Tarrid, The Green Man of BarsoomOnce the last lock was opened Tarrid stood up and stretched. The Thern handed him his long sword.
Chapters VII and VIII
VII. A DESPERATE PLAN
“Your a better swordsman than I,” he commented, drawing his pistol. “Let us go before we are discovered.”
“I agree,” grunted Tarrid.
“I will explain my plan further,” started the Thern.
“First we rescue the Princess,” insisted Tarrid. “Then we steal a flyer and head for Helium.”
“Yes. I have gained a great deal of knowledge about the royal palace. Its really ancient.”
“It will be hard to conceal me,” admitted The Thark. “I haven't seen another Green Man in all Zor.”
“I think you are the only one,” answered Kortis. “That's why we move at night only.”
They exited the palace once they reached the ground floor and walked into a large walled courtyard garden. Only the two moons were out, showing little illumination.
“Did you notice the deep carvings on the face of the building?” asked the Thern. “We can use them to clime to the floor where the Princess is being held. Its a long clime so we had best start now.”
Tarrid looked up, it was at least eight stories tall if not more. They started up, the carvings were weathered and dusty, but provided good hand holds foot holds. They made good time. Twice they had to stop as guards passed below them. Had they chanced to look up their plans would have been undone—but they didn't. One floor down from the roof the two scampered up a balcony. Before them was the barred windows of the Princesses apartment. Bars blocked off the door to the balcony as well. The lights were on and they could see a form pacing the floor.
Tarrid moved closer to the window and saw it was Valla, chained at the wrists and ankles, wearing the blue wedding dress and in tears.
“Highness,” he whispered.
She turned, a look of surprise crossed her face. “Tarrid?” she said.
“Yes,” he answered. As she came to the window. He could see she had been crying, the dress hid her body and arms but he could seen she was bruised from the lash.
“Issus has granted my prayers,” she confided. “ I wished to see you before my... my.. marriage.”
“The dress is beautiful on you,” said a tearful Kortis.
“I always thought my wedding day would be the happiest day of my life. It is the most terrible day of all my years. If I take my life, the servant girls will be killed—you two will be killed and Barsoom plunged into war. Have you found that it is sometimes harder to live than die?”
It pained Tarrid to hear her speak so. All of her arrogance was gone now. The fact she was chained bothered him as well.
She noticed him looking at her gold bonds.
“Like my new bracelets?” she said mockingly. “These I can never lose—and I must get used to them as they will be part of my attire for life.”
“No! They will be removed in Helium.” Commented the Green Man. “We will break these bars out and rescue you.”
“No, If I should leave the servants here, women who have suffered so much, will be killed.” she said shaking her head. “I will not do that to them. Too many have died. I want to ask your forgiveness Tarrid, and my loyal Kortis. It was my hot headed actions that caused this. I see now that so many of the things that angered me are of no real value. I only wish I can live to beg my mother and father's forgiveness for all the pain I have caused them.”
“You will marry this Calot Jeddak?” asked the Thern.
“Funny, my mother always said I would someday be a Jeddara,” commented Valla as she looked into the sky. “ She was right, even if I am a prisoner here, I will be a Jeddara in Zor.”
“If you are forced to marry Shalla Tanni, worry not,” vowed Kortis with great passion, “I will make sure you will be his widow!”
“Go now! Escape and tell my father what has happened to me. And tell him, I love him and my mother and Helium.” She looked into the silent Green Man's eyes, “I love you too, Tarrid, Over these past weeks I have seen that you are a caring and decent man of honor.”
“Don't, tell anyone, highness, it would ruin his reputation,” added the Thern.
“Princess,” said the Thark, “I love you. You are the bravest of us all.”
She looked at him long and hard as tears ran down her cheek, She tried to smile at him.
“You may call me Valla,” she said. “Now go! Your fate depends upon getting out of Zor!'
