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Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter®of Mars


55. "A DARING PLAN" -- Dec. 20, '42
(read novelization

P1: At the plant's strange request, the Earthman climbed into concealment within his companion's leafy mouth. 

P2: Across the village courtyard the Chicken Men had commenced a savage, fanatical ceremony that would culminate in the beheading of the helpless girl. 

P3: Cro-Yat, the chief, danced wildly around Dejah Thoris, swinging his hatchet in crazy patterns -- and while the weird ritual progressed -- 

P4: -- there suddenly appeared in the clearing, even unobserved by the sentry, an insignificant-looking shrub that supported a lone blossom on its twisted trunk. 

P5: Inside this blossom John Carter watched tensely as the plant sought to accomplish its amazing scheme. 

P6: Slowly the plant moved across the courtyard, and as any other innocent appearing growth it attracted no notice. 


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Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst

Even under the best of conditions Martian telepathy is a very uncertain operation. It is most frequently used on the red planet as a means to give certain animals, slaves and hatchings simple commands and warnings. Many adepts who are quite proficient in projecting their thoughts to others are essentially unable to read the minds of their fellow Martians, even at close range. Finally, in the case of telepaths who can competently exchange their thoughts with others, their extraordinary powers may fail them at any time for any number of reasons. 

Dejah Thoris had been receiving brief telecasts from the Jasoomian ever since her capture by the giant bird-men. She knew that the man was alive and that he was struggling to reach her. Now the princess even knew that he was not very far away. But none of those perceptions in her mind were of very much use, given the stunning amount of mental chatter coming from the primitive minds of her bird-men captors. Simply put, their continual strong and undisciplined thought waves blocked out any chance the Princess of Helium might have had to communicate at a distance with John Carter. 

She did not care to dwell upon the indignities and molestations she had suffered from the savage warriors during her death march to the sorry little village. Her memory of those violations would be snuffed out soon enough. The brave Earthman might try as he would, but nothing short of the sudden appearance of her Navy