Tarrid, The Green Man of BarsoomA sharp kick work the Green Man up. He opened his eyes, several had joined the guards now, one had a metal bowl of foods. It seemed better fare than he had enjoyed before. They unchained one arm so he could eat.
Chapters IX and X
IX. THE WEDDING GAMES
“The Jeddak wants you fit for the games,” said the leader of the guards, “We have food from the table of the wedding feast. You eat well Green Man.”
“Thank you,” he said grabbing wads of food and pushing it into his mouth.
“We have a harness for you,” said one, holding out a set of straps with ornaments and empty sheaths for weapons. “We can't have you entering the games nude?”
“What of weapons?” asked Tarrid.
“They will be given to you in the arena.” said the guard.
“We Tharks have a saying,” informed the green man, “'Give a Thark his head and one good arm, and a sword, and he will prevail.”
The guards laughed as they unlocked the padlocks and placed chains on him. He did not fight them. Tarrid knew he must save his strength for the contests to come.
“Remember, wager your coins on me!” said the green man, “You will make a fortune on this game.” They put the harness on him. It was ornate by the standards of Thark, even those of Helium. But it was rather plain in Zor.
When, they reached the courtyard he was almost blinded by the bright sun of a new day. They took him in a wheeled Iron cage, pulled by two Thoats, though the town to the stadium as Zorians, women and children, looked and studied the big man. It was as if they had never seen a green man before. He smiled at them and waved trying not to be fierce. The, stadium was huge and ancient, moss covered many of the stone walls where crumpling statures looked down at the people below. Tarrid had little doubt that most of the population could be held in the structure to watch the games. Now he longed to just catch a glance at Valla, would she still attend or did she come to some mishaps at the murderous hands of the Jeddak? The wheeled cage was sent down a ramp to the basements below the structure, where cells of men and cages of beasts were housed. They left him in the wagon, fearful he might try to escape. He was given a jug of water and left to listen as the preparations were made for the games.
In time the music started as the seats were filled. The music was light, almost happy tunes that belied the bloody entertainment that was coming. Tarrid wished he could see what was happening but only small slit-like windows gave dim light to the basement. One of the games men, large brutish fellows, who watched after the beasts, was beating the animal cages and he looking at Tarrid as if he was one of their creatures. As he was just quietly sitting in his cage, they left him alone. The big man stood on a bench and looked out the small window.
“Looks like we have a full house,” he said to his helper. “I see few seats empty.”
“This is perhaps the best show in a decade,” answered the young game keeper.
“Look, I see the Jeddak is entering his box,” said the watcher at the window.
“Does he have the new Jeddara with him?” asked the younger assistant. Tarrid listened but pretended to not be interested.
“Yes, and the rumors are true. She is shackled with gold chains!” exclaimed the brute.
“That's not right,” answered the helper. “Why would the ruler do such a thing?”
“Because Valla of Helium spoke the truth,” answered the Thark.
“Our green man speaks,” said the one at the window. “How do you know this fact?”
“I was there, I was a guard for the princess,” he answered. “She told him she did not wish to marry him, so he ordered her chained for life.”
“She must learn, like all in Zor, that the Jeddak doesn't want to hear the truth,” added the young helper in a low whisper.
“Her chains are visible,” said Tarrid, “the one's you wear are just as tight, but they are invisible; they are chains of fear.”
“Be silent!” said the man at the window. “The ruler's secret police might hear you!”
“And what can they do to me?” asked Tarrid, “sentence me to the games?”
At that both of the games men laughed.
Just then a horn sounded and the man on the bench looked out.
“Be quiet, the Jeddak is about to speak,” he said, “Maybe he will permit the new Jeddara to say something?”
“People of Zor!” came the voice of the ruler, “Welcome you to the Wedding Games of your Jeddak. We celebrate the wedding of your leader and the beautiful Valla of Helium. May this union help to make Zor a primary power in this sector of Barsoom.”
At that the stadium exploded in cheers.
“And now, I will let your new Jeddara greet you, her adopted people.”
There was more cheering. This was followed by groans and hisses.
“She is lifting her hands, all can see her chains now. The people don't like it.” explained the Gamekeeper who was watching.
“My fellow subjects of Zor,” started the musical voice of Valla, “ I stand before you to vow that I will do all in my power as Jeddara to rule wisely and justly. My father John Carter, the Warlord of Barsoom, taught me well. I will use his sage instruction to help govern my new land.”
“Especially her accuracy with a radium pistol,” whispered Tarrid.
“What do you mean green man?” asked the younger gamekeeper.
“What she aims at—she hits,” explained the Thark. The young lad just smiled.
“Now let the games begin!” bellowed Shalla Tanni, and the horns sounded calling the games men to work. First it was beast vs, beast. It would be some time before Tarrid would be presented to the mob. He rested, thinking of all the many battles he had fought over the years. If he must die, he preferred it to be death with a sword in his hands. Who knows? Maybe Kortis was right and he would make it to Sasoom? It would be good to see that crazy Thern again.
The next event was men vs. beasts-- He noticed savage ten -legged Banths driven out into the stadium, and warriors went in after them. He recognized six were the guards that first locked him in the pits. He watched coldly as they went off to face the fierce, starved, Barsoomian lions. Then the cheers and yells of the crowd mixed with the loud roars of the Banths. None of the animals returned, and only three warriors. Tarrid recognized these were his former jailers. All the others were taken out another exit, reserved for the dead.
Tarrid noticed that twelve guards and an equal number of gamekeepers came and surrounded his cage. All were armed, many had clubs and radium pistols.
