Tarrid, The Green Man of BarsoomThe ship, escorted by five modern Zorian crafts landed at the central palace of this exotic southern city. It was not half as big as Lesser Helium, but seemed modern enough, to Tarrid's eyes. Valla was resting after salve was administered to her back. As he watched, the docking of the vessel to the palace landing stages, he was joined by Kortis. Side by side they watched at the rail in silence.
Chapters V and VI
V. ZORIAN CAPTIVITY
“Something odd strike you about our savior, the Zorian Jeddak?” remarked the Thern.
“You mean the cuts from battle?” answered Tarrid. “They seemed.... few and if I may say so—self inflicted for show.”
“That's it. They were not like real wounds at all,” responded the Thern.
“Note that no blood stained his fancy harness as well,” added the Green Man, “Even the blood on his long sword seemed ---added—rather than caused by combat.”
“Who was he trying to impress?” remarked Kortis, “It wasn't us.”
“Princess Valla,” whispered Tarrid. “It can be no other. Perhaps to gain favor with John Carter and Helium?”
“Perhaps,” mused the Thern. “I checked there is an active Temple in Zor but it is Tenth Cycle. The Seventh Cycle has no presence here. I am outlaw and heretic to the Tenth Cycle. They are under orders to kill me on sight. They will be of no help to us.”
“Until, John Carter arrives, I will act as Valla's Guard, You Thern, are welcome to stand guard with me.”
“I have made a sacred vow to her highness, to avenge those who would harm her—or have harmed her in the past, I will stand with you and protect the daughter of John Carter and the true Issus, Dejah Thoris.”
“Good,” commented Tarrid. “Let us go to her chambers and take our post. I trust not these men of Zor.”
They watched as Valla was escorted off the ship and down a ramp to the interior of the palace. They marched at a respectful distance behind her. There arms having been restored to them by the Zorians. The Jeddak lead the procession as he droned on and on about the history of the palace. On the floor below they went down a wide hall and to a lavish door. They were escorted into a suite of rooms, that were, if anything, more elaborate and larger than anything in John Caters Palace.
“Here you can stay Princess Valla,” he announced. With that he clapped his hands and a score of servant girls came out, all dressed in silks and bowed to Valla. “These attendants will answer your every call. I have taken the liberty of having the best dress makers in Zor fashion garments for you. Our finest dishes will await you taste –we have Helimetic dishes as well if you prefer them. I want to add that I am overjoyed you are visiting our city. We have heard of your beauty but, the accounts do not do you justice, Princess.”
“These are very nice, but I believe I will not be here long. My father will be in Zor soon and I will be returning to Helium for my ball.” she answered.
“You must stay for a party to be held in your honor.” the ruler said with a low bow. “Too many have been preparing for the feast—I beg you –do not disappoint them---or me.”
“Yes, I will attend—if I may bring my guards?”
“You have no need of guards, princess, the palace is secure.” assured the ruler.
“Humor me, your majesty,” she said, “It has been a difficult two days.”
“Anything you ask, Valla.” he answered. Tarrid saw a dark look cross her brow. Strict and formal rules dictate how a princess should be addressed—first names are only permitted between family members, and lovers... Even Tarrid could see the man had overstepped the boundary.
He noticed Kortis had his hand on the hilt of his long sword. He shook his head—for the Thern to stand down.
“Perhaps the rules of etiquette are different in Zor,” answered Valla. “Because of your service to me, you are forgiven.”
“I forgive you for your great beauty, Valla,” continued the Jeddak, “You have cast a spell over me from the first moment I first saw you.” Tarrid saw Valla's face grow stone-like and cold. She didn't answer and turned away from him.
“I am tired, I wish to rest,” she said in a cool tone. “You may leave us!”
“As you wish,” he answered with an angry tone in his voice. He wasn't used to being spoken to in such a way. He pivoted on his heel and marched out talking his entourage with him.
“Tarrid! Did you hear the man!” she said as the door closed. “If my father had witnessed that he would have challenged him to a duel!”
“Princess, Would you like me to kill the man?” asked Kortis.
“No, he just is such a bore he infuriates me with his presumptions,” she replied.
They rested with Valla still fuming over the Jeddak's words. Tarrid saw this as the ruler's opening gambit. If he judged the man right, he would be back to pursue his case to win over the Princess. The Green Man knew the girl well, he was attempting to impress her in all the wrong ways. After the sun went down and the two moon came over the horizon, there was a second knock upon the door.
The portal opened and it was one of Shalla Tanni's guards. Who bowed as a servant girl let him in.
“The Jeddak wanted to present you with a gift,” he said, respectfully.
