CHAPTER 40: "Farewell to the Plateau
For many hours John Carter and Dejah Thoris remained with
Oman's mechanical men, resting and preparing to continue their journey.
The Odwar's robot workers supplied food for the girl and the great calot,
and they fashioned for her a new body harness and accouterments befitting
a princess her rank. Also they cleaned her huge cloak and fitted it with
pockets and a hood, all of which would prove useful in her coming travels.
The Odwar of Eo tried once again to convince the couple
that it would be best if they remain under his close protection and care
for a while longer, but he had no power over them, other than persuasion.
When that persuasion failed, the mechano-man acceded their wishes and ordered
his men to strap the provisions they had assembled to Woola's broad back.
A few hours after the dawn of the following day the two started on their
Dejah Thoris had not believed that Sola had left them,
but when Oman showed them moving pictures from the vacant trail-end at
the base of the mesa, she accepted the bitter news.
"Woola and I shall circle the plateau once we have reached
the sea bottom." She had told Oman. "If the green girl and her thoat can
be found we will take them with us."
In private, she said to John Carter, "Sola would never
leave us unless she were in grave danger -- or greatly deceived. We must
find out what has happened to her, if at all possible."
John Carter agreed. Although the mechano-men had demonstrated
good will and much needed assistance following the death of Vovo, he still
did not fully trust the strange beings. Perhaps they had convinced Sola
to leave or prehaps they had some knowledge of her whereabouts that they
were not sharing. But, despite all else, his purpose had always been to
help the princess reach Helium and it was to that promise that he now gave
They waved farewell to Oman and then started on their
way down from the mountain.
On three sides the plateau of Eo is circled by sheer cliffs,
broken only by the single steep path on the south, which was far too narrow
for the giantess to negotiate. But on the northwest the great mountain
long ago had eroded into a series of hills and canyons that stretched far
out into the Martian desert. Here Dejah Thoris and Woola were able to very
slowly make their way downward off the mesa. Several hours later found
them traveling through the rugged, forested country that extended out from
the Plateau of Eo. Here, where the ground water was not so near the surface,
the undergrowth became much thinner and the trees, though very tall, did
not grow so closely together. Already patches of the desert's yellow moss
were replacing the wild red grass of the well watered plateau.
"I had not realized that our progress would be so slow,"
the princess complained to the Earthman. "Even a giant tires eventually,
and my aching muscles strain under the weight of this enlarged body. We
have wandered far from the place where Sola waited for us. Perhaps it would
be best to send Woola off to search for her while I rest here."
"Then take what things we need from his harness and we'll
send the calot on his mission," Carter replied. "The desert cannot be far
from here and the beast shows no signs of fatigue. With luck he may locate
our friend and return with her by daybreak."
The curious-looking couple made a rude camp amid the trees
and shared an evening meal as the sun was setting. It was their first opportunity
to talk at any great length since they had entered Thark, and it seemed
as though ages had passed since that fateful day.
The telepathy the two shared was now so well developed
that John Carter could often read the girl's mind even when she was not
consciously projecting her thoughts to him. This he found to be a most
ungentlemanly embarrassment and he sought her help in overcoming the delicate
"My chieftain, you never cease to surprise me," the maiden
laughed. "I have no thoughts that I would keep from you. Among the men
and women of this planet such an intimacy is allowable only in very special
cases. Our traditions are strict in that way. And yet I have opened my
thoughts to you. Cannot you not guess what that means?"
The Earthman said nothing, so she continued with her gentle
"You have more than once asked that I not share my deepest
feelings with you until we reach Helium, have you not? Don't deny it, for
I can read the answer in your heart, no matter how clever you are in blocking
your mind when you wish to. All right then, so be it. There are a few mental
tricks I can demonstrate to you. My innermost thoughts will remain my own,
until I am again safe among my own people. But I tell you now, John, that
they will be no different once we reach Helium. If only you would believe
Just then they heard the sound of voices coming through
Ulysses Paxton has described the bird-men of Barsoom as
looking like a cross between a hawk-faced Egyptian god and a Cheyenne warrior
bearing the countenance of a Chinese fighting cock. Whether or not this
is an accurate description of them even he cannot say for certain, since
the creatures are a part of a Barsoomian lore so rarely recalled that not
one Martian in ten thousand knows what a "bird-man" is. Only in the fables
of the mysterious therns were the giant bird-men of Mars remembered. To
this day no visual depiction of these forgotten mythological beings is
known to exist. But, whether they look like Earth's Horus or her Rhode
Island Red, matters little in relating the accounts provided by Her Majesty
Dejah Thoris and Captain John Carter.
In their telling of the story, no myths were the huge
feathered creatures who moved through the weird woodlands of Barsoom that
"So this was the tower laboratory of the Wizard Vovo,"
Sola remarked dryly to her robot guide. "It is really quite amazing. I
cannot hide the fact that I am impressed with his achievements, even though
I hate all that he stood for. Perhaps my Thark race is capable of performing
even greater wonders than all of this. The wizard removed the stony curse
from my dearest friend in all the world, and for that I am very much pleased.
Yet he performed her cure in order to further a monstrous scheme and I
owe his memory no appreciation. He is dead now and that is a good thing."
"None of that concerns me now. You promised, that if I
accompanied you here, you would explain to me the great danger faced by
my two human friends. Yet I do not see them, nor do I know whither they
may have gone. Why have you put yourself to so much trouble in bringing
me to Eo?"
"Soon you shall know," replied Oman. "And when you know
I'm certain you will agree with me that this is a matter of life and death!"