CHAPTER 4: "DEJAH THORIS"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Among the various possessions John Carter inherited
from the green man he had killed was a calot, or Martian watchdog. It was
alloted to him by Tars Tarkas, probably more as a means to prevent his
escape than as a pet. The Martian calot is a vicious creature, but this
one was fairly intelligent and the Earthman soon won its loyalty by treating
the animal with simple acts of kindness, something a typical Thark would
never imagine doing. Woola, as the calot was called, responded to telepathic
commands and his new master used that peculiar connection to summon or
restrain the ugly, eight-legged beast. With the calot at his side John
Carter made his way to the great open audience hall at the north end of
the central plaza. There he found the chieftains of the Thark band gathered
together and discussing the proper division of the spoils that were still
being hauled in from the downed airships.
The chieftains were just then dividing up among themselves
the more valuable loot, which consisted in arms, ammunition, silks, furs,
jewels, strangely inscribed vessels, and a quantity of solid foods and
liquids, including many casks of purified drinking water. The only items
of booty that John Carter felt no shame in appropriating for his own use
were a few small printed books which the illiterate Tharks had thrown upon
a rubbish heap. These the captive inserted into the leather pouch attached
to his sword belt. He hoped one day to fathom the exotic written language
of the unfamiliar red men.
With Woola close at his heels, the white man continued
wandering about the plaza, attempting to learn something more about the
race of red Martians whose looted property the Tharks had tossed into a
hundred heterogeneous piles. Then Sola found him and remarked rather casually
that one of the red race had been taken alive. Before John Carter could
respond he caught a glimpse of a throng of green warriors roughly dragging
the prisoner from the battle craft to the podium of the audience hall.
He broke off his conversation with the green girl and pushed his way through
the crowd of giants, in order to get a decent view of the new captive.
The sight which met his eyes sent pangs of sympathy
through the soul of the battle hardened veteran. On the podium, surrounded
by contemptuous Thark guards, stood a slender, girlish figure, similar
in every detail to an earthly women, save for the vivid red pigment of
her flawless skin. Her features were the model of perfection -- her eyes
large and lustrous and her flowing hair a lustrous coal black enhancement
to her remarkable beauty. She was as destitute of clothes as the ever nude
green Martians; nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect
and symmetrical figure. Her lack of concealing garments appeared to cause
the girl no embarrassment, however; she stood among her captors with head
held high, displaying a haughty indifference to the cruel jests of the
green barbarians. At first she did not see the Earthman standing there,
half hidden by the tall olive-hued crowd, but finally her searching gaze
met his and her eyes widened with surprise.
Bronzed by constant exposure to the sun, and dressed
as he was in the harness of a Martian warrior, the beautiful prisoner mistook
him for a member of her own race. She stared at the man with pleading intensity
and made a number of slight hand signs which were beyond his comprehension.
A moment passed and John Carter could do nothing other than push a little
closer to her through the concourse of riotous brutes. The young woman
repeated the subtle sign language, but when the Earthman still did not
respond, her look of hope faded into one of disappointment and dejection.
She then averted her eyes and ignored him altogether.
Dejah Thoris had not yet recovered from the shock
of watching so many brave sons and daughters of Helium die on board the
Haldar when the monstrous Thark dragoons thrust her roughly before the
crowd in Korad. A true daughter of bloody Mars, she had witnessed death
and destruction before, but never on the scale of the disaster which had
just occurred. At least half the expedition fleet was in ruins and all
of the ships that had escaped were terribly undermanned and critically
damaged. A mandatory radio blackout in the region surrounding Zodanga precluded
wireless distress signals. There was little chance of the survivors reaching
safety. She only held back her tears by a force of will that refused the
Tharks the pleasure of seeing her suffer.
For a brief moment her hopes were raised. She thought
she saw a countryman amid the unruly swarm of onlookers. But he must have
been a gun-running panthan. He turned pale with cowardly recoil and did
not lift a finger to help her. Focusing her attention upon the more consequential
barbarians in the throng, she caught the drift of what they were saying
-- She would be carried to the capital city of Thark, where her last agonies
at the Great Games would be offered for the enjoyment of their king, Tal
Hajus. The most dignified looking and highly ornimented of these cheifs
then approached her and the raucous crowd quieted down considerably.
"Who are you and what means this trespassing over
our ancestral lands?" the Thark leader asked, addressing the prisoner.
"I am Princess Dejah Thoris, daughter of Mors Kajak,
Jed of Greater Helium. Our ships are on a purely scientific research mission.
We are recharting the air currents and taking atmospheric density tests.
We came to this desereted unclaimed place, unprepared for battle, to resupply
our ships and map the region. The work we are doing is in the interest
of all Barsoomians: our scientific work ensures that there is sufficient
air and water to support your people as well as ours. Although you do nothing
to help us and much to hinder us, we labor constantly just to keep you,
ourtselves and all the other nations alive. You may demonstrate your martial
honor and civil justice by restoring me to my people as soon as possible.
Pay homage to all your great ancestors by joining with us in the salvation
of our dying planet. As the grand-daughter of the greatest and mightiest
of the red jeddaks, I have the authority to pardon your recent manslaughter
and also to guarantee your soverign rights by treaty, this very day. Will
you release me and relay my proposal to your Jeddak, Tal Hajus? What possible
reason could you hace to refuse? Why must you always fight us?"
Just then a young chieftain leaped up to the podium.
Downing the girl with a powerful rap to the head, he placed a foot upon
her lower abdomen and turning toward the assembled giants yelled out, "Because
we, not puny red cowards, are the superior race!" The entire crowd, save
for two or three of the most intelligent elders, broke into peals of horrid,
mirthless laughter. The jeering cry of "Sojat Azad is right! Sojat Azad
is right!" rang through the ancient streets of Korad.
There was more one individual in the crowd who was
not laughing. Springing upward, this bronzed man struck the menacing Thark
full in the face. A totally surprised Sojat Azad fell back upon his four
lower limbs and was in no position to commence a sword fight. Instead,
the green ruffian attempted to draw a loaded pistol from his belt. This
cowardly move the attacker thwarted with an instantaneous blow to the chest.
The attacker's calot also joined the fight and in another moment the green
man was dead.
Dejah Thoris witnessed the entire thirty second struggle
from only inches away, but none of it made any sense to her. Into the silence
that followed she blurted out a sardonic rhetorical question:
"Who is this strange pale man who wears the metal
of Thark? -- a Zorian gun-runner? -- or a Zodangan traitor? or perhaps
merely a dolt who risks his life for no reason?"