“Worry not,” he told them, “I will not fight you. You are not my enemy, it is your Jeddak who holds you in this thrall, a much as he does Valla of Helium.” Tarrid noticed a few of them relaxed with these words. They opened the cage door and gestured for him to come out, pointing to a door that lead out to the arena.
“You will be given your weapon out there, before the battle,” said one of the guards.
Tarrid slowly got out of the cage and stretched. Then he slowly walked to the doorway and stepped into the sun. The guards quickly closed and locked the door behind him. He looked over the stands until he saw the royal box. It was painted in the gaudy colors of Zor. He saw the grinning Jeddak, and next to him, Valla, her hands to her lips, her eyes wide as she watched him. He wished he could speak to her but, he knew his sword must do his talking.
“This is the green man who has been causing such a fuss in Zor.” shouted Shalla Tanni. “By my count he has killed some 27 men in his stay in Zor.”
“You are wrong, Jeddak,” yelled the green man, “by my count it was 29.”
“Let the record be amended.” answered the ruler. “Do you have any last words for us before I start this section of the games?”
“Yes,” he said, “People of Zor, look upon the chains of your Jeddara. Know you the chain your wear are heavier. Her chains are visible, yours invisible. They are chains of fear. Strike them away from your hearts!”
The crowd mumbled--- until one shouted: “Brave words from a dead man!”
“Let the games start!” shouted the ruler and the music drown out what ever comments might have been said.
The three ex-guards who survived the battle with the Martian Lions marched into the arena. Each were armed with a long sword, short sword and dagger. They drew their weapons as they approached the big green man.
“My weapons,” asked Tarrid, “How am I to fight?”
The Jeddak gave a sign with his hand and a guard below the box tossed something into the dust in front of the Thark. It was a single dagger.
There was a moan from the assembled people at the unfairness of this.
“You would have be battle three armed with just a dagger?” Tarrid yelled at the smiling ruler. He saw that Valla had covered her eyes.
Barsoom has rules about fighting. If a foe draws a long sword, one can meet him with a similar weapon. But, in an unfair contest the rules of combat were set aside.
Tarrid did something unexpected, he took off his harness, he would use the heavy straps and metals as a second weapon. He picked up the dagger and used a hand to secure a handful of loose dust.
Two of his enemies drew their short sword as well their long swords and maneuvered to approach the green man from different directions. The third man held back, shaking his head, he sheathed his sword and drew his dagger. This caused the crowd to clap at his honorable choice of weapons.
Tarrid saluted the man with the dagger and turned to face the others. He leaped at one tossing the dust into his face and hitting him with his harness. He then turned to the other, blocking a vicious thrust with the dagger. He used the harness to wrap around this man's head and came in close to thrust the dagger into his chest. He used the dying man as a shield as the other guard attacked. Tarrid seized the fallen one's long sword and parried the thrust in a classic example of fencing. Some in the arena clapped at this action. Using his two swords the Zorian launched into a sweeping attack, each blade slicing the air. The third guard only watched, but he did sheath his dagger and drew his long sword now that the green man was so armed.
The two fought a classic sword duel, the Zorian was good, fighting out of desperation and hate, but Tarrid was better. He held him back, letting him tire, keeping an eye on the other guard who didn't engage, only watching. If this was some stratagem or simply cowardice the Thark didn't know.
“You fight like a Zodangan,” mocked Tarrid.
“My teacher was from Zodanga,” answered his opponent.
“My teacher was John Carter,” replied the green man. “Here is a little trick we use in Thark.”
At that he attacked, caught the Zorian's short sword on his edge and hilt and flipped it out of his hand. Desperate, the former Jeddak's guard lunged at the torso of the huge green man. It was a move, Tarrid expected, and sent his long sword into the chest of the man, dropping him to the dust of the arena, dead. At that Tarrid faced the third and last opponent. He picked up the fallen short sword so now he had two swords. The surviving Zorian, drew his short sword as well. Tarrid was happy now, there was nothing he liked better than a fight, and now the odds were even.
“Nice trick, green one,” said the Zorian. “But, I trust I have a few even John Carter has not seen.”
“Show me your best, Zorian!” mocked Tarrid as he was ready for anything. His enemy crouched down and then sprang up, both swords cutting the air and causing Tarrid to fall back on the defensive. The crowd was a buzz as the two dueled. The last Zorian was an excellent swordsman, far better than the two he faced before.
“You have learned your lessons well,” admitted the Thark as they parried and fenced across the arena as every eye was on the two. The people of Zor were entertained as they had not been in decades. Tarrid saw everyone was on the edge of their seats, even the Jeddak and Valla. Tarrid saw this new opponent was a great fencer. He admired his style. Still, once he learned his technique , Tarrid planned his attacks well, switching from defense to offense. This was the best workout he had experienced since the day he fenced with John Carter himself.
“Here is a trick they never learned in Zodanga,” the green man said as he launched a brutal attack, caught the short sword with his long sword and his opponent's long sword with his short sword. There was a swirl of blades in the sunlight, and both weapons flew from the surprised Zoran's hands and he stood, unarmed before Tarrid.
“Slay him, Green Man!” yelled Shalla Tanni.
“No!” cried Valla, “he is an honorable man.”
“As you wish, Jeddara,” answered Tarrid who walked to where the Zorian's long sword rested in the dust. He hooked the hilt with his point and tossed it back to his opponent, as the audience clapped at his chivalrous act . He then cast aside his short sword so they were evenly marched again. They came on guard, smiling at one another.