There was a low cry behind Valla, she turned and two of the servant girls had entered and saw Tarrid and Kortis at the window. They grunted and whimpered with tears in their eyes.
“Do not be troubled, my friends,” she told them softly, “I will not escape, I am with you till the end. I was sending my friends way.”
The two women came close and hugged her. Valla, faced the window and gestured with her manacled hand for them to leave. Tarrid could see more tears in her eyes, but he obeyed and led the Thern back, and up the side of the palace to the roof. Both were silent as they made there way in the dark.
“I want my flyer back!” said Kortis, “Then we are off to Helium—with the supercharged engines I am sure nothing in Zor can catch us.”
“The quicker, the better,” answered Tarrid. There was a look on his face that was both fearsome and terrible. The Thern was glad he was the big mans friend and not his enemy.
The reached the roof and landing stages, keeping in the shadows, they both understood their would be guards. The Green Man was glad of that—he wanted the simplicity of battle.
“If we fail to secure a ship,” said Kortis, “let us resolve to capture the wireless and send a message to John Carter! Then he can sort thing out.”
“Even if it means our lives!” vowed the Thark. “We will be together on Sasoom, sipping the ambrosia of Mint Julep.”
“I have converted you Green Man! For a believer in the Seventh Cycle, there is no death—only the pleasures of Sasoom.” said the Thern.
“I would rather be dead than see Valla as she is now,” answered Tarrid.
“Then we strike home with the battle cry of the Seventh Cycle,” said the Thern; “John Carter!”
“John Carter!” answered Tarrid, as they rushed the hanger that held the flyer.
The doors were closed and two guards watched at each side of the portal. They saw the two yelling figures and drew their swords. With one sounding a call. The battle was not very long. The Green man jumped and with one blow cut the head from the guard, Kortis, fenced with his short sword, and drew close, stabbing his enemy with his dagger.
They opened the doors and rushed into the hanger. They snapped on the light only to find the chamber empty! The flyer was gone.
“To the wireless!” yelled Tarrid. They could see a dozen guards coming from places all over the landing stages. All of the smaller flyers were missing, even the larger ships had pulled in there gangways.
VIII. NIGHT FIGHT AND WEDDING
“They were ready for us!” cried Kortis, “Let us die well and be worthy of Virginia!”
“John Carter!” answered the Green Man, as they ran toward the radio building on the other side of the roof. Out of the structure came ten armed guards with swords drawn. They formed a line blocking the entrance, as others on the roof rushed to join them.
“For John Carter!” scream the Thern, as they engaged the guardsmen at the wireless building. The guard were good warriors and brave but they were no match for the enraged two. The Thark leaped into battle, his sword slicing the air with massive blows, One guard found his sword cut in two! Another lost his arm and another cleaved to the waste by a downward blow. This wasn't fencing as much as murder. The same could be said of Kortis, his blade flashing in the dim light. They kept pushing until the guards had their back to the door of the small building.
Now other warriors joined the fight, Tarrid had secured two more swords from his fallen foes and now with three blades he was a terrible fighting machine. Two more fell within second of joining the fray. A quick thrust killed the guard before the door, and the Thern pushed open the portal.
“I know all about Wireless—I can send the message to John Carter-- “Valla, a prisoner in Zor. Come at once.” Yelled Kortis to Tarrid.
“That will do!” Replied the Green Man as he kept the guards from the door.
Tarrid hear a string of Profanity he never expected to hear from a Thern priest.
“What is it?” cried the Thark as he cut the head from a fat guard.
“They have removed the wireless!” he yelled breaking a window and shooting his pistol at the coming guards. “We are lost! I will see you in Virginia, my friend.”
“We still live!” cried Tarrid as he pushed forward keeping the guards out of the building. The radium pistol was cutting down the odds.
