
Life-Giver. I know that now more surely than ever I have before. He has
given me life, by sending me here. If I was transported to The World tonight,
I'd spend the rest of my days attempting to return to you."
Construction of the Palace of Peace began in Ptarth shortly after the
war with Helium ended. The task was completed two years later.
It was a grand gesture by my friend, Thuvan Dihn, Jeddak of that proud
But we both knew it was little more than a gesture.
Peace upon Barsoom?
Nevertheless, our two nations made quite a spectacle of its dedication.
I and my Jeddara attended the opening with a retinue of thousands. And
the millions who populated the Ptarthian capital seemed all to be there,
crowding the streets and showing their visitors from Helium the finer things
that Thuvan Dihn's empire had to offer in the way of culture and entertainment.
Sporting events, parades and exhibitions filled the days. Thuvan Dihn
and I treated the crowds to a duel; the gamblers of Ptarth lost quite a
sum that day.
Ballroom dancing, theater and sumptuous dining occupied our nights.
It was a week that I will long remember.
On the day of the symbolic structure's dedication, I stood upon a balcony
on its top floor, watching from above as Thuvan Dihn spoke to the assembled
crowds from a platform in the court yard far below. His daughter, who'd
hatched shortly after hostilities ceased, stood between Shis-Inday and
me, holding our hands.
Our son, Mors Kajak, nestled at my wife's breast. He had not been hatched.
I do not fully understand the genetics of it, but Ras Thavas made it possible
for Shis-Inday to bear my heir.
Barsoomians do not nurse their young. The sight of my son's mother providing
him nourishment in this way is indescribable. It made me feel a bond with
them both that no other of my race can know.
"Your father is a great man, Thuvia," I told the girl.
"Yes," she said.
"Do you think he can see you all the way up here?" asked Shis-Inday,
"I am sure of it," the girl said confidently, waving to the speck that
was Thuvan Dihn. "If he ever lost sight of me, my father would travel to
the ends of Barsoom to find me again."
Seventeen: The House of Spirits ~ words by Jeff, art by Duane
thing in The World -- the animals, the plants, the sky and stars and lightning
-- has a Power behind it that makes it do what it does. What you can see
is only a little of the whole thing. The Power is in the spirit part. Some
people can learn to reach the spirit part of something, and they become
its izze-nantan, its shaman-chief. There is Power in everything!
-- The teachings of Yellow Bear.
When Shis-Inday learned of the zoo at Amhor, she decided that
we must visit it.
I did not protest, although I knew that she would not like what she
saw. Shis-Inday had always felt an affinity for nature; her wild side never
drifted far from the surface -- even during the most stately of functions.
She could be elegant, when the situation demanded. But she could also be
savage. In fact, the untamed side of her needed no prompting to rise to
The Human Beings could no more cage another living thing than they could
cage themselves. Perhaps it was the oddness of the concept that made Shis-Inday
want to see a Barsoomian zoo.
When we arrived, even I was aghast by the horrid conditions. The animals
were gaunt, and seemed nearly dead of thirst. Shis- Inday fled to our apartments
in disgust, after clawing our guide, Jal Had.
The jed of Amhor sputtered in rage, stemming the flow of blood from
his face with a silk cloth.
I turned angrily upon him, ready to strangle him for the distress that
conditions here had caused my princess.
"Tardos Mors!" he cried. "My beasts are watered more frequently than
my people. Has the drought not yet reached distant Helium?"
For the first time in many years, I thought of Hora San.
Many more years would pass before I came to know the prophecy of that
"But what is wrong with her?" I demanded of the scientist. "What terrible
disease afflicts her?"
"She is old," Ras Thavas answered, without feeling, without sentiment.
"She will die soon."
"Old!" I nearly shouted. "She left Jasoom as little more than a child.
And that was only twenty years ago, by Barsoomian reckoning."
"Nearly fifty years, by the reckoning of her own planet," Ras Thavas
"Twenty years, or fifty! What of it? It is nothing. It is a fraction
of a moment."
"On Barsoom, perhaps," the scientist said.