“Tulan Junni,” yelled down the Jeddak, “Kill the green barbarian and I shall make you a noble and head of the guards once again!”
“As you wish, highness.” answered the man as he launched a swift and deadly attack that almost caught Tarrid off guard, forcing him back.
“A good move, Tulan,” said the green Thark. “But not good enough.” He then launched an attack he had seen John Carter use once, leaping up and hacking with powerful strokes that took advantage of the green man's large size. He now forced the Zorian to step backwards. Tarrid's sword nicked the former royal guard on the shoulder, as the crowd gasped. Their agile footwork kicked up clouds of dust that deposited a think layer of white powered over both combatants. The guard was now fighting for his life, he slashed at Tarrid's feel cutting his ankle. In pulling back, Tarrid slipped and fell, hitting the dirt as Tulan Junni, looked over him, both hands on the hilt of his long sword, ready to administer the death blow. But, for a second the Zorian paused.
“Kill him!” ordered the Jeddak.
The pause gave Tarrid just the opportunity to swing his long sword up, scattering dust, and plunge the point into the man's neck! The death blow never came, and the Zorian fell dead. Tarrid stood up, and saluted the fallen enemy, as the crowd clapped at the outcome of a duel the like of which they had never seen before.
Slaves came out and took the bodies away, dragging them by their heels to a doorway on the other side of the stadium.
One slave came up to Tarrid, standing respectfully before him.
“May we have the swords back?” He asked.
“Come and take them from me if you think you can.” answered the green man.
The slave smiled and retreated. Tarrid now turned to the royal box.
“Have you no more brave men in Zor?” he cried out loud enough for all to hear. “If you wish you can come down and face my sword yourself, Jeddak?”
“We have other challenges for you,” answered the ruler. Tarrid noticed Valla was smiling, something he had not seen in a while. This made his heart skip a beat.
A horn sounded, and a door opened. Tarrid faced this new menace with both swords ready.
Into the arena a large banth slowly, walked into the dust filled Stadium. It was one of the largest Tarrid had ever seen. He guessed it was starved and abused to hate men, red or green. The crowd yelled out to free the Green Man. But the calls were left unanswered and the big cat slowly advanced on Tarrid. The animal could smell Tarrid's blood from the wound on his ankle. He knew that would just drive the feline into a frenzy of action. Unlike, men, banths were unpredictable and quick. It opened its great maw, filled with sharp teeth, smelling the blood, it gave a roar that sent chills into the green man and everyone in the arena. The creatures yellow eyes glanced this way and that, smelling the blood from other matches. Maybe this my distract the banth, thought Tarrid. He had faced them before, but never one so large.
“One hundred Ovals on the green man,” someone yelled in the audience.
“Two hundred on the Banth!” yelled another. They were betting on who would win.
Tarrid looked up, Valla had her hands over her eyes, not wishing to see Tarrid come to a bad end under the claws and teeth of the Martian Lion. He looked back at the advancing beast.
He jumped to one side, and let out a scream that simulated the call of the Banth, then he leaped to the other, this confused the animal, and it stepped backwards, not knowing what to expect from the strange green man. Then, it reared up on its hind legs. Tarrid had seen banths, when confused, take this stance. He was ready for it! He jumped forward, both swords extended, dodging a flashing paw, and thrust both blades into the creatures exposed chest. The enraged feline swatted away the attacker with the back of a paw and fell forward, The two swords, embedded in the chest were still there, when it hit the floor of the arena
it drove the weapons deeper into its vitals till the long sword's point struck the heart. The banth rolled over, dead, as the crowd roared with applause.
Tarrid who was tossed to the dust, was scratched on one arm, he stood up and waved to the assembled subjects. The actions had taken the two to the side of the stadium, where the wooden door was located that was used to take away the dead. As Tarrid watched, the door opened. He expected a team of slaves to rush out and pull the banth away. Instead there was a single Thern, wearing the white robes of an acolyte.
Tarrid smiled as he recognized the face of Kortis! He saw his friend gesture for Tarrid to follow him. Before he tried for an escape, he turned to the people.
“Are there no more brave men in Zor?” he called out loudly. “If none will come out to fight me, I must seek them for myself!” He saluted the Princess and dashed for the open gate!
“Shoot him down!” ordered the Jeddak! “Don't let him escapee!”
“No!” cried Valla, as many in the stadium echoed this. A few pistol shot hit the dust near him but before they could be properly aimed, he ducked though the low door and closed the panel behind him.
In the dim light he saw Kortis.
“This way, my green friend,” he said taking the Thark down a maze of corridors and tunnels.
He seemed to know exactly where he was going. Even Tarrid was impressed with the many corridors within the arena.
“So how was Sasoom?” Tarrid asked.
“It will be beautiful, but as you can see I have yet to make the journey,” he explained. “Before the battleship opened fire on the wireless office a Thern opened a trapdoor, and had me escape though a hidden passage. As soon as I went into the passageway the building was destroyed. I wanted to comeback for you, but the trap door was blocked with debris. I was taken away and met with members of the Seventh Cycle who are part of the Thern temple, who operate in secret, right under the nose of the Holy Hekkador.”
“When they visited me in the pits,” said Tarrid, “they speculated that the Zorian temple had been infiltrated by members of the Seventh Cycle.”
“They were right.” answered Kortis.
“Where are we going?” asked the Thark.
“To a safe place, an ancient crypt, few know of, where we can treat your wounds and get you something to wear,” answered the Thern. “ I can guess you are hungry after the combat in the ring.”
