CHAPTER 57: "REVENGE"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Dejah Thoris rubbed her aching wrists in astonishment.
What had happened? What had become of the vicious Cro-Yat? Ten seconds
earlier the chief of the bird-men was swinging his deadly hand-ax down
to sever her neck from her body; and now not only was she yet alive, but
she was also free to rise and embrace her rescuer! Were the Earthman also
fifteen times his normal height, the princess could have thrown her arms
about the stalwart warrior, but Vovo's scientific curse continued to segregate
Dejah Thoris from the man who had once stood head and shoulders over her
own slender frame. The maid of Mars lifted the small figure of Captain
Carter in one hand and looked upon him through her tear-filled eyes.
"Oh, John," she exclaimed, "you are truly here! Oh, how
I have missed you!"
Yet, even as she spoke these happy words of reunion with
the man who had stolen her heart, the Princess of Helium saw that the confounded
villagers were beginning to regroup. The braver brutes in the flock were
calling upon the startled warriors to turn and aid the beleaguered Cro-Yat.
All of this the girl heard clearly, and even though the giants' voices
were but an unintelligible rumble in the ears of the Earthman, she knew
that he too could read their powerful telepathic projections. No matter
how it was that John Carter had been able to disrupt their bloody ritual
and momentarily disperse the savage company, the bird-men were preparing
now for a counter-attack. Neither she nor her swordsman champion were yet
safe from the plumed monsters, by any means.
"My chieftain!" she cried out in alarm, "you should not
have come for me! See how many of them there are? The whole village is
now rising up against us and it is impossible for you to prevail against
overwhelming numbers of warriors many times your size. Nor is there any
place round about to which we can flee. A person of my size cannot hide
from them, John! Beyond this village the feather forest provides a home
to hundreds more of these savage giants. Escape before the see you, John
-- and save yourself while there is still time!"
John Carter looked about him. His eyes scanned the village
of a hundred huts and the weird forest beyond. The Barsoomian maid was
right, there was no path by which she could escape the village, let alone
the forest, without enormous help. A being as small a he, on the other
hand, might elude the giants and hide in any one of a thousand unseen places.
But the brave Virginian's thoughts did not turn to running away, nor did
he consider hiding.
He longed to take the girl into his arms and hold her,
but every circumstance of the moment made that impossible. Instead, he
had to content himself with the touch of her skin and the the radiance
of her sad smile.
"All that matters to me is that I am with you again,"
he replied. His voice filled with emotion as he continued. "My life would
be worthless without your presence in it, Dejah Thoris. My small blade
may not kill a single feathered giant -- but I have more protection than
this sword at my disposal. I have not come here alone, my princess. Look
-- I have brought with me an amazing companion who even now sits above
us in yon tree!"
It was only then that the granddaughter of Tardos Mors
realized what means John Carter had used to remove the odious executioner.
The huge tree that a moment before serenely cast its shade upon the center
of the courtyard had moved -- and moved most dramatically! Although the
gnarled old titan of the forest remained rooted in the middle of the clearing,
its great limbs now extended beyond the courtyard and were in frantic motion
against the regrouping bird-men.
Entrapped at the end of the longest of these tree limbs,
the chief of the bird-men was struggling and cursing -- his arms and legs
gesticulating wildly, while the swaying wooden appendage held him in mid
Cro-Yat beat upon the confining bark with his bare hands,
but no no avail. Unable to combat the tenacious grasp of the tree limb,
the enraged chief urged his tribe to aid him.
"Warriors! This thing chokes Cro-Yat! Bring weapons! Climb
big tree! Free Cro-Yat!"
In blind obedience the chief's most fanatical followers
gathered the armed warriors into a fighting formation and raised their
hatchets in a display of their bravado.
"Kill! Kill the tree!" they chanted.
The remainder of the startled villagers, upon hearing
this vengeful rallying cry, turned from their flight and stood their ground.
Then, with horrific yells, the entire company raced forward to free their
chief and wreak vengeance upon this new and unexpected foe.
John Carter braced himself for the onrush. A thrust of
his long-sword would be like a pinprick to any of the feathered giants,
but he would go down fighting if there were no other way. To his relief
however, none of the bird-men charged the defenseless princess. Instead,
the entire village was preoccupied with the moving tree's seizure of Cro-Yat.
"I trust there is yet hope, Dejah Thoris. The intelligent
plant who now controls the skeel tree is an admired leader among his kind.
He can bring great power to bear against these savages. He also moves between
this world and his own realm by strange and wondrous means. If anything
can help us now, I believe he can."
"This world, did you say?" the princess questioned. "If
your strange companion lives in a different world, which of the two is
real? More and more the things I have experienced since our trouble with
Vovo lead me to ask such questions, John, do you suppose that these bizarre
beings and this preposterous feather forest truly exist?"
The Earthman had no chance to answer. Even as the girl
was speaking, one of the huge tree limbs shot through the air with tremendous
force and came directly at the Princess of Helium.