“What is it?” The Princess asked. The guard turned and walked out the door where a slave was holding a long box with colorful ribbons. He took the box and came in bowing, he set it before Valla's feet and walking backwards exited the chamber.
“Well Tarrid,” she said, “should we open the gift from our boorish host?”
“Why not?” answered the laconic Thark.
She took the gift and placed it on the couch, then she drew her dagger from her belt and started to cut open the ribbons. Inside there was a beautiful blue dress. It was was made of shimmering silk, with gold thread embroidery designs. It was stunning.
“It's beautiful!” remarked Valla as she took it from the box and placed it in front of her.
As she looked at in the mirror of her chamber she noticed the designs more fully. A look of shock came upon her. Tarrid could see something was wrong but he couldn't fathom what it was. The look of surprise was followed by an expression of anger.
“What is the problem, Highness?” asked Kortis.
“The dress—notice the designs.”
“What is the significance of these ornaments?” inquired Tarrid.
“Its a... a wedding dress,” she stuttered, tossing it on the floor.
Kortis and Tarrid looked at one another. There was another knock upon the door.
Before a servant could answer the door, it opened and the Jeddak strode into the room and performed a bow to Valla.
“Do you like my gift?” he asked. Tarrid rolled his eyes.
“In Helium, a suitor asks for the hand of a maiden before planning a wedding—and the bride selects her own dress.” answered Valla in a cold tone. She was not pleased.
“In Zor we do things differently,” answered the ruler. “But, in deference’s to your customs, I formally ask if you will consent to be my wife and rule Zor with me as her Jeddara?”
The words were not out of his mouth a second before she answered.
“No, I reject your offer. I will marry for love as my sister and mother did so long ago.”
Red faced, the ruler, turned on his heel and marched out of the room, without saying a word. Only his eyes spoke of his deep rage.
“My father will be her soon enough,” she said to her guards. “Would that he was here now.”
“I fear we have not seen the last of Shalla Tanni,” commented the Thern.
“I need some air!” cried Valla. “Attend me.”
She left the apartment and walked up to the roof, to the landing stages atop the palace. They could see the outlaw ship was being cleaned up by a crew of Zorians, for what purpose the princess and her two guards could only guess. They went to the rail and looked over the city, looking beyond her walls to the lands that made up this southern kingdom.
“The arrogance of the man!” fumed Valla. “ He just thought that I would want to marry him because he was the ruler.” The guards were silent, listening only. She started to walk around the roof, where a dozen ships were housed in small hangers. There was also a radio mast and a small building for the wireless operator. It seemed a new addition to the palace. As she raged against Shalla Tanni she enjoyed the cool air of the night. It was half way around the large building when Tarrid saw it, a small hanger, guarded by two warriors. The door was half open and inside a small flyer—gold painted with a Martian symbol for seven in a circle.
He pointed it out to Kortis.
“That's my ship!” he said loudly enough for Valla to glance up and see the nose of the skyship.
“What's this?” she said. The two palace guards quickly closed the doors to the hanger to hide it—but the ship was too distinct to be mistaken.
“I believe there is treachery here!” murmured Tarrid.
“Zulan Tith, here!” she said rubbing the bruise upon her cheek where he had struck her. “What is going on ?”
“Perhaps, the padwar was in the employ of the Jeddak all along?” speculated Kortis. “The outlaw band merely a hoax to gain your emotional debt and win your hand in marriage?”
“And a lucrative trade treaty and alliance with John Carter and Helium,” added the Green Thark. “There may well be more going on than we know.”
“I believe you are on to something, my green friend,” said the Thern. “You go back to the rooms and bar the door—I will do some investigation. Maybe a conversation with the wireless operator would be in order. He might want to talk to a Thern Priest.”
“Your right,” answered Valla, “Be wary! We will wait in the rooms below. I will dismiss the servant girls, I am sure they are watching us and reporting to the Jeddak.”
The Thern gave a low bow and walked off toward the wireless building as Tarrid and the Princess went down the ramp to the lavish rooms. Their were more gifts waiting Valla from Shalla Tanni, jewelry and a pair of bejeweled slippers. Valla ordered the servants to leave—and had the door barricaded with a number of heavy chests. There was no lock on the inside—but ominously, there was a stout one on the outside of the door.
The princess was silent now, at times Tarrid saw a look of fear haunt her face. He could see she was remembering the terrible beating she had been given by Zulan Tith's whip.
“Worry not, princess,” assured Tarrid. “I am here to protect you. Nothing will harm you while I live.” She looked at him, and some of the old defiance returned.
In less than an hour, there was a knock and a familiar voice called out “May the blessings of John Carter guide you.”