The drought worsened with every passing year. And with every passing
month, more rapidly than seemed possible, my princess grew old and frail.
She also grew wiser, more tender, and sometimes mysterious.
She still danced by moonlight. And I danced with her, when she would
allow. But often my princess made solitary journeys of communion with the
Directions, and Usen, and the spirits that meant as much to her as life
itself. Kliji-Litzogue, the Yellow Lizard, was her companion at such times.
I never saw her Spirit Guide, though she spoke to me of him as she would
a thing of flesh and blood. Perhaps he was, in a sense I will never fully
My reign during those years was marked by a wisdom and compassion that
was due in large part to my Jeddara. It was a time of great uncertainty,
because of the drought. Men have tried, but it is impossible to conquer
thirst with a sword. Under such conditions, an iron will is more important
than the strongest steel at your hip.
Shis-Inday sometimes fretted about her inability to string a bow so
tautly, or hunt so keenly, or leap so marvelously in her dance beneath
the eyes of Kleego-na-ay's crazy cousins. And often she stared placidly
into my eyes, wondering that they had not yet begun to grow dim, as had
"My chieftain, I do not understand it," she said. "You look the same
as the day we first met, while I have become my grandmother, Old Woman."
In my eyes, she had grown more beautiful. A part of me grieved that
I had remained unchanged in hers.
The people of Helium were enchanted by the mere sight of Shis-Inday's
white hair and crinkled skin. They loved my aging princess more dearly
than I can explain.
And so did I.
The steady cadence of her deliberate walk brought calmness and reflection
to the most anxious of young warriors. They, and Helium, were stronger
Only now, since the coming of John Carter and the fall of Issus, has
age begun to show in the population of our ancient planet. But in those
days, it was virtually unheard of. If we did not die young, in war, we
journeyed to Dor just before the change overtook our strong bodies.
It is perhaps the greatest of ironies that John Carter himself appears
to possess eternal youth.
Will his princess age, while the Warlord remains unchanged? Only time
It is not a fate I would wish upon anyone.
Thuvan Dihn's face told me ere he spoke how grave the situation was
in Ptarth. He'd come to Helium to discuss possible solutions to the planet-wide
drought, which had grown worse -- impossible as that seemed.
Dozens of full-scale wars raged over great portions of Barsoom. Helium
itself fought battles on several fronts, against red men and green who
would have raided what precious stores of water we'd been able to horde.
Scattered pockets of water throughout the empire and beyond had been
located at the guidance of Shis-Inday, whose Power was more valuable upon
Barsoom, now, than it had ever been in the relatively fruitful deserts
of The World.
After prayers and consultations with Kliji-Litzogue, Shis-Inday would
fly over some foresaken stretch of dead sea bottom. When a familiar scent
or other vague sign became known to her by some means no one but she could
fathom, the Be-don-ko-he princess would lean forward, wind whipping her
hair straight back from her brow. Then she'd point from the deck of the
flier to the area where water could be found.
At first, engineers assigned to these reconaissance missions doubted
the accuracy of my Shis-Inday's uncanny sense. But in time, they came to
trust her instincts more readily than the most precise mechanisms of science
they could devise.
Shis-Inday, meanwhile, seemed increasingly worried by the growing dryness
of the dying planet she'd adopted as her own. It became difficult for her
to locate even the smallest of reservoirs.
She was upon one such errand when Thuvan Dihn appeared at my court.
I would be glad of that, for Shis-Inday had come to love the princess of
Ptarth as a daughter.
"Thousands have departed upon the Final Pilgrimage," said Thuvan Dihn,
stroking the head of young Sovan, his son. "And thousands more would follow,
did they not fear dying alone upon the parched wastelands before reaching
His voice trembled, and I could tell there was more.
"Thuvia has gone," Thuvan Dihn said. "She thought to inspire hope among
those who feared the Pilgrimage. Hundreds followed her; and I believe many
more will within the week."
"I'm thirsty," said the boy, weakly, in a voice that spoke for an entire
The Jeddak of Ptarth looked at me, blankly. Thuvan Dihn was among the
greatest warriors I'd ever known on a planet of great warriors. But now
he was forlorn.
