CHAPTER 69: "CAPTIVE"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
John Carter had fought savagely against the Martian headhunters
who sought to capture him. The rare sport of this day's chase would be
told and retold around the Warhoon campfires and drinking rooms for weeks
to come. But among the great troop headed back to the Warhoon capital,
only Dak Kova was crafty enough to fully comprehend the beating his unruly
cavalry had taken. "One little human killed over fifty of us. Great Issus!"
he exclaimed to nobody in particular. "Another twenty fighters so wounded
that they'll be useless for a month! Hah! This humiliation calls for vengeance.
My own fingers will see to that!" One of his powerful upper hand absentmindedly
crushed the skulls in his necklace, as the unhappy green Jed imagined different
ways to assuage his offended sense of honor.
The limp body of the little swordsman had been lashed
by two junior fighters to the back of a huge sub-chieftain's squealing
thoat. The many little rivulets of blood that criss-crossed the outlander's
flesh had dried into an irregular pattern of lines reminiscent of the canals
and deserts of the warlike world. John Carter's lifeless frame was a horrid
sight to behold. But the two Martian girls who secretly spied upon the
killing ground from across the plain were spared the unpleasant display.
All they had been able to discern from that great distance was that the
Warhoon Jed had maneuvered his mount close behind the tottering Earthman
and leaned over to deal the human a smashing blow with the flat of his
sword, just as he collapsed and disappeared from the girls' strained glimpses
through the turmoil of that terrible struggle.
Now that the last of the Warhoon riders had departed the
two Martian maidens came out of concealment and telescopically scanned
the plain. Sola gazed upon the many Warhoon bodies, slain by their otherworldly
friend and rendered headless by their fellow green men. She was more than
used to such horrendous sights, but the mutilated corpses sickened the
red girl. When a pair of wild calots appeared among the dead and began
their gruesome feasting, the Heliumite princess turned her tear-filled
eyes away and shook her head in despair. Dejah Thoris cried to Sola: "They've
For a while the Thark female said nothing. Meticulously
she examined every square sofad of the bloody landscape. At last she picked
out the lineaments of a torn cape and a crimsoned warrior's harness, both
too small to have belonged to Warhoon adults. John Carter had been beaten
and stripped, but his body was gone. That much was certain. At last Sola
replied: "Headhunters do not carry away dead men's bodies. Your man yet
lived when the warriors departed."
The Princess of Helium took a deep breath of relief at
this news, dried her eyes and held her head high once again. "Then we must
reach Helium all the more quickly, dear friend. A hundred battle fliers
will fill these skies within a few hours after I return. I promise that!"
she cried. Then, in softer tones -- "I did not want to leave him, Sola,
I love him."
With their captive prize, Dak Kova and his warriors raced
toward the ancient city of Warhoon, situate on the banks of the southeastern
dead sea. The troop exchanged mounts at an outpost late that night. The
lesser moon was just rising when the Jed and five hundred men rode back
out upon the empty plains. The most badly wounded of his men the great
Jed left there to fend for themselves. Deprived of their thoats and weapons
stragglers must trek back to the capital city. This is the Warhoon custom
and it effectively weeds out the weaker members of the barbarian horde.
Another day passed without incident. Dak Kova's band entered
the decaying ruins of the great metropolis after sunset. The green men
of Barsoom display little inclination to build, but the towering walls
of the city from which the horde takes its name are an exception to that
truism. Rebuilt and reinforced for millennia, the vanished white race who
constructed Warhoon before history began would scarcely recognize the massive
ersite piles today. Taking the shape of a huge, sixteen-pointed star, the
walls feature protruding blockhouses at every turn. All along the top are
gun emplacements -- with the barrels pointed upward. No sane foe attacks
the green race's fortified cities from the ground, without first inflicting
great damage from the skies. Much of Warhoon's wealth is invested in its
walls, but the greatest treasure of the barbarian horde is spent upon its
artillery pieces -- each and every one a product of the arsenals of Eo.
As the savage caravan entered the gates of Warhoon a spark
of life yet lingered in the Earthman's breast. For two days his festering
wounds had received no care at all. Nor had a single drop of water wet
his parched lips. He clung to the world of the living by the slenderest
of threads and could not have lasted another hour, much less another day.
But in savage Warhoon the rudiments of battlefield medicine were still
remembered. That, along with gunnery, constitutes what little science the
more intelligent green Martians have elected to salvage, out of all the
compiled knowledge of the ages.
[In Captain Carter's telling of his adventures the chronology
is a little confused. Events he has transpiring upon the road to the capital
actually took place within the vast city, between the walls and the royal
palace. This is a small matter in the memories of a man who awoke in strange
surroundings and who was at first barely cognizant of his situation in
that hoary metropolis.]
When the Earthman regained consciousness he was lying
among a pile of silks and furs, in the corner of a small room lit by flickering
candles and a single radium torch, the brilliant beam of which shone directly
into his astonished eyes.
"He will live, O Jed," grunted the ancient and ugly green
female who was just then completing a cursory examination of the badly
injured man. She and several curious warriors were bending over John Carter
-- and arguing among themselves about whether he was truly a man of the
"Cease your stupid chatter!" Dak Kova barked, and they
fell silent immediately.
"I care not whether he is an albino Zodangan, or a survivor
of the sickly pale runts who lived in Warhoon, before time began." Then
the Jed stroked a mangled ear on his forehead and stared at the ceiling
a moment, as if lost in thought. A hint of a smile played upon his lips.
"All I need to know is if he will recover in time to take part in the Great
"Indeed, he will, sire," promised the aged green woman.
"He is already responding to my medicinal vapors. I can thicken his blood
and restore his vigor in a matter of days." The unsightly nurse used an
obscene word that brought forth a chuckle from the great Jed.
"Then I must sharpen my dagger, so I can take another
trophy for my necklace, eh!"
They snickered aloud at the crude humor of the broken-tusked
field marshal. His olive skinned upper breast was already adorned with
two skulls of the red race, along with other severed human body parts,
best left unmentioned.