Tarrid removed the chests and let the Thern enter. He re placed the chests once he had entered.
“What did you discover?” asked Valla.
“ I spoke with the wireless operator, No messages to Helium or Valley Dor have been sent. Nothing sent to John Carter as well,” he reported. “We were lied to by the fancy Jeddak.”
“Maybe the radio beacon might let the Warlord know where we are?” inquired Tarrid.
“I managed to slip into the hanger, the guards were in the back drinking,” he started, “I checked and the beacon was smashed. I do not know if John Carter even knows where we are.”
“Then we are, on our own,” whispered Valla.
“We still live!” said Tarrid, “We may yet prevail.”
“Worry not,” assured the Thern, “John Carter will find us!”
Valla looked at him with a concerned expression—would he be in time?
There was a loud knock on the door.
“Open in the Name of the Jeddak!” it was the voice of Shalla Tanni.
The ruler tried to open the door only to discover it was barred.
VI. THE PITS OF ZOR
“Go away!” shouted Valla, “I am resting,” she lied.
“You block the door to your future husband and Jeddak?” Came the voice, rage in his tone. The two guards drew their swords.
“Please give me the loan of your Radium pistol,” asked Valla. Tarrid handed the oversized weapon to her.
“We are armed,” she said loudly, “I will shoot who ever comes though the door!”
“You would even shoot me?” came a new voice, Tarrid recognized it as Zulan Tith. “After all the good times we have had together? You are asking for another beating? Princess, this time I will not hold back.”
The Thark saw the pistol in Valla's hand shake in fear. The princess was speechless.
Just then, Tarrid saw something behind them, a group of men had entered using a hidden panel and seized Valla, pinning her arms to her side and snatching the pistol from her and tossed it to the marble floor. The Green man turned to fight them only to find himself enmeshed in a wire net that dropped from the ceiling. Another net had fallen on Kortis. They were knocked to the floor and disarmed as the Jeddak and Zulan Tith walked in, once the chests were removed from the door.
“You see my dear, you can not win against me,” Shalla Tanni, boasted. “Don't worry, I will not let the mean Zulan Tith harm you—unless you are disobedient to me.”
“I will never marry you!” she shouted.
“Here in Zor, the Jeddak can marry anyone he likes, if they consent or not. As you have rejected my jewelry I have others I will compel you to wear.” He held up a set of gold shackles and chains. “These you will wear for the rest of your life. I hope you like these rooms. You will stay here for the remainder of your existence.” He gave a sign and gold bars fell into place at the windows and locked. “I will visit you –but you will have no other visitors. Only your female slaves will be locked in with you. I don't like chattering women—so, just now, I had their tongues cut out -- I don't want to bother you with idle palace gossip. Don't think I would not do the same to you Valla---If you displease me. You are young, I hope you produce many sons for me.”
Tarrid saw Valla's eyes were wide in horror at the thought of her fate as the wife of the tyrant.
The Thern struggled in the net-- “Calot!” he yelled, “May the curse of John Carter fall upon you!”
“Worry not my holy friend,” answered the smiling ruler. “I have contacted the tenth cycle. They have paid me a great deal of money for you, Kortis. They have plans for a heretic like you!”
“John Carter will find you!” cried Tarrid. “When he does, not one stone will be standing on another in Zor and you will be a bitter memory upon Barsoom.”
“As a guard, you are a complete failure my Green Thark.” mocked the ruler, “I was thinking of saving you for the games but, I think it would be more merciful to run you though –I am sure John Carter would do as much for failing to protect his daughter.”
“No!” cried Valla, as she struggled with her captor. She broke from him and fell to the floor where she recovered the radium pistol.
“What are you going to do, wife?” asked the Jeddak, “You can't kill all of us. Drop the pistol or I will let Zulan Tith punish you.”
Coldly, Valla pointed the weapon at her own head.
“Promise me you will spare Tarrid, or I will shoot. Spare his life and I will marry you.”
“I vow as Jeddak of Zor and by my ancestors, that I will hold him for the games,” he agreed, “Now, put down that pistol.” She did as she was told.
Both Tarrid and Kortis were pulled from the nets and bound up with leather straps.
“Take these two to the pits below the palace—and strip off there harnesses—I have learned that the Thern had a wire to pick the locks before!” ordered the ruler. “And as for you Valla, my wife, you need to be taught a lesson. Zulan Tith, give her a sound thrashing so she will know who is master in Zor.”
The two guards were pulled away by six palace guards as they heard the sound of a lashing whip and the awful screams of Valla.
