Chapters I and II
The two moons of dying Mars looked down upon a great Martian thoat as it crossed the moss covered bottom of a long vanished sea. The majestic creature's eight legs carried two riders on its broad back. One was a giant green man of the tribe of Thark, with four arms and the tusks of his race. He wore the metal of a Heliumetic guard of the royal palace. The green man was a mighty warrior selected by his Jed Tars Tarkas, to serve at the palace of the ally of the Green tribes, the red men of Helium. The second rider on the powerful thoat was seated in front of the green man. She was a red Martian woman with raven hair and a slightly upturned nose. Her haughty carriage was enough to betray her royal birth. She was Valla of Helium, the youngest daughter of John Carter, the Warlord of Barsoom himself.
I. THE MAD FLIGHT
The giant green warrior held the girl close to him as he urged the thoat on with the flat of his short sword. Tarrid the Thark kept looking back in the distance, under the dim light of the two moons. He counted seven forms following him, riding hard over a low hill. They were Warhoons, a savage and unfriendly tribe known for there barbaric nature and their hate for all red men and Tharks. Tarrid thought back at how he had came to this desperate place. Only hours before he was in the comfort of the royal palace.
Valla was always hot headed and impulsive. Because of a disagreement with a superior officer, Tarrid was given a punishment assignment, to guard the spoiled princess and stay by her side. It was both mind numbingly boring and harboring eminence responsibility. The only good thing in this assignment was when Valla was visited by her father, John Carter. He had served with him many times over the years. He found that Valla was worse than Tara of Helium, her wild older sister, who started wars with her flirtatious personality. No, Tarrid didn't like the sprig of a girl he was charged with guarding. He saw her as foolish as a calot, but the Tharks hold duty as almost a sacred religion, he would cross the world and defend her to the death to return her to the palace of her father. As the daughter of the Warlord she had many suitors, all seeking her hand and an alliance with Helium. Her tenth birthday (Martian years equal two Earth years) was fast approaching and with it her coming out and her eligibility for marriage. Unlike many princesses, her parents had left the question of a husband to the girl herself. Still, there was great deal of contention over the exact nature of her party. The laconic Tarrid had observed the arguments between Valla and her mother and grand mother. Who should come, what foods should be served, what music played. Like many daughters, she wanted non-traditional things, and her invitations she wanted sent to many outside the Helimetic Empire. She even wanted to include some traditions of her Earthly father, John Carter, including a Virginia Reel dance. Such ideas horrified her grandmother. To Tarrid it was all just girlish folly. He came to believe Valla did it to stimulate a reaction from others rather than any deeply held beliefs. She walked out of the meeting and returned to her apartments, Tarrid, silently following.
As she had before, she talked to the big green Thark, knowing he would not talk back. “I love my mother, but I want this party to reflect ME not her, not my father,” she cried, “I know we are all bound by duty but... this is my time, Tarrid. No one seems to understand.”
“Sometimes all we have is duty,” Tarrid replied.
“Why should I expect a cold hardhearted green man to understand?” she snapped at him.
She went back to her rooms and met with her school friends, seemingly unaffected, laughing and joking about the palace gossip and new dress styles. They enjoyed a simple lunch for about an hour as Tarrid suffered to listen to their prattle. He found this worse than fighting a horde of Plant men or a savage Banth, the lion of Barsoom. By the afternoon John Carter marched into the chamber, and dismissed her friends.
“We need to speak,” he told her. “I just came from a meeting with your mother -- she was almost reduced to tears. If we didn't have this trade treaty with Zor I could take more time to iron out the problems between you and your mother.”
“You take her side again!” she said, he arms folded over her chest. For a long hour John Carter spoke and the girl listened, her nose held high, refusing to answer with more than a few words. She was angry, Tarrid could see that, but the Warlord seem to ignore her disrespect. At last she agreed to meet with her mother that night. John Carter, left the meeting. Before he retired he went to Tarrid and in a voice Valla could hear, he ordered him to keep a careful watch on the girl.
“She will not leave my sight sire,” he answered. One of his four hands on the pommel of his great sword as a sacred vow.
This seemed to upset Valla.
“So now you are my jailer, Tarrid!” she exclaimed once her father left.
“I am your guard,” he answered simply. “I protect you from all hazards.”
