The brilliance of the Barsoomian day showed forth over the
splendid spectacle that is Greater Helium. I had just discarded my
sleeping silks and furs to view the new day. The small orb of the
sun sent its rays on to the ornate palaces and landing stages of this great
Martian city, the capital of a vast and prosperous empire. As I inhaled
the thin air of dying Mars I turned to see my incompatible wife, Dejah
Thoris slide from the sleeping platform to join me on the balcony
of our palatial home. It is a residence befitting my title
as a prince of Helium and Warlord of Mars.
“The sun is long in the sky, my love.” she said in a low
soft voice. A voice as pure and sweet as the first time I heard it decades
“Yes,” I answered her. “The party for Hadron, prince of
Hastor was late. I feared it might last all night—with all this talk
of a new war.”
“Another war,” she sighed as she placed her arms around
me. “Must you warriors always talk of wars? Zodanga fights Dusar,
Dusar battles Thuva, Thuva attacks Zor. Must it always be so?”
“I am afraid it must always be,” I said to her. “ I am
sure you would not have us turn away from a fight would you? Where
is your fighting spirit? If Tubax raids our grain ships and hampers
trade, what would you have me do?”
“Tubax!” she replied with a smile. “If I hear of that
city one more time I shall just scream. Its a small state, on the
edge of the empire—hardly deserving of such talk. Just hold me, my
prince and kiss me. Leave the talk of war for another time.”
“As you request, my love,” I said as I bent low and kissed
her. Our lips met as a faint glimmer caught the corner of my eye. I turned
and glanced to my right to see a small lanky form drop to the balcony
from a thin rope. The glimmer I had seen was reflected light from
the polished blade of an upraise dagger in the man's hand.
I swiftly propelled Dejah Thoris back into the bed
chamber. I was for once without my swords or harness. I faced my
opponent as naked as a new born child!
The invader grinned at me and lunged. I quickly
dogged the expert thrust and turned to regain my room and retrieve a weapon
but he jumped and barred the way. I had a chance to observe the fellow.
He was a small man with long bony legs and arms. His head was small and
covered with wrinkles—a dwarf-like creature. He was fast and wielded
the broad bladed dagger with the skill of one trained in its use.
He wore a sort of orange turban with a black cape and purple harness.
A coil of silk rope hung from his belt. He was barefooted for climbing,
this was a human spider bent on my death. Then, with a smile
of confidence, he let out a cry and rushed me. His razor-like blade
slashing right and left.
The assassin was fast but my earthly strength gave me
the advantage, I turned from his blade and seized his wrist. The man now
cried out in pain as he tried to pull away. With my left fist I felled
him in a blow that stunned him. He dropped like a light. I released his
wrist as he went to the marble floor. I had foolishly
thought he was unconscious, but he was merely stunned. He still retained
his weapon and leaped up with a powerful swipe that almost disemboweled
me. I jumped back and as he rushed me, I kicked him fully in the
stomach. The sudden blow sent the little man over the low railing
down eight hundred feet to the flagstone pavement below.
The spindly creature let out one cry as he fell--”Isis”--that
ended when he met the pavement.
The whole attack was more more than twenty seconds of
time. Turning, I saw Dejah Thoris with a heavy radium pistol, standing
ready to assist in the battle. Seeing the outcome she
dropped the weapon and rushed to me, tears in her eyes. She
embraced me trembling.
“I thought you had joined your ancestors!” she whimpered.
“No simple cut-throat will bring me down.” I told her.
“Where were your guards?” she asked, 'Where are they now?”
“A very good question, I have many enemies.”
“Who sent the assassin?” she asked.
“Did you notice the odd cap he wore? The orange
of Tubax, I believe.”
“Hold me, John Carter,” she whispered. “Now I understand
why we must make war on Tubax.”
“A little present from far away Tubax,” I said, anger
growing in my chest. “We will have to return the favor.”
Just then a loud pounding was heard at the door.
For a moment I thought their might be more assassins present, and
put on my harness and swords. Even my princess had recovered her
“Enter,” I yelled, after unlocking the portal, I
backed up not knowing what to expect. Two of the palace guards
fell into the room. Both were bloody from combat. These were trusted
men, veterans of many a fight.