“Your lucky, Green Man, Shalla Tanni was merciful tonight.” said one of the guards, “And Thern, I have heard that the Tenth Cycle has plans for you involving a plant man and a great white ape. I believe in the tenth cycle—you deserve all they have planned and more for leading people astray.”
“John Carter is a god---I believe it—and I know a better world awaits me ...” The guard struck him brutally across the face. They went down a ramp that curved around going, like a spiral, deeper and deeper though the vast palace then though the basements and sub-basements, to a land of darkness and slim. The palace guards had radium torches and the Martian Rats scurried before them.
“You will have plenty of peace and quiet down here, you two,” laughed the guard. “A slave will bring you food once a day –he's a deaf mute so don't bother trying to get information from him.” At last they reached a small chamber off the corridor and here chains were fixed to the walls. The guards snapped the chains on their necks and wrists, and ankles. Then there harnesses were removed and lastly, the straps cut away.
“Enjoy your stay in the pits of Zor!” laughed a guard as they left, taking their touches with them, leaving the two in pitch darkness.
“I have been in pits before,” said Tarrid. “You must set your mind to resist the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness least you slip into madness.”
“I shall leave such mental games to you, my friend,” answered Kortis. “I plan to leave this place. Worry not, I will comeback for you and together we can seek to avenge the princess.”
“How do you plan to accomplish such a thing?” asked the Green Man.
“I have a spare lock pick in my wig,” answered the Thern. 'Even now I am working on the lock. In the dark it may take a bit more time—that's all.”
“Time is one thing we have an abundance of,” remarked Tarrid.
“Well, I do not.” he said. “I know the Therns of the Tenth Cycle—I was one of them before I discovered the truth. They will be here soon to take me away. I must be gone when they arrive.”
Tarrid hear one lock open, then another, and in a half hour a third.
“There, I am free. I will shut the locks and leave you, Green Man. But, I will be back. When the Therns come tell them this....”
He left detailed instructions and Tarrid hear retreating foot steps going away in the dark.
Not an hour passed until bright radium torches came down the corridor. A party of seven came into the chamber, All were Therns. Their torches flashed on Tarrid, still in chains , and the empty chains that once held Kortis. The light almost blinded the Green Man.
“Where is the heretic Kortis?” asked one of the Therns.
“I know naught.” answered the Thark. “He was here locked beside me. He started to chant 'John Carter' over and over again. There was a bright blue light and he was gone—only the chains were left. I believe he was transported to Helium and John Cater.”
“Nonsense!” exclaimed one of the men. They checked the locks but their was no sign they had been picked.
“He must have been helped,” commented the Thern. “There must be members of the Seventh Cycle in our temple! Let us root out this evil and find Kortis before he can leave the city.”
They turned and left Tarrid alone in the dark. He wasn't really alone, for he counted some ten rats in the corridor, their red eyes glowing, ready for the Green Man to sleep so they could make a meal of him. Tarrid smiled—let them come closer—one thought came to mind: and he spoke it out loud: “fresh meat!”
Time passed slowly, his only means of passing the time was the coming of the mute boy with his bowl of food. It was simple fare, he guessed it was the same food as the Jeddak's Calots, but it would keep him alive. Three times the food came, it was on the forth that he saw a light come down the hallway, in the light he saw it was Kortis, now wearing the harness and medal of a Palace guard with swords and a pistol.
“Kaor, Green Man,” he said, “I hope you didn't miss me too much.” Tarrid just looked at him.
“What kept you so long?” he asked.
“Like my new harness? The guard I took it from will no longer be needing it.” answered the Thern as he started to work on the Green Man's padlocks. “I have been busy in the streets and back allies of Zor. I have even visited her highness, in her golden jail. Well, I spoke with her on one side of the bars and I on the other.”
“Was she injured?” Tarrid asked, concerned.
“Yes, worse than before. They have shackled her, welded cuffs to her wrists and ankles so they can not be removed. The royal wedding is set for tonight. She vows to take her own life—only the thought of you has kept her from trying to hang herself—her slaves will do all to prevent it, knowing that they will all be killed if she does succeed. She also fears that if she is dead—you will be killed.”
“She shouldn't be worried of me,” answered Tarrid, a deep emotion swelled in his heart.
“I have made some plans of my own.” explained the Thern. “If it is the will of Issus we can steal the princess from her golden cage, take my ship and fly for Helium.”
“And if that should fail?” asked the Thark.
“Then, we seize the Wireless office and radio for John Carter. We may die but we can call down the wrath of the Warlord upon Zor. Being dead we will be sipping a divine Mint Julep in Virginia.”
“I can taste it now.” commented Tarrid as a padlock was snapped open.
“I will convert you yet, Green Man.”
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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