“I am more thirsty,” added Tarrid.
“I have used the Thern network to get a message to Valley Dor.” continued Kortis. “A message will reach John Carter in time. But, it may well take a while before it is in his hands.”
“Why is that?” asked the green man.
“Its going by thoat.” answered the Thern. “We must leave the city as soon as we can, they will turn every building upside down to find you. As for me—they still believe me dead.”
“Can you get a message to Princess Valla?” asked Tarrid.
“It can be done, but its very dangerous,” replied the Thern. “She handled herself well today in the arena. I liked your speech you gave before the combat also. You are a natural orator.”
“As a rule, Tharks prefer to let our swords do our talking.”
“Yours spoke volumes this afternoon.” said the Thern as they followed an ancient stone lined corridor. The stone was of an ancient style and entered into another long hall, where crumbling statues stood eyeless, watching from carved niches, The way turned and ended at an ornate door that was also ancient, set with carvings and symbols of some long forgotten language. Kortis produced an iron key and with much noise, opened the door and stepped in. His radium torch illuminated stacked stone caskets.
“Here we can rest for a time. I have some salve for your wounds, The banth got you good.”
Sitting in an ornate casket the Thern administered the healing substance, after cleaning away the dust. From a small kit he bandaged the green man's ankle as well.
“Some in the order didn't want me to attempt to save you,” the Thern explained, “Until I informed them you were a new convert. They never imagined a green man might accept the truth of the Seventh Cycle. But, as you are a brother, a rather large green brother, we had to do all in our power to rescue you.”
“I thank you.” answered Tarrid with a nod of the head. “I was looking forward to Virginia.”
“All in due time,” answered the Thern Priest. “ We have resolved to do all in our power to inform John Carter of the fate of his daughter,” continued the Thern.
“His wrath will be beyond comprehension,” speculated the Thark.
“You said you have a message for princess Valla?” asked Kortis as he produced paper and a writing tool. “What is the message -- Remember, it must be short.”
“Have hope. I shall seek your father. I will tell him of your love for your parents. It has been an honor to serve you. Tarrid.”
“Good,” said the Thern as he folded the sheet. “This will be slipped into the palace and gotten to Valla though a slave girl. She is also a secret member of the order.”
In a box located in the sepulcher, Kortis produced a bottle and a square shaped rations of pressed dried meats and sweets. He also produced a simple harness of the type he wore when he first came away with Valla from Helium.
First, the green man seized the bottle and drank. It was rich and stimulating, it quenched his parched throat.
“Rest, Tarrid of Thark,” said the Thern. “There is a blanket, I must secure all I can for our journey. I will see if there is a reply to your message as well. We can do nothing until dark.”
“I can use a rest.” the laconic green man said as he leaned back on the coffin. Kortis left one radium torch and took out another. With a good by he left, closing the door behind him.
Tarrid leaned back and pulled up the blanket in moments he was fast asleep.
Tarrid didn't wake up until Kortis touched him.
X. ESCAPE FROM ZOR
“How long have I been asleep?” he asked. Stretching.
“Almost a full day,” answered the Thern, there were two other with him. “I let you sleep knowing you were exhausted from your ordeal and loss of blood. But we must be ready for our trip out of Zor.”
“Where are we heading?” asked the green man as he sipped from the bottle and chewed on his rations.
There is a village with a Seventh Cycle temple a hundred haads from Zor. There we can contact Valley Dor and have a flyer pick us up—then on to Helium.”
“Any word from Valla?” he asked concerned for the princess.
“Sadly, none of it good,” answered the Thern, his two friends looked away as well. “Because of her speech at the arena, and your actions as well, she was flogged again.”
“Shalla Tanni, had her hung from her wrists and lashed,” added one of the tearful Therns.
Tarrid found tears coming to his eyes at the thought she was beaten for his actions.
“Twenty strokes, the slave girl said, she passed out from the pain.” continued Kortis. “The sooner we contact John Carter—the sooner her bondage will end.”
Tarrid nodded in agreement. In his heart he wished he could face the Zorian Jeddak with a sword and end Valla's marriage with one stroke.
“And the bondage of all Zor as well.” added the Thark.
With Tarrid still chewing, they lead him out of the ancient tomb and down another long passage that ended in a semi underground stable. Here Thoats were waiting, with packs.
They even had one of the large Thoats used by the Green Tribes. The Zorians used them as draft animals to pull carts and other machinery. Tarrid was glad for this but found his animal was a bit too domesticated to his liking, he preferred his thoats to be on the wild side.
They lead there animals though a large tunnel that lead under a the city wall and ended at a stable just outside the walls where a small cluster of building stood, they were unregulated businesses that catered to the caravans that carried goods into Zor from the north and south.
Tarrid assumed much of what the tunnel was for was smuggling. They now mounted their beasts and, with Kortis leading they followed a road leading away from the city. There were few out and Tarrid prayed to his ancestors that no guards patrolled this sector as his large size was a dead give away.
“We shall be safe in an hour”, commented the Thern next to him. “The guards are paid to look the other way for traffic on this thoroughfare.”
“I hope you are right,” added the green man. The few people out at this time of night always looked the other way as they passed by, but, with the rewards that the Jeddak must be offering, he wondered how long it would be before their would be Zorians following them.
Once out of sight of the walls and towers of the city, they started to travel faster, Now Tarrid was glad for his large animal and the road rolled under him. He was in front now, with Kortis behind him and the others. They were traveling when the Barsoomian sun came up, still following the roadway. They didn't rest until mid-day, then it was in a small grove of trees where an ancient well provided some water.