Valla, tossed a cape around her shoulders and stormed out of the apartment. Tarrid followed at a discrete distance. She went up to the roof. He had seen this before. She was trying to cool her hot temper. He wondered what John Carter was like as a young hatchling -- he respected the Warlord but he believe he might have been just as impulsive at Valla's age. She wasn't there for long, turning toward the hanger and climbing on a swift small flyer with the devise of the Warlord painted on its side. In a moment she was behind the control starting the silent radium engines. Quickly Tarrid ran to the ship, leaping to grab a rail and swing onto the ship as she coasted it into the wind and took off over the city. If he hadn't acted she might have gotten away in the sky ship. He noticed that she looked back to make sure he was on deck before she accelerated and flew over the cities below. He had to hang on tightly as the craft tipped her nose to the sky and gained speed. The green man knew she liked to race small flyers when angry—he hoped this rash act would calm her down.
Tarrid didn't like flying. He, like all of his race, like to ride upon the broad back of a thoat over the mossy dead sea bottoms -- than be a floating flying speck in the thin air of Barsoom. They flew past the tall scarlet tower of the Jeddak and over the many neighborhoods of Greater Helium, above the traffic of other ships. She was going at top speed now, and the Warlord's flyers were the best and could match any ship on Barsoom. After a time they were over the city walls and she dropped altitude as they crossed over the mossy sea bottoms, to a second city—that of lesser Helium. Tarrid hoped she would perhaps stop her to visit some of her friends, or turn back to her father's palace. Valla did not, she raced over the other city and flew south toward the lands of the Tharks. The dead sea bottoms rolled under the flyer.
Then Tarrid saw the girl's plan. This was a new ship fitted with the new special engines. She was going to deploy the new accelerator recently invented by the genius of Ras Thavas.
“Hang on Green man!” she yelled back at him and then pulled the red lever. The speed doubled and the soundless motor took on a loud roar. Tarrid had grabbed the railing just in time to keep from being swept overboard! The princess squealed in excitement at the extreme speed --her raven hair flying in the wind. Tarrid looked down as the land swept past them. They were deep in Thark lands now. He recognized his old home among the deserted cities of his youth. Still the mad girl raced on excited by the thrill of the voyage.
At this speed they passed over the lands of the Tharks in moments and then into other territories. This too Tarrid recognized as the lands of the Warhoons. Tarrid did not like this turn of events. Taking a wild trip to cool down was one thing but there was danger here. He didn't wish to reprehend his charge but in the interest of duty he spoke.
“We must return,” he boomed over the engine noise, “ this is the domain of the Warhoons.”
Valla turned to him to speak but what ever her reply was was lost in a powerful explosion. The detonation was followed by another and another. The steering chains of the ship were shot away and the propeller blown apart. One of the buoyancy tanks was split and the small flyer started to nose down, slowly coming in to a low valley. Before the ship crashed, Tarrid saw Warhoon warriors coming forward. They were green men like himself, armed with long radium rifles. He braced the girl as the ship hit the soft mossy sea bottom.
Tarrid had never known fear in all of his years but at this moment he was gravely concerned, not for himself, he was ready to die as any green martian warrior, but for his foolish charge. He didn't want to see the Warlord's daughter in the hands of the cruel Warhoons. Once the ship was down he pulled the girl from the wreck and handed her his large radium pistol. There was a Radium rifle he took from a case built into the bulkhead of the small flyer.
“Quick,” he said, “Warhoons come. We go back to Thark lands!” The girl was, for once speechless. She realized her fate should she fall into the hands of these barbarians who hated all things Helium and anything Thark. She sensed strength in her Green guard and followed him as they left the ship and headed north over some rolling knolls. She glanced back, there were seven mounted warriors approaching rapidly. Tarrid saw them too and knew they had no chance to outrun them. They must stand and fight. He turned and headed towards a steep hill, it would be easier to hold the elevation from attack. Half pulling and half caring Valla he got to the top of the hill and checked his rapid fire rifle. The warriors were almost in range.
“They are seven, we are two, not bad odds for a Thark and a daughter of the Warlord.” He had the girl lay flat on her belly, and he did the same to keep from being a target. He opened fire on the Warhoons. His first five shots took down four of the attackers. Valla had the pistol, using both hands to steady the weapon, she squeezed off a round that struck the nearest Warhoon in the head, taking away half his skull. Tarrid was impressed.
“I see you have been taking lessons from your father,” he said.
“I learned to shoot when I was six,” she answered, firing at another warrior, but this time missing. “I am better with a smaller pistol.”
“Next time, bring one,” he advised her.