“Sire, the palace was attacked!” One stammered.
“An assassin descended to attack me,” I told them.
“I sent him to the ground.”
“Prince Carthoris and His mate Thuvia were attacked as
well,” he informed me with a look that sent chills down my spine. “Both
are wounded but live. But, sire, the raiders took your grandson Lee
“What of the guards?” I asked as a cold wave of
rage filled my soul as I thought of the young Prince Lee, now six years
old (12 in earth years).
“As far as we can tell eighty-one are dead, and half a
hundred wounded. An equal number of the attackers are dead.”
“How could this have happened?” asked a tearful Dejah
“The attackers had the code word of the day,” admitted
the guard, looking at his sandals. “They came in a flyer, painted in the
colors of Hastor. The guards were taken by surprise.”
I ran out of the door, the guards and Dejah followed as
I made my way across the huge palace to the apartments given over to visiting
dignitaries. As I approached I saw blood on the floors and
the bodies of guards. They had put up a noble fight, that I could
I rushed into the salon where healers were grouped around
a form on a couch. It was my son, Carthoris. He was badly wounded,
almost incoherent. He suffered from several stab wounds. In the chamber
were four dead attackers. They wore orange turbans.
“Will he... live?” I asked, almost unable to speak.
“Yes, in time he will recover.” said the doctor, as he
cleaned his wound.
Then I head a chilling cry, a woman's terrible scream
of pain and anguish, coming from the bedchamber. I dashed in to find
more healers around the body of Thuvia. If nothing else, her wounds were
greater than those of her husband. She still held a short sword gripped
in her hand. In the room were six dead attackers. From the blood and condition
of the room there had been a terrible battle.
“John Carter,” she moaned in pain. Her eyes closed, her
face splattered with blood.
“I am here, Thuvia.” I said to her. She opened her
eyes and looked at me.
“They have Lee, your grandson!” she said. “I fought them
but there were too many.”
“How is she?” I asked the doctor.
“She is badly wounded, I fear the next few days
will tell the tale if she lives or dies. I haven't seen such wounds since
the Zodangan Wars.”
“Recover him!” cried Thuvia. “John Carter, you are the
greatest warrior on the planet. Bring back my son to me!”
“This I shall vow,” I responded. My heart filled with
anger and a desire to repay the outrage inflicted on my family, and
Helium and her Empire. Dejah Thoris came into the room, her
hand to her face in horror. She rushed to Thuvia's bed,
Taking the sword from the woman, she held her hand and tried to comfort
her as only one mother can do for another.
I went out of the bedchamber and saw the healers were
taking Carthoris on a litter, out of the room.
“We are transferring him to the Temple of Healing,” informed
one of the doctors. “He can receive better care there.”
“They wanted to take me prisoner,” he said to me.
“But, they took Lee. But he fought them! Where were the guards?
Where were they? How could such a thing happen in Helium?”
I wanted to comfort him that everything would be all right.
I didn't want him to lose hope. I have seen men die if they blame themselves
for some terrible thing.
“I will find Lee, and bring him back,” I said to him.
“I will find the people who are responsible for this and they shall
face the justice of my blade.” He didn't answer but I could
see tears in his eyes as they took him away. I resolved to make good
my vow. I turned to one of the guards.
“A meeting in my quarters!” I announced. “Let the wireless
inform all of Barsoom of what happened here, inform Tardos Mors, the Jeddak,
of the kidnapping. I want everything on Tubax we have! If they
are to blame, that city shall be punished.”
“Who else could it be?” the guard answered.
“Who ever it was, they went to a great deal of effort
to implicate Tubax, from the turbans to the weapons. But Helium
has many enemies.”
The healers were gently moving Thuvia on a litter from
the apartment, to the Temple Healing. They were very concerned.
“Vow to me,” she said in a near whisper, “That you will
find these men and bring back my son to me!”
“This I swear upon my ancestors,” I answered. Dejah
Thoris was in tears now, following her daughter-in-law.
“I shall follow her to the Temple of Healing,” she told
me. “The greatest surgeons of the Empire will tend to her.”
I briefly held her as the full impact of the tragedy hit me hard.
I returned to my rooms, seven guards surrounded me at
all times least another attack come from some unexpected source.
It seems Helium was once again at war.