“How long do you think it will be before our escape is discovered?” asked Tarrid.
“I believe the answer is to be seen in the sky to the south,” he said pointing upward.
Sure enough a flyer was now following the road at a high rate of speed, looking for them. The trees provided enough concealment and the ship flew on.
“Did you see the flyer?” asked Kortis. “they used my own ship! They didn't even bother to re-paint it!”
The Thark had noticed the gold ship with the seven in the circle.
“I would guess its the best flyer they have, the swiftest for sure,” answered Tarrid.
“I would guess it is,” answered the Thern. “Few navies on Barsoom have such a ship. We shall rest here until nightfall, then continue.”
They kept out of sight, and disguised the party as best as they could. It as a fortunate thing for the gold flyer flew over two more times.
“It didn't take Shalla Tanni long to discover what road we took,” commented Tarrid. “If I know my man, he will have riders in force coming after us soon.”
“I believe you are right my green brother,” commented Kortis. “We will try to cover as much ground as possible by night and try for a place to hide from flying ships before dawn.”
“I believe it better be a place we can defend from attack as well.” added the Thark.
“ I know just the place,” added one of the older Therns. “I made the journey along this road many times with caravans.”
Both Tarrid and Kortis looked at him, not asking what he was transporting guessing it was things that were illegal.
“It was before I discovered the truth of the Seventh Cycle,” he added with a smile.
Kortis nodded his head. They feasted on the foods they brought and as the sun dipped under the horizon, they mounted their beasts and took off down the road at a full gallop.
As the two moons arched though the clear sky they progressed on, The padded feet of the Thoats making little sound upon the dirt roadway. As they traveled, Tarrid thought of Valla. If only he had been quicker to warn her about Warren Country maybe the whole thing could have been avoided, if he had been a better guard, they might be in the Warlords palace yelling about dresses and dances rather than trying to secure help to rescue the Princess.
Then, he had to remember Valla was a married woman now. A Jeddara even. She had taken the vows of marriage to save his life. She refused rescue to save the lives of her servant girls and others. She had paid for the sins of her youth and recklessness many times over, suffering awful beatings, imprisoned and being chained. She had grown up a great deal in a short space of time. Still, he must always remember she was the daughter of John Carter. She was a strong woman and she would survive this ordeal.
He smiled when he thought of what the Warlord would do! There would be fierce fighting coming and that he longed to experience. The City of Zor was no Zodangan Empire, she would be no match for the might of Helium and her many allies, both green and red. Still he knew that Shalla Tanni was no fool. He might be cruel, a tyrant despot, but he was not suicidal. He must have a plan ready when the Helimetic fleet showed up at his gates. He might hold Valla hostage or perhaps seek an alliance with John Carter. He didn't know the Warlord the way Tarrid did. The punishment for striking a Princess of the royal house was death. The Jeddak better not let a Radium pistol slip into Valla's hands, he thought.
The moons were setting when the sky turned to gold. They made their way off the road to an old stone structure. It looked ancient but it was large enough for the animals and the party. It was on a low rise and would be easy to defend. It even had a squat tower at one end where they could keep watch on the road. Tarrid wondered if it had a well for water. They made there way up the road and into the dark structure, into what was once a great hall. In the center of the room, a well stood out with ropes and buckets. Clearly it was well used by travelers. That could be both good and badges others would know the location and might sell the information to the Zorian troops. Once inside, they closed the ancient wooden doors, The Therns dismounted and started procuring water for the thoats.
“A lookout should be sent to the tower,” advised Tarrid. Kortis sent a Thern to the tower to keep a look out for all traffic on the road and any aircraft that might still be looking for them.
“We covered a great deal of space,” added the Thern, “But there will be two more nights before we reach the temple and real safety. This must be like old times to a green Thark.”
“I would always prefer a thoat to the swiftest flyer,” answered Tarrid. The green man took down his pack and brought out some of the square rations. He only wished it was the simple fare of the Tharks rather than the spicy rations loved by the Zorians. The food was filling but gave him stomach pains.
“Let us rest,” commented the leader of the Therns, “we should rest while we can.” They relaxed and there was a prayer to Dejah Thoris, the re-incarnated Issus, and John Carter before they feasted and rested. Each would take a turn in the watch tower all during the day.
Tarrid dreamed of his youth in the land of the Tharks, his first war parties into Warren lands. But always in his dreams was the vision of Valla, in her wedding dress, chained, asking for him. The dreams woke him, they disturbed him a great deal.
“You were speaking Valla's name in your sleep,” asked Kortis. “You were thrashing about as if in pain.”
“I am worried for her,” answered Tarrid, truthfully.
“I do not think Shalla Tanni would harm her,” answered the Thern. “She is his Dwar in the great game of Jetan he will soon be playing with John Carter.”
Tarrid never liked Barsoomian Chess, Jetan, but he could see the analogy was quite right.
“Do you think he will hold Valla as a hostage?” asked the green man.
“I don't think he will need to,” mused Kortis, “I know how Valla is, unlike the Jeddak, she is a woman motivated by honor, as she was taught by her father. She will hold too her wedding vows even if she hates her lout of a husband. The scared vows are more binding than any chains. Remember, her speech in the arena, she is the Jeddara of Zor and will serve her people. Beatings or no, she is his wife until death.”
“I find it hard to accept,” added Tarrid, but he knew in his heart Kortis was right.
“I understand,” commented the Thern. “With a forced marriage the vows should be void.”