The remaining Warhoons were seeking cover now. But one of the party turned his thoat and started to ride south for all he was worth. It was not an act of cowardice for such things are almost unknown among the Green Men, no he was seeking reinforcements from other members of his tribe. Tarrid aimed and fired half a dozen times with his long radium rifle. But the range was too great and the bobbing and weaving warrior present too small of a target. The rider escaped over a hill. Both Valla and Tarrid knew what that meant. Now more of the barbarians would be coming.
“There is but one Warhoon left,” he told her, “we must attack. We fight one now or a hundred later. Did you not see the rider go for help?”
“We attack!” she echoed. Her jaw was set now and he could see her father in her now.
They stood up and charged down the hill. The one Warhoon that was left held his ground send a shower of bullets toward them, but like all of his tribe he was more adept at the sword than the gun and fell to Tarrid's uncanny marksmanship.
“Quick, to the thoats!” yelled the green man, “we ride for Thark territory!” The girl ran for the nearest Thoat. She jumped on the back of one of the large olive colored beasts. It proved unruly as many of the ones used by the green men. Tarrid mounted behind her and took control of the animal, urging it to ride north. Soon it was running with great swiftness over the ocher dead sea bottoms.
Now Tarrid felt at home. For too long he had lived among the red men of Helium. This was the place for a Thark, on the back of a great thoat, the dead sea bottom rolling under him. The battle, really just a skirmish, had filled him with excitement, now he was happy—happier than he had been in many years. He looked at his foolish charge. He did find a growing respect for Valla, he had seen how she had handled a pistol, he saw no fear in her eyes as they charge the single Warhoon. Now she clung to the large Thoat that were so unlike the smaller ones used by the red Martians. The haads rolled on, the big thoat was a powerful one and enjoyed the run. It seemed tireless.
“We shall soon be in the lands of my race.” be said to the girl. “ From there we can contact the Jeddak Tar Tarkas and the palace of your father.”
“Don't speak of such things, Green Man,” she answered in a haughty tone. “I am no longer a child. Remember, you are just my guardsman.”
The unkind word stung Tarrid. Never had he been spoken too by a female, red or green. Had she not remembered that he had just saved her life? Still, he kept his tongue. When he returned to the palace he would ask the Warlord for a change in assignment. He drew his short sword and used the flat of the blade to strike the thoat's rump, using it to greater speed.
Even the laconic green warrior had a feeling they had escaped and safety was close at hand when he saw something that raised concerns.
He saw seven more mounted warriors riding towards them from Thark lands. He didn't need to check their metal to know, the way they were riding wasn't like Tharks.
“Are they Tharks?” asked Valla.
He strained his eyes in the dim light of the two moons to confirm his suspicions. They were becoming clear as they approached. Now he could see the metal of the Warhoons upon their harness.
“No, they are not,” he said plainly. “They are a war party returning from a raid on Thark territories. They have spotted us.” Tarrid turned his thoat and urged the beast to the west, away from the seven riders.
“Can we go around them?” asked Valla of Helium. A new concern in her voice.
“No we can not, they have seen us and are now in pursuit,” he said.
Valla understood that she was the prize in this grim and terrible race. Her end would be both horrible and painful if captured. She resolved to take her own life rather than fall into Warhoon hands.
“What is west of us?” she asked as the leaping thoat covered the ground with great speed.
“I know naught,” the green man answered truthfully. “But leave a Thark his head and one hand for a sword and he may yet conquer.”
As Curios, the lesser moon slowly crossed the heavens over the ocher dead sea bottom the mad race continued with the pursuing seven slowly, ever so slowly gaining upon the single overloaded thoat used by Valla and Tarrid.
On the horizon, under the dim light of the setting moon, stood a grove of mantalia trees. These shrub-like trees provide a sweet milk. Tarrid turned the thoat towards the grove. Here perhaps they could dismount and take a stand against the warriors where were following them. Two against seven were still not bad odds.
As they approached the tangle of plant life Valla heard a squeal of a thoat from the grove.
“There is someone in the grove!,” she warned.
Just then, Tarrid saw a glint of metal reflect in the light of Thuria, the lesser moon, in the Mantalias. Before he could act, a shell hit the lean olive head of the thoat, causing it to explode, The creature tumbled forward, tossing the two riders to the mossy sea bottom.
“Run!” cried out Tarrid as he pulled out his long sword. Valla obeyed and followed him into the grove. The Green man knew there must have been a war party of Warhoons encamped in the trees. He joined with the girl as they weaved there way into the tangle.
“It seems we are between the wild thoat of certainty and the mad zitidar of fact,” he said in a low voice. Now he could hear his pursuers calling out to their fellow tribesmen in the grove.