On the verge of dry tears.
"My daughter is gone, Tardos Mors," he said. "She seeks the knee of
Issus. Her love for our people must be greater than her love, even, for
me. She leads them to salvation."
"We are saved, father!"
The urgency in the voice of Mors Kajak made me turn from the balcony,
where Thuvan Dihn and I stood in contemplation of a subdued, silent Helium.
"Saved?" I said quietly, turning to face my son.
"Mother has saved us!" he cried.
The reports came in by wireless. Rain was falling throughout Barsoom.
Canals that had been dry for years were filling to capacity. New reservoirs
had been located. Even the Iss, whose waters were sacred, had regained
something of its former majesty. Battle fleets stopped fighting, as their
crews marveled at the unimagined sight of water from the sky.
My world was saved.
To you, of Jasoom, the precipitation that fell upon Barsoom that day
would be barely a drop in those depthless oceans of yours. But to us, it
was life. Give a Barsoomian one grasping chance at that, and he'll cling
to it with the tenacity of a white ape.
With Thuvan Dihn and Mors Kajak, I hastily outfitted an expedition to
join Shis-Inday at the site of her greatest triumph.
When we arrived, my Be-don-ko-he princess was dancing at the edge of
the Great Canal, leaping like the Girl of the Woods that she'd been when
first I'd laid eyes upon her that long-ago night in the marsh. With a whoop
unbecoming a jeddak, I joined her.
She fell into my arms, laughing as I held her close.
"The Spirits heard!" she cried. "Usen was pleased with my dance, and
He granted my prayer!"
The deluge soaked us both. I could hear the shouts of those all about
us, who'd taken up the wild dance begun by my princess.
Shis-Inday kissed me tenderly, and then walked peacefully to the edge
of the canal. The rain slowed to a light mist, but the rushing water before
us had not diminished.
On tired legs, she clambered to the top of the concrete wall, contentedly
studying the miracle.
As I climbed to join her, a section of the wall gave way. The loose
mortar had not yet settled where craftsmen had worked to shore it against
the oncoming water.
Shis-Inday plunged downward, just as I reached the top of the crumbling
"No!" I screamed.
She struggled for a moment in that raging torrent and then went under.
I raced along the wall, frantic, straining for a glimpse of my princess.
I was on the brink of leaping into the swirling water, when strong arms
pulled me back.
I have lived my life on a world where water is among the most prized
of possessions; there is none to spare for more than drinking or bathing.
I never learned to swim.
And yet, I'd have plunged headlong into that furious maelstrom, had
Thuvan Dihn and Mors Kajak not been there to stop me.
"Would you drown yourself in a suicidal effort to reach her side, Tardos
Mors?" the Jeddak of Ptarth asked.
"Yes!" I cried, straining against his hold. "A thousand times, yes!"
An engineer on the other side of the canal shouted for our attention.
"There!" came the cry, barely audible above the roar of the flood.
My eyes followed his pointing finger, and I saw Shis-Inday's head bob
to the surface of the churning water.
She looked at me, calm, almost smiling. Her head tilted, looking to
something I could not see -- something none of us upon either side of the
canal could see. I had the distinct impression that she was listening to
someone at her side, who soothed fears that needed no soothing. She was
at peace, even as chaos raged about her.
Roiling waves washed over her, bathing her in a spiritual kind of bliss.
I saw her lips move. She spoke to that unseen presence in her native tongue.
No one but I could make out the words:
"Child of the Water."
Then Shis-Inday went under for the last time.
Her body has never been found.
And neither has my heart.
Gora-ban-Hinsu ~ words by Jeff, art by Duane
In the middle of the Holy Mountain
In the middle of its body, stands a hut,
Brush-built, for the Black Mountain Spirit.
White lightning flashes in these moccasins;
White lightning streaks in angular path;
I am the lightning flashing and streaking!
This headdress lives; the noise of its pendants
Sounds and is heard!
My song shall encircle these dancers!
-- Song of Yellow Bear.