“The sooner we reach Helium the better!” said the green man.
It was his time to take the station and the tower as watchman. So Tarrid relieved the Thern on duty there.
“The flyer flew over once in the last hour,” he reported. “ and I saw two wagons heading towards Zon and a party of four mounted men riding quickly the other direction. I believe they might be scouts and more will be on the way.”
“We may be forced to leave the road and try our luck cross country,” commented the Thark. “Now, go and give your report to Kortis, he must know these developments.”
The man left Torrid with his thoughts as he watched the road. He made sure he was far from the window, in the shadows so his large form could not be seen. He looked over the landscape, the stone building could be defended but with just four people they could not hold it for long against a determined foe.
He thought about what Kortis said, he knew Valla well and knew she was an honorable women. He was a witness to her marriage, even beaten and humiliated with chains, she performed the rights. What was it she said? Sometimes it is harder to live than die. Being Jeddara of Zor was not an easy task. Thinking of such things only made him enraged.
He saw a cloud of dust on the roadway coming from Zor. It grew and grew as it came closer until it became a large party of warriors. He counted well over a hundred men mounted on Thoats, many armed with long Radium rifles. They passed by on the road heading north. Tarrid thought that they were safe until he saw a single warrior coming back, and taking the road to the building! A scout for sure, sent to make sure the building wasn't being used as a place of concealment. Tarrid rushed down the ramps to the Great Hall.
“A scout is coming!” he warmed in a whisper, “He is part of a large mounted war party out from Zor.”
The other three got up, each one seizing a radium pistol. One looked though the cracks in the ancient gate. They could see the single rider moving closer now. Tarrid saw he wore the ornate harness of a palace guard.
One of the Therns aimed his pistol to drop the man, but Kortis stopped him.
“Lets see what the man does,” he told him, “If we must, we can take him at our leisure.”
The man drew near.
“Kaor! Brothers of the Seventh Cycle, You have nothing to fear from Lutan Gortis,” he said.
“I know him,” said one of the Therns, “He's a Brother.”
“What is the watchword?” yelled Kortis to the new comer who kept approaching slowly but without drawing a weapon.
“John Carter!” he replied and the Therns opened the gate and welcomed him.
The rider bowed to Kortis.
“What is happening in Zor?” asked one of the Therns.
“Riders have been sent down all the roads leaving the city,” answered Lutan Gortis,
“The Jeddak is convinced you are trying for the nearest temple and has focused on this road.”
“I expected as much.” answered Kortis, “I sent a rider ahead of us to warn the Seventh Cycle and have them ready for us. He should have reached the Temple by now.”
“Of that I do not know, but, I can tell you the whole city is in an uproar. There have been riots and an outpouring of support for the Jeddara. Many openly demand she be freed. Paintings of our large green brother have cropped up all over. He has become a hero of sorts among the youths of the city. With signs scrawled on walls reading: “The only great man in Zor is Green”.
This caused Tarrid to smile. He thought that the guards that bet on him must be rich men now. They may even believe he could foretell the future.
“We have let it be known that he is a member of the Seventh Cycle as well.” added the newcomer. “Shalla Tanni is offering ten thousand Ovals for the green man, dead or alive.”
“It seems you have left quite an impression on the good people of Zor.” commented Kortis to the Thark.
“I must return to the troops—to tell them there is no one here,” said the newcomer.
“Before you go,” asked Tarrid, “is there any word from Valla, I mean, the Jeddara?”
“I have heard she is well, she was seen in the thrown room, seated beside the Jeddak,” added the Zorian, “She didn't speak but many were encouraged by her presence.”
The warrior left, remounted his thoat and road off to rejoin the troops. The Therns gave him a blessing as he left at a full gallop.
“For a group without active membership, the Seventh Cycle seems to be active in Zor.” commented Tarrid.
“The truth of John Carter's divinity can not be hidden,” said one of the Therns.
When the sun set they continued, now keeping off the road but using it to continue their trek to the distant Thern Temple. They saw activity on the road but no large forces. The stars and moons guided them all though the night. Tarrid studied the blue glowing spot that was Sasoom. He wondered what sort of world spawned John Carter? He realized it must be a warlike place for such as he to have lived there. He had heard that John Carter had risen to the rank of “Captain” and he wondered why it wasn't higher?
They found themselves in a grove at sunup and set up a camp in the trees. They disguised the encampment as best they could so their presence couldn't be detected from the air. Kortis checked Tarrid's wounds.
“You will have some nasty scars from your encounter with the Banth,” commented the Thern.
“More stories to tell when I return to Thark,” Tarrid replied, dryly.
“One more day and night and we will be in the temple,” commented one of the Therns. “The place is cut into a cliff, built many years ago for the Old Tenth Cycle, abandoned, then restored by the Seventh Cycle. It has a statue of Issus.... let me show you.”
He pulled out a metal and it opened showing an image. It was of a woman, dressed in the trappings of the Goddess of Life. Tarrid studied it.
“Well, Call be a Calot, if the statue doesn't look like Dejah Thoris herself!” he said.
“That was carved many thousands of years ago! The ancients knew!” said the Thern as he returned the medal to his harness. They feasted on the last of their rations and drink and rested. The whole party was about to go to sleep when they heard engines above them. All looked up not knowing what to expect. The sounds were nothing like the nearly silent ships of Helium. When they came into the night's sky and in the light of the lesser moon they saw they were painted with the devise of Zor. They counted nine ships. They included the gold painted Thern ship and the overaged outlaw craft, now repainted in the colors of Zor. She was making most of the noise.