The Green man saw a large battleship floating over the landing stage, guns ready. For a moment he thought it was a ship from Helium's Navy, until he saw the devise of Zor pained on her bow. The guns were turning on the wireless building! There was a loud explosion as the guards pulled back. Tarrid was pushed to the roof by the blast. He looked back, the small structure and mast were demolished and the ruins burning. Three more shells were sent into the remains. Tarrid knew what such shells could do –no one could survive that explosion. As he watched, The guards rushed him, piling all over the stricken Green Man, a full twenty men had him down and even his great strength and size could not keep them from disarming him and holding him down. Many of the guards took the time to punch and strike him while he was helpless.
“Stop!” came a commanding voice! Tarrid knew that voice—it was the Jeddak. The beating stopped at once. “Bind him well, use heavy straps, I want him alive!”
Tarrid was pulled to his feet. In the light of the burning structure he watched as Shalla Tanni, dressed in his most resplendent harness came forward.
“Where is the Thern, Kortis?” he demanded of the Green Man.
“Where you can never reach him.” he answered.
“And where might that be?” the ruler asked.
“Sasoom.” answered Tarrid. “He was in the building when it was hit.”
“He speaks the truth,” confirmed a guard, “we saw him enter, just before the warship shelled the structure.”
“I watched you fight, Green Man, you will provide great sport for the people of Zor in the coming games.” smiled the Jeddak. “ This provides you with a chance to attend my wedding tonight. You can watch as the haughty Valla becomes my wife.”
The Green Man pulled at the straps that has secured him, two snapped, but the rest held.
More were applied by the guards as the ruler laughed. Now a fire fighting group of slaves were rushing in to put out the blaze atop the roof and the battleship flew off to the stages on the other side of the palace.
The guards followed there ruler as he went down the ramps two floors to the throne room. They carried, dragged and manhandled an uncooperative Thark behind him. As they drew near, music could be heard. It was much like the music in Helium save for the fact it was ten years out of date. Though the doors the Jeddak went, directing the guards to lash Tarrid to a thick pillar, but so arranged him so that he could see the dais where two podiums were set up and flowers decorated the place. The room was packed with well dressed members of Zorian society, with a few guests from other lands. None were green men, he noticed.
“Gag the creature,” ordered the ruler, “least he interrupt the service.” Then he turned to the Thark, “I'm sure you will enjoy this, but not half as much as I will.”
The ruler was greeted with applause, by the assembled crowd of supporters.
“You see we have captured the Green Man who has caused so much of a bother. Many loyal guards gave their lives to keep this wild creature from doing more mischief to peaceful Zor. I have spared his life because he once served my future wife. He will provide entertainment in the coming games. They will be held tomorrow afternoon, to honor our marriage. The wedding games will be the most impressive in recent memory. Sadly, the heretic criminal of the outlawed Seventh Cycle, was killed in the fight. Many of their fanatical order prefer death to defeat and capture. It was the will of Issus.”
“Lets hear it for the Great Shalla Tanni!” came a voice from the audience. Tarrid craned his neck and saw it was Zulan Tith, wearing the fancy harness of a Dwar.
“Let us proceed with the ceremony,” shouted the Jeddak as the music started to play once again. The whole assemble room turned to face the entrance where Tarrid was secured. For a moment, he thought they were looking at him. Then the doors opened and young women dress in almost nothing but flowers came in slowly dancing and scattering pedals upon the floor in time to the music. Then, came Valla, her ankle chains dragging on the floor, her hands folded in front of her, the wrist chains almost reaching her knees. She was in tears. There was a gasp from the audience at the sight of the young women shuffling down the hall. Two guards with drawn swords followed her. Tarrid saw she walked with a limp, perhaps from one of the beatings she suffered. His heart swelled at this abomination, and he pulled at his bonds, but they held steady. He looked at the expressions of the faces of those watching, for most it was shock, on some, mostly the women, horror, a few were grinning to see the pride of Helium humbled in such a way. Painfully, she took the dais and stood at one of the two podiums, the Jeddak was at the other. He smiled at Valla, then waved his hand and a new piece of music started. This time a tall man with long white and gold robes came in the room, followed by to men in simpler garments. Tarrid recognized the trappings, he had see them before many years past, they were the garments of the Holy Hekkador, of the Tenth Cycle.
