"Plummeting from the Ledge"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The only deity that Sola knew of was Issus, and that
was simply a meaningless name to her -- some indescribable "thing" that
would meet her at the end of her days. But if the green girl had known
something more of the gods and their ways, she might have been swearing
and cursing like a Capetown sailor! High above, and totally out of reach
to her eager hands, the two humans were standing practically motionless
on the side of the palace wall -- doing nothing. She had assumed that the
man would jump down into the courtyard. There was a long rope in her thoat's
saddlebag. He could take it, then leap back up to the ledge and use the
line to help the red woman down to the ground. It was such a simple solution!
But she dare not call out to them for fear of putting the thoats in danger.
Already one of their number was lost. She could not risk losing another.
Again and again the girl hurled her mental message to the little people.
Why did they ignore her? Could Woola alone hear her thoughts? "Issus take
Then there were the gunshots. Any one of them might
have killed her or one of the mounts. It did not seem that the guards had
yet seen them, and she knew that the human had, so the daughter of Tars
Tarkas moved the beasts a short distance, into the deeper shadows, and
continued to wait. Without warning a body toppled out of the window and
came crashing into the courtyard, practically at her feet.
"What is this?" she asked rhetorically. "I've seen
The green girl leaned over the side and peered down
into the gloom. The lesser moon was just rising but there were clouds in
the sky and the light in the place where she waited with the animals was
"Gormar," she said -- almost sighed. "He sat with
me at the Great Games last year. Then he killed the Thurds -- what name?
Oh, yes, 'Gormar Jal.' When a man takes me for his woman, a man like Gormar
Jal would be as good as any. And now he is gathered to his fathers."
So it was that the green girl passed the time. Perhaps
two minutes had already gone by since she had watched Dejah Thoris emerge
from the window -- it was an eternity to the watcher.
"I know who shot Gormar Jal, but I cannot tell. Perhaps
I shall never return to Thark. Perhaps I too will die before the little
moon finishes it's way across the sky. This is a night unlike any other.
What am I to do?"
Beyond the courtyard, beyond the place where the
nearest two avenues met, in pitch black darkness, a lone rider watched
the events transpiring along the palace walls with discerning attention.
In his hands was a warm radium pistol.
"Your muscles can take you to the ground, John?"
The girl asked. On Mars only family members call another by his first name,
if he has more than one. But the Jasoomian's people observed different
customs. It seem all right, given the fact they might die any moment.
"Yes, of course. If there were just a little more
light, I think I could land in the tall red grass without breaking any
There was no time to continue the sentence. A reckless
Thark made a successful leap along the ledge and towered over John Carter
with two swords extended. There simply wasn't room enough for the Earthman
to vault up to the green man's full height. Instead, the bronzed man slashed
out with his long-sword, deflecting one thrust from above, and then another.
Behind the attacker two more guards approached, bellowing like mad bulls
-- sounding the highest level alarm. In the distance, both inside and outside
of the palace, similar calls were being given, seemingly everywhere.
A well made Martian radium pistol, in the hands of
an expert marksman, can hurl its cartridges accurately up to a range of
half a mile, as distances are measured on Earth. Equipped with an automatic
sighting device, the same gun in the hands of the same gunman, could blast
fruit the size of apples in a leafy tree, five shots out of ten, at twice
the distance. The pistol in Tars Tarkas' practiced upper right hand had
no such sight, but he could aim his missiles just as closely and just as
silently as if he were holding the finest Eoan cathode rifle. In fact,
he had to be even more accurate, because there was insufficient light for
his cartridges to explode upon impact. To be certain of a kill he had to
hit the inside quarter of a green man's eyeball, and through that narrow
space pierce the brain. With a shriek of pain, Tars Tarkas' third victim
tumbled off the ledge and plummeted toward the courtyard below. Then he
killed a fourth warrior in the window and watched him go whirling down,
narrowly missing Dejah Thoris as he fell past the ledge.
As the giant guards pressed forward along the stone
ledge, John Carter had been constantly working his way backwards to the
spot where Dejah Thoris and the calot were waiting. Still the green men
came. Carter's elbows were already touching Woola. All three retreated
again, but their movements were brief ones. The three bodies had reached
the end of the ornamental beam. There was no place left to go but downward.
To the front of them there was one more guard, and
then an open space behind him of fifty feet -- and beyond that, probably
warriors with firearms. The shouting in the distance was coming closer
with every blink of the eye.
The nearest green swordsman was ten feet away. The
calot growled viciously, but Carter purposely held him back. The Earthman
glanced downward and his eye caught a glimpse of something -- something
he must inspect more closely. But first the new attacker must be dealt
with. Taking his long-sword in his hand with his thumb upon the pommel
knob, Captain Carter hurled the weapon through the air and up into the
warrior's heart. The guard fell upon the ledge and remained there gripping
the stonework as the lifeblood spurted out of him in gushes, each one smaller
than the last.
"Woola, jump down!" Dejah Thoris, clasp your arms
around my neck -- from my back -- under the harness strap! Now, lock your
feet together -- no, here, in the front of the groin."
Captain Carter looked again at the ornamental stone
protrusions forty feet below the spot where the walkway ended at a turn
in the wall. He removed his empty long-sword scabbard and formed the heavy
sword-belt into a large leather loop. He looked down one more time to be
certain where the calot had landed. Then he and the girl dropped over the
edge, like a stone.