“Come,” said Valla, “perhaps we can find some place of concealment further within the tangle.”
“Or perhaps we could steal a fresh steed!” added Tarrid.
They could hear that the Warhoons were spreading out to search the grove. They wanted to capture them alive for their evil sport. Tarrid and Valla withdrew deeper into the tangle of vegetation, hoping for a place of concealment. At times they were close enough to hear the metal of of the enemy warriors.
It was Valla who found it first, a stone walk way, made ages ago. She pointed it out and the two followed it, passing though the grove quickly. The pathway went downward ending at a large cave that seemed both natural and man made. They went inside the dark cave where they could hear a sound almost unknown on Barsoom, the sound of rushing water.
“Iss,” murmured Tarrid, “Iss, the river of Death.”
They were both stunned as only those raised in the religion of Issus, the Goddess of eternal life. The crashing of bodied behind them forced them deeper into the cave into the underground river. Here they saw a canoe of tough skeel wood with paddles. Ready for those who wish to take the long last pilgrimage .
Without a moments thought, Tarrid pushed Valla into the canoe and climbed in himself. It was designed to hold ten red martians, so it just fit the Green man and the princess. He pushed off, taking a paddle and used it to propel the skiff down the illuminated river—even if this was the first time he had ever been in a water craft. It caught the current and by the current and propelled down the great underground river. It was the last of the many rivers of ancient Barsoom.
Soon Tarrid and Valla's eyes became adjusted to the dim light in the cavernous tunnel. Small amounts of radium impregnated the walls and ceilings. No one knew if they were the product of man or nature.
The rushing torrent grew so strong that the big green man places aside his paddle and used it only to steer. He had never been in a canoe before but he had seen there use many years before when he had accompanied his Jeddak and John Carter to Valley Dor.
“Could this be truly the River Iss?” asked Valla in a hushed voice almost indiscernible over the rush of water.
“Most likely a tributary,” answered Tarrid. “Perhaps we are bound upon the last long pilgrimage down the River of Mystery to the lost sea of Korus.”
“Long ago many believed it was a place of bliss and millions elected to go there,” murmured Valla.
“Until John Carter, your father, and Tars Tarkas snatched the veil of secrecy from Valley Dor and disposed of the myth of Issus, the Goddess of Eternal Life. The all beautiful Issus proved to be a cannibalistic hag.”
“But I have heard the Thern Priests say that she was a false Issus and that the true Issus comes in spirit form,” Valla spoke in tones of respect.
“Yes, and one group of Therns openly state that John Carter is a god,” bellowed Tarrid. “That I can almost believe.”
The waters of the underground river was cool and pure. The current was not so strong that it proved difficult for the two escaping beings, one red, and the other green. At times they passed other canoes, some ancient, moss covered, things filled with bones from ancient pilgrims who had not completed the long voyage to Valley Dor. Eventually there conversation turned to what was uppermost in the minds of both.
II. THE RIVER OF LIFE
“What awaits us in Dor?” asked Valla.
“After the fall of the False Gods of Dor the red nations left a group to meet pilgrims who, out of ignorance or mistaken belief, took the journey. They were told the truth, and sent by airship home. This was done with the permission of the Dator of the First Born and the new Hekkador of the Therns. I have no doubt that we will be well received and soon be flying north to your father's palace.”
“Then Iss is truly a river of life for us!” cried Valla as she clapped her hands. “Quickly, then, let us speed this skiff along and perhaps we can return in time for my birthday ball.” She took up a paddle and began to propel the craft to greater speed. To humor the girl, Tarrid also took up a paddle and began to help her. She tied in a half hour and put down the paddle.
“We have all the water we could ever want,” she said, “but I fear we shall starve to death before we complete our journey to Dor.”
“We shall not starve,” commented Tarrid as he scanned the waters around the canoe.
“What ever do you mean?” Valla asked.
“There is life in the waters,” he answered her as he drew out his long sword. “Have you ever tasted the meat of fish? It is a delicacy in the restaurants of Lesser Helium, and costs a fortune.”
“Have you ever tried it?” She asked him.
“On what I am paid as a guard?” he replied. “No, I have not tried it but I am told it is exquisite.”
His eye was on the water and Valla could see silvery creatures coming close to the canoe. The idea of eating such things revolted her.
Tarrid used the sword blade as a spear and impaled one of the fish with one quick stroke. He pulled it into the boat where it flopped around spreading water on Valla. He sheathed the sword and took a dagger and cut off the head of the silver skinned creature. He skinned it, and cleaned the fish. He found the meat pink on the inside.