“Sounds like the one ship needs an overhaul,” commented Tarrid. “Helium would never send out a ship in that condition.”
“Yes, but where are they going?” asked Kortis.
“The Thern Temple is my guess,” said one of the concerned Priests.
It took several minutes for the flotilla to fly over.
The flotilla did not fly back over them until it was nearly sunset, they were heading back towards Zor. Tarrid counted them, there were none missing, but he could see there was some sight damage to two of the ships, so a battle had been fought. The older ship was still making noise as it limped along.
“I believe many of our brothers have taken the last journey to Sasoom,” said Kortis as he shook his head. Tarrid nodded his head, in agreement.
“The Temple had tunnels that are carved deep into the rock,” added one, “I am sure there are survivors of the attack.”
“Shalla Tanni is taking no chances in keeping us from alerting John Carter,” commented the green Thark.
They feasted on the last of their rations and as the sun set, they mounted up, resolved to reach the temple, or what was left of it by sun up. The party was grim faced as they proceeded along parallel to the road, each one in his own thoughts. Their breaks were short and they pushed their animals to the brink to reach their destination. It was in a set of mountains that jutted out of the plain—solid rock. As the sky turned gold they could see a stain of black smoke rising into the sky. They didn't stop, the last few haads flew under them as they went to the site of what had once been one of the most magnificent temples on all Barsoom.
Sill in a ruined state it was impressive. Tarrid had seen some fantastic structures in the long abandoned cities used by the Tharks but this was beyond anything he had seen before with long pillars, carved statures of grotesque creatures and geometrical designs. Much was toppled with fires still burning. He didn't see the statue if Issus. As soon as they came up, Therns rushed out to them, several with bandages.
“They hit us yesterday,” said one of the priests as he bowed quickly and addressed Kortis.
“We saw them coming your way,” added the man, “nine ships.”
“We were ready but, seeing a ship in the colors of the seventh cycle, he held our fire thinking it might be you, holy one,” answered the bandaged Thern, who headed the temple.
“I feared they might use my captured ship as a ruse.” whispered Kortis. “I saw damage to the Zorian ships. You were worthy of the rewards of Sasoom.”
“Twenty made the long pilgrimage to Virginia yesterday,” the Thern said. “ We are thirty-one survivors.”
“What of the messenger I sent?” asked Kortis.
“We had a flyer. He and a pilot flew on to Valley Dor before the attack. Word has it that John Carter is in the Holy Valley—your message will get to him and if he his not there, it will be sent by wireless to Helium.”
“Blessings upon you!” said Kortis has he put his hand on the man's shoulder. “Your quick thinking may have saved his daughter's life. There is nothing more we can do here. Let us take the wounded back to Zor and see what we can accomplish until John Carter arrives.”
“Was the great statue of Issus damaged?” asked Tarrid, wanting to see the image for himself.
“By the Grace of her divinity, it survived,” the Thern said. “You may give your worship to her before we head for Zor, we have animals ready and we are packed.”
They walked up the path, though the fallen pillars, though a huge door cut into the stone. About fifty yards in, the tunnel opened into a large domed chamber—a single round whole at the top permitted light to enter, then, in the center was the statue, wearing flowing robes, the image of Dejah Thoris! Tarrid was amazed by the likeness. The others were on their faces in worship. After a time he emulated them. He rested there, wondering, could Dejah Thoris really be the incarnated Issus? Then he remembered the verbal fights in the palace –they were anything but goddess like. Still, the stature did resemble her in many ways. They feasted that day and packed the supplies for their journey back to Zor. With many of the priests wounded they would be forced to travel slow. Still, it would be good to be closer to Valla and perhaps able to render aid to her in some way.
“I hope Shalla Tanni believes we are dead,” commented Kortis, “that will make the trip back a bit safer.”
“It will be good to get back to Zor, I am sure you can get proper medical help for your injured priests,” said the green man.
“We have many friends in the capital, even those who do not believe as we do, are sympathetic to our cause. I think many support the Jeddara as well, even you have followers who admired your uneven fight in the arena,” remarked Kortis. “Still we must be wary as we travel. We should limit ourselves to travel by night.”
“A wise idea,” agreed Tarrid, “I for one will only be happy when I see the warships of Helium floating over Zor.”
The Thern leader nodded his head in agreement.
At sunset the party moved on, most of the Thern Priests wore bandages, a few were conveyed in stretchers, a thoat in front and behind. The party moved slowly as the two moons crossed a clear sky. Tarrid was deep in thought as they plodded along. What could he do, himself, to save Valla? He saw only one way, he must assassinate Shalla Tanni—or kill him in a legal duel. He must make happen the prophecy he spoke to the ruler that the Jeddara would be his widow.
They found a grave near a mountain and settled in, making the wounded as comfortable as possible. Near by was a large cave, from it issued the sound of running water. It was another tributary of Iss, that went to Valley Dor. It reminded Tarrid of the time he and Valla used the river to escape.
“We could use the sacred river to reach Dor,” he said to Kortis.
“I fear many of our people are too badly hurt to make the journey,” the Thern answered.
“I long to taste the fish of Iss once again,” commented Tarrid.
“You ate the sacred fish of Iss!” exclaimed Kortis. “It is strictly forbidden.”
“Valla and I were starving...and it was before I saw the truth of John Carter.”
“Well, Princess Valla, being the daughter of John Carter, is acceptable,” answered the Thern. “And as you were ignorant of the truth, and serving her highness, you are forgiven. I have never tasted the silverfish. Tell me, how did it taste?”