To have the Hekkador perform the marriage was a high honor. He must have come from Valley Dor for the event. He was stone faced, without a trace of emotion as he turned and faced the room. He performed a benediction, then he faced the two as his assistants stood on each side. He gave a prayer to Issus, then he asked the Jeddak to speak.
“Your Holiness,” he started, “ Since the death of my last wife, due to that unfortunate accident, I have been a lonely man.”
Tarrid suspected that the accident was manufactured when the tyrant grew tired of his wife.
“I fell in love with Valla of Helium when I first saw her. I saved her from an outlaw band that kidnapped her from Valley Dor. I fought the mercenaries to secure her release. As I was fighting to free her, she captured my heart. One look at her beauty will tell you I had no chance. Besides, Zor needs a new Jeddara! So I asked if she would become my wife and we are here. I am sure all of my subjects will grow to love her as I have.”
No one in the chamber was fooled, the chains on Valla and her tear stained eyes were enough to expose the hypocrisy of his words.
“Thank you, your highness,” said the Holy Hekkador who then turned to the Princess.
“Now Valla of Helium, daughter of the Warlord, what say you?”
Tarrid was listening close—what would she say?
“I want each and every Zorian to know I will do my best to rule well. I want them to know I love each and every one of you in my new homeland. I hope that my years with my father will help me to be a wise and just Jeddara.”
She said not one word of love or affection. She was fulfilling her promise to wed, and nothing more. All who listened understood that this was not her desire but she would try her best to serve her new subjects. Tarrid was taken by her honesty, she may have won over some in the room as well.
The Holy Hekkador started the service that seemed to take forever. There were vows to be spoken, Valla simply whispered hers. The gold collars were snapped on each neck and the blessings given again. Then the tall leader of the Tenth Cycle turned to the room and spoke in a loud voice, “In the name of the most holy Issus, Goddess of life, I pronounce these two husband and wife. May they rule for many years to come.” the room burst into applause.
“Tomorrow, The Wedding games will be held in the great stadium” cried The Jeddak. “There will be---Men vs men, men vs beasts and beasts vs beasts! The star of the program; The Green Man of Helium! Now let us retire to the chamber below for dancing and feasting!”
Just then Valla turned to Shalla Tanni, and fell to her knees before him.
“My husband, my Jeddak,” she started, speaking so all could hear. “I ask one request of you. I know you have plans for me, but, I beg you, please let me attend the Wedding Games so I can meet my new subjects?”
The people all looked at the ruler. He stood for a long moment, thinking.
“Yes, I grant you this boon, my love!” he said with a smile. He was pleased at the way things had turned out. “You will sit beside me as we watch the games. All of Zor will be there. I know you are weary, my new wife, so you will go back to your apartment and ready yourself for our wedding night.”
Tarrid saw a shiver pass though Valla's frame at these words.
“I must greet our guests and feast, I am sure your servants have prepared a tasty meal for you. Now go!”
the first thing that came to Tarrid was this was like a last meal for the condemned. His ordeal in the games would be short, Valla's would be a lifetime sentence. He found himself crying. He didn't know Green Men had tear ducts.
One by one, in pairs and separately, the highest member of Zorian society filed out of the room. Many looked over Tarrid, no doubt planning to wager on the Green Thark. Then, Valla left with her guards, she gave Tarrid a brave smile as she passed him. She noticed his tears as well. She looked down so as not to embarrass him.
The Hekkador left with his two acolytes without glancing at Tarrid. He was followed by the Jeddak. He paused to look at the Thark.
“I hope you liked the service.” he said, “You see Valla married me of her own free will.”
Tarrid tried to speak but the leather strap prevented him from addressing the tyrant.