Tardos Mors had finished his story two nights before, and today we were
upon the trail.
After stopping for supplies at my cabin at the headwaters of the Colorado,
the three of us rode silently for long hours across the scorched Arizona
desert, pausing often to water our horses and slack our own thirst beneath
the relentless rays of the sun. I'd often considered making this journey,
but John Carter's original manuscript hadn’t given the precise location
of the cave we now sought.
The Jeddak, I could see, was wearying under the weight of Earth's oppressive
gravity. But he uttered no word of discomfort.
Tardos Mors looked oddly at home in the the faded blue jeans, chaps
and wide-brimmed hat of the trail. It unnerved me to think that this man,
who looked younger than my eldest son, had been born in the time of my
great-great grandfather's father.
I contemplated the set of his jaw as he maneuvered El Caballo, as he
insisted upon calling his horse, closer to John Carter's mount. Neither
used the reigns.
"You were the strange white soldier, the Pindah-Lickoyee, who saved
Shis-Inday that day in these very hills," the Jeddak said quietly.
"I was," the Warlord replied, staring straight ahead. "It was long ago."
The Jeddak pondered that for several minutes.
"I've often thought it must be so," he said finally. "I've seen that
grim smile play about your lips during battle in just the manner my princess
always described it. Only John Carter would be so bold as to strike out
at a score of armed beasts in the service of an unknown girl from a faraway
"You did no less for the girl," John Carter reminded the Jeddak, who
nodded acknowledgement of the simple tribute.
"Thank you for saving my princess, my son, so that she could one day
find her way to me," Tardos Mors said.
My uncle made no reply to that, but I guessed his thoughts. He knew,
as did Tardos Mors, that had he not saved the Apache princess from the
ravages of Coronado's soldiers, his own incomparable Dejah Thoris would
never have been born.
Gad! Strange forces direct the fate of men.
Toward dusk, John Carter led us to a trail that curved upward around
the face of a high cliff that rose for several hundred feet to our right.
On the left was an equal and nearly perpendicular drop to the bottom of
a ravine. We followed it for a hundred yards, and then the trail turned
sharply right, into the mouth of a large cave.
A bleached skeleton lay near the entrance. "Powell," said John Carter.
He looked at Tardos Mors. "A comrade of mine who was killed by Apaches."
"The Men of the Woods were great warriors," said the Jeddak. "They defended
their homeland with honor. I have watched them over the years, in the Royal
Observatory, and am proud that my princess came from such. It saddens me
to think about what has befallen them."
John Carter scooped a shallow grave and, with the stern reverence of
a fighting man, laid to rest all that remained of Captain James K. Powell
Stooping, we entered the cave. At the back was the scene described by
my uncle at the end of his first manuscript: the mummified remains of a
little old woman. At the feet of one of the skeletons on the back wall
sat the metal helmet of a conquistador. The woman leaned over a small copper
pot filled with greenish powder.
A yellow lizard darted from behind the pot and scampered into a crevice.
Mors approached. Kneeling, he picked up a leather pouch that lay in the
lap of the dead woman. It nearly crumbled at his touch.
"Strong medicine," the Jeddak said in a small voice, gently removing
the contents of the pouch and laying them softly in the sand. An owl's
feather. Green powder. A strip of coyote's fur. "But not strong enough."
The lizard poked its head from behind a rock, then darted to Tardos
Mors’ side. It clambered to his knee, and up the Jeddak’s arm.
Barsoom's most powerful ruler turned his back. He walked quietly
from the cave, cradling the tiny creature in one cupped hand, and the tokens
from Shis-Inday’s medicine pouch in the other.
On the ledge outside, Tardos Mors stared into darkness. I followed his
gaze, and saw red Mars blazing there in all its glory.
"O, my princess, my life — my Shis-Inday,” the Jeddak whispered. “The
medicine was not strong enough to bring you home to me."
I looked back to where Barsoom hung in the still Arizona sky. The Weeping
Lover, as the Human Beings called the planet, seemed very far away.
When my gaze returned to the little ledge on that lonely cliff, John
Carter and Tardos Mors were gone.