“We have no fire, but the records say it was eaten raw when caught and killed fresh,” he explained to Valla. She shook her head no, looking at the “food”.
Tarrid sliced off a piece and ate it.
“You would eat before a princess of the blood?” she said.
He cut her a piece and handed it to her. Reluctantly she took it and bit a small portion. She found it had a clean, taste and was unlike anything she had ever tried before.
“I now understand why it is so well thought if at the better restaurants,” she commented.
“I am not disappointed,” added Tarrid, “We shall eat like nobility as we make our way to Valley Dor. If it takes a week or a year, we will not starve.” He looked up at the girl and saw a smile upon her face. They slowly consumed at the fish, tossing the bones and left overs into the river.
“By now father has discovered we are missing along with the flyer.” she said. “The ship was a new one fitted with a radio beacon. I am sure they have discovered the wreckage and found the dead Warhoons.”
“I am sure the Warhoons have suffered from the Warlord's Wrath. The fighting must have been magnificent.” Now Tarrid smiled. Nothing a Thark liked better than fighting.
“Maybe they realized that we are on the River Iss?” she asked.
“Maybe John Carter will be waiting for us when we reach Valley Dor?” added Tarrid, “and maybe Thoats will grow wings and we can fly home.”
In the dim light she looked at him and smiled.
“Tarrid, you are funny for a Green man. I didn't think that Tharks told jokes.”
“There is much you do not know about my people, we are as proud of our race as you are of Helium.”
“Then, tell me of the Tharks and there ways, I wish to know,” she asked.
He was silent for a time them he began a narrative of his people and their history, including his own victories in battle. She listened, asking few questions, interested in the account.
After his history she told of her life. Tarrid found she took twice as long in her narration of her ten short years. He also discovered that it wasn't easy being the Warlords daughter. He also learned that John Carter could be a strict father—this caused him to admire the warlord all the more. The Green man was most interested in John Carter's home world of Sasoom and how he had willed himself to come to Barsoom.
“Perhaps the Therns are right and he is a God?” asked Tarrid. “What man can will himself to another world?”
“He's no God,” added Valla, “I have seen him bleed, and I have seen him angry—still sometimes he says some of the strangest things.”
“Like what?” asked Tarrid.
“He remembers no childhood. For as long as he can remember he has been a fighting man.”
“That is strange, but not for a God.”
“You should hear him talk about Sasoom and the wars that he fought there. He liked to speak of his home in a place called Virginia, it was so green, and lush. He owned a large estate there at one time. “
“I should like to hear of the wars there,” added Tarrid, more interested.
“There was one terrible war, in that conflict he lost his lands. He lost many friends in the battles. They didn't have airships as we do, but huge cannons and massive armies.”
“Did they have Thoats?” asked Tarrid.
“Smaller creatures, with four legs called horses.” Valla told everything she could remember of her father's life on Sasoom (Earth) but, even hearing it from his lips she had a hard time believing it all to be true. It seemed so strange to her.
The days passed one after another as they followed the great river as it made its way to Valley Dor. In time they grew tired of fish, but Valla resolved that when they got back to the palace, that's what would be served at her ball. Having no sun or the two moons, they lost track of the time, They believed they must have been on the river for weeks and that their journey would never end, when, all of a sudden, they turned a corner and a light appeared in the tunnel, They came out of the underground river into Valley Dor. The green plants and trees were like nothing Valla had ever seen in her life.
“Why, it is wonderful!” she exclaimed.
“The plant men and giant apes have been removed. It's more like Valley Dor should be,” added Tarrid. “Look, down the lake there is a structure. I can see flags flying. That must be the station set up by the red nations to greet newcomers. Let us go there. I expect they are waiting for word of Valla of Helium.”
“Yes, let us go there,” answered Valla as she took up a paddle and sent the canoe to the dome topper building. They could see it was a modern structure and had landing stages to accommodate several battleships. One was moored there now but it was painted in the colors of Dusar. Valla was encouraged to see the banner of Helium flying from one of the poles.
There were a great many canoes on the bank nearest to the building, they made for them and landed the skiff. It was good to walk around on dry land for a change.
A warrior dressed in the metal of Dusar appeared at the top of the round structure.
“Welcome pilgrims to Valley Dor,” the warrior said. “Come and learn the truth of Issus and her false religion.”
Meet the Author
Ch. I and II
Ch. III and IV
Ch. V and VI
Ch. VII and VIII
Ch. IX and X
Ch. XI and XIII
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