“Un-bind his mouth,” ordered Shalla Tanni, “I wish to hear what he has to say.”
They took out the strap. The Green Man glared at the Jeddak.
“Well, Guard,” barked the ruler of Zor, “What do you have to say?”
“We Green Men of the Seventh Cycle have the gift of prophecy,” he lied. “ I see Valla will be a widow soon!”
This comment took the smile from the man's face.
“Take him to the pits, I want a constant guard on him. Chain him well. I want him ready for the games tomorrow! Who knows, maybe I will put money on you green man?”
The ruler stormed out leaving the guards with Tarrid. The cut him away from the stone pillar and pulled him down the hall to the spiral stairway that went down to the basements and pits beneath them.
“Is it true you can see into the future, Green Man?” asked one of the guards. “I don't believe you have such a power. Try me, what is my future?”
“Not long from now, you will be dead,” further lied Tarrid, just to unsettle the man. “You will be killed by a Warrior from Helium.”
“I too can tell the future,” answered the guard, “I see that tomorrow, Green Man, you will be dead.”
“You are wrong, Zorian, I shall be alive by this time tomorrow.” answered the Thark.
He hoped this he might be right.
“We shall see, if you survive the games, few have, and none under the reign of Shalla Tanni. But, I must confess that your Valla won over many tonight. She is a brave woman and I hope we in Zor get to know her better. Still, I fear that she will not live long. None of the Jeddak's wives live more than a year or two.”
“How many has he had?” asked Tarrid, concerned for Valla's safety.
“Seven, I know of, but there are rumor of more, secret marriages. Most meet with accidents or take there own lives.” answered the guard. From his tone he had little love for Shalla Tanni.
“Valla will not kill herself.” answered Tarrid in a low voice.
“Seeing the future, as you say you can, answer me this,” asked another guard. “Should I bet on you in the coming games?”
“Yes, bet all you can!” Answered Tarrid confidently, “The odds will be high and you will come away a rich man. I ask of you only one thing--”
“And what is that?” the guard asked.
“Be loyal to your new Jeddara,” he said.
“You have the vow of Shinar Baccana. Tell me, why did he have too have her chained?”
“She insulted him,” answered Tarrid. “He had her shackles welded to her, swearing she would wear them for life.”
“She is lucky. Most who insult the Jeddak die a slow and painful death,” said the guard.
“I don't believe she counts herself lucky at all,” he replied.
They took him back the way he remembered, the rats were there, almost welcoming the Green Man back to his cell. This time more chains were added, and new, more secure padlocks. The leather bindings cut away and Tarrid was seated on the floor. This time the guards didn't leave but stood by his watching the corridor with drawn sword, and keeping an eye on the big man. They were taking no chances.
“the guards who brought you here before were arrested when you escaped –they have been condemned to the games.” informed the guard named Shinar.
“That was unjust,” said Tarrid. “It was not their fault the locks were old and easy to pick – such acts bespeak of your Jeddak's cruel nature---he is no proper Jeddak. I know John Carter would never give such an order.”
“Say, your Seventh Cycle,” asked a guard. “You really think John Carter is a God? If that were true why doesn't he save you? Why does he permit his daughter to be chained and held here? If he is a God he is an unworthy one.”
“John Carter works in mysterious ways,” answered the Thark. “Maybe this is all part of his plan. I have seen the Warlord do some amazing things—and I have seen them with my own eyes.”
For the rest of the night they spoke of John Carter and the Princess Valla, they wanted to know all about the new Jeddara. Tarrid told them all of the best things he could recall, leaving out the childish temper tantrums and other not so impressive memories he had of palace life in Helium.
The night passed slowly, and Tarrid rested in the pits. With the guards and torches he didn't need to worry about the large rats that lived in the damp chambers and halls. In time he fell asleep. Praying a silent prayer for the ancestors to watch over Valla this night.
Tarrid, The Green Man of Barsoom
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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