CHAPTER 59: "INTO THE JUNGLE"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The mighty skeel tree moved through the village of the
bird-men, destroying it and all who were careless enough not to flee the
plant king's magnified powers. Many of the savages were trampled to death
but many more escaped into the feather forest. These escapees presented
a danger to the humans, so the plant king directed the moving tree to carry
the the couple as far toward the edge of the fantastic realm as possible.
But the tree could not leave its home; it would carry the princess and
the swordsman only part of the way to safety.
"My friend's leaves are wilting and his strength will
not hold out for long. The skeel tree must return to his roots while he
still can. With their village destroyed the tree will be left in peace;
they will not return to fight him."
The great tree let Dejah Thoris down at a spot where the
feather forest began to merge into the thinner vegetation flanking the
Plateau of Eo. Then it began to lumber off, making its way back to its
"I must go also, Jasoomian!" cried the plant king from
his perch on the skeel's broad limb. "I'll get my old friend home now.
Happy journeying. Remember what I said about taking time to laugh every
With that the two strange creatures disappeared back into
the feather forest, leaving Dejah Thoris and John Carter alone in the foothills
of the great plateau.
"So, your strange is friend is gone forever?" queried
the skeptical maiden.
"I know you doubt that he is real Dejah Thoris, but his
magic has freed both of us. He promised that he will delay as long as he
can the inevitable pursuit of the bird-men. But he cannot hold them all
back. I think we are not far from the place where the bird-men captured
you. If we make haste, perhaps we can better elude the feathered brutes
The sound of distant crashing in underbrush behind warned
them that some of the chicken-headed warriors were nearby. The princess
agreed that their best chance of reaching safety was to return to the city
of the mechano-men. So they set about climbing back up through the foothills
to the plateau. At first the giantess progressed quickly. She and her small
campanion put the feather forest behind them forever and soon found the
path that led back to the mesa top. But her muscles eventually tired of
the strain of trekking up through the foothills. Vovo had proportioned
her expanded form for beauty and not for strength.
"We can rest here, I think, John," the tired girl sighed.
"We've seen no sign of the bird-men since the sun rose to its full height.
In a while I'll continue and we can still reach the robot city before nightfall.
I'm already thirsting for another drink from the reservoir. It's not easy
being my size, you know!"
The Earthman agreed, and so the girl found a spot where
the trees were higher than she was. There they sat in the shade and told
each other of their recent nightmarish experiences.
But even as the Princess of Helium rested, with John Carter
in the palm of her hand, cruel and savage eyes were watching her every
Sola watched Oman's approach along the forest trail with
a mixture of annoyance and acceptance. She guessed that the robot and his
minions had been spying on her, but that minor intrusion she could forgive.
The Plateau of Eo was their domain and no matter that her remote ancestors
had once lived here, she and her friends were still intruders. Besides
that, the green girl knew that the human side of the robot odwar shared
her same feelings of guilt and concern over the fate of the two sleepers.
She would do her best not to treat the visitor too rudely.
"Your friends have begun moving about, it appears." The
robot leader said in a matter of fact way. "Have you detected their thoughts
or heard them speak at all?"
"Not enough to make any sense of it," Sola replied.
For a long time neither of them spoke. Then the girl resumed
"They move a little. The princess made a small sound earlier.
I think an insect stung her. I was perhaps wrong to remove their protective
covers. The night will be cold again and their bodies will suffer from
the chill. Did you come to put back the glass cases?"
"No," said the robot. "I came because I was lonely."
"You knew my people when we could not yet speak the language
of Barsoom, or cook our meals, or make war. Yes?"
"I suppose I did. I've put those memories back into storage,
Sola. They interfere with my duties in governing the mechano-men."
"Then perhaps, Odwar of Eo, you should also put your loneliness
into storage. Just as I must forget what friendship means, should I return
to the green race."
A lone bird-man warrior returning from hunting on the
fringes of the feather forest, heard the strange sounds of somebody talking
in a high pitched voice. The savage sought cover and listened to the girl
approaching. When he saw her he was amazed that a creature of his own size
should me making such sounds. But when she sat down to rest he crept closer
and discovered that she was conversing with a little human that she held
in her hands.
"Gizank find much food!" the dull witted creature said
Both John Carter and the princess immediately detected
Gizank's strong thought projections, and the girl, who had just escaped
one cooking fire, trembled with loathing and apprehension.
"How many do you think there are, John?" she whispered.
"I think just one, my princess. I see a bird-man's foot
at the bottom of the shrubbery over by the two dead trees. You can't outrun
him and I can't easily fight him. But I have a plan, if he follows us.
Continue up the hillside and I'll watch behind, to see what he does."
So Dejah Thoris rose and resumed her trek, carrying John
Carter in her hair and knowing that any second, without warning, a hurled
bird-man's hatchet might strike her dead from behind.