“They were the tastiest thing I had ever eaten,” commented the green man, “Truly food for the gods.”
“I thought as much,” commented the frowning Thern priest.
The rested that night drinking from the underground river. Sadly, one of the wounded Therns died and was given a funeral. His body was wrapped and placed in a canoe and sent down the river to Valley Dor. Tarrid knew from the wounds the priests had suffered, he would not be the last to die on the trip. At least he was on his way to Sasoom now and the peace of Virginia.
It took two nights for the party to reach the ancient stone building, they had used before. It was large enough to accommodate the whole group and their animals. A watchman was placed in the tower and they ate and rested. Two more priests, badly injured, lapsed into a coma. There was little to do for them save prayer.
It was at mid day that the lookout came running down the ramps yelling that a large war party was coming down the road towards the structures.
“I count over two hundred mounted warriors,” he added.
Kortis had everyone hide as the party drew near.
“Maybe they will pass us by?” commented Tarrid knowing that the small band was in no shape for battle.
“Perhaps, perhaps,” commented Kortis. All were watching, waiting to see if the group would go on down the road or turn and head towards the ancient structures. Sadly, they didn't even need to stop, they went directly to the buildings without pausing. They knew where they were going. Now all could see the metal of the Zorian Guard on their harness, they could see some of the warriors unslinging their long radium rifles, ready for combat.
“John Carter, be with us,” commented one of the priests, as those who were not badly injured took places at the windows drawing radium pistols.
“Looks like we may get to see Sasoom this day.” commented Kortis.
“I have a radium rifle I took from the temple,” commented Tarrid, “I will take a station in the tower and make them pay for their rash attack! John Carter be with you all my brothers.”
He ran up the ramp to the low tower and keeping out of sight, he readied his weapon. He preferred a long sword, but sometimes things demanded a good rifle. He aimed at one of the leaders as the force stopped before the building. He held his fire as one of the party drew near and spoke.
“We have you surrounded,” he cried in a loud voice, “surrender and seek the Mercy of the Jeddak, Shalla Tanni.”
Tarrid almost laughed, The ruler had no mercy. Surrender could only mean a dishonorable death.
From below came a cry of “John Carter” and “Death to Shalla Tanni!”
A shot hit one of the mounted warriors knocking him from his thoat, Tarrid fired seven quick shells that took down five and sent the warriors back, seeking cover. Shells filled the air, hitting the stone walls of the building. A sort of mad idea hit The Green Thark. He jumped up on the wall exposing himself so that the guards could see him! The sight of the big Green Man seemed to shock the guardsmen.
“Long Live the Jeddara, Valla of Helium!” he yelled. “Death to the Jeddak! Unchain the Jeddara!” For a moment no shots were fired, then a storm of shells hit the tower, and Tarrid was just able to jump down and find safety behind a stone wall. He hoped his little demonstration would demoralize the guards. He knew many in the palace favored the Jeddara and Shalla Tanni wasn't all that popular with many. From the tower he had a clear shot at the Zorians. The Therns were making a good defense as well, but the green man knew it was only a question of time before they would be overwhelmed by superior numbers.
Now the Zorians were dismounted and scattering in a wide arc circling the structure and seeking cover. Now their shots were taking a toll. One of the Therns came up with water and told Tarrid seven of their number were on their way to Sasoom. He embraced the green man and told him it was his honor to have fought with him and that soon they would be sipping Mint Julep in Virginia. It was a sort of good bye ritual.
“As I have heard John Carter say,” commented Tarrid, “We still live and may yet conquer.”
“Only John Carter can save us now.” said the Thern as he retreated back down the ramp to join the uneven fight.
Little by little the fire from the Therns fell off as they started to run out of ammunition. Tarrid say that the Zorians were gathering for an assault on the buildings. When it came he would draw his sword and enter the fray on the first floor. He saw a flash of light from the Zorians. They were using a mirror to send a message, it seemed. Then he heard it.
It was the unmistakable noise of the old airship, the overage, ill maintained ship was coming. With her guns, the fortified group was doomed. He saw it coming in, guns ready, pivoting to take aim at the buildings. The Zorians were signaling the ship. Tarrid rushed down the ramp to the rest were hunkered down. There was much blood on the floor and several bodies covered with cloth.
“We see the ship coming in, they are planing to rush us under the guns of the flyer,” announced Kortis. “It looks like there will be no need to draw lots, we are all destined for Sasoom this day. All fought well today! All will gain admittance to Virginia.”
There was a loud denotation, a large shell hit the tower, and blew it to pieces. The building shook and was filled with dust and smoke. Then they heard a cry from the Zorians. They were launching their attack.
“ For Zor and the Jeddak!” they shouted as they ran up to the structure. The Therns answered with the cry of “John Carter” shooting down many of the attackers. It would be a sword fight to the death. Tarrid liked this, he always wanted to die with a long sword in his hand. There was another explosion, high up, originating on the old warship. It was followed by another and another. The Therns watched as the ship burst into flames and fell to earth, a burning mass. The Zorians had seen something in the sky and were withdrawing, not even bothering to take away their wounded and dead. As they re-mounted their thoats and retired down the road, two large prows came over the building. Tarrid saw they were painted with the devise of Helium! One of the ships was coming in low and from her were coming Helimetic warriors descending by ropes! Tarrid pushed open what was left of the door and waved to them. Walking out, some of the Therns who were still able, followed him, walked out, smiling. They recognized one of the first to reach the ground and walk towards them.
It was John Carter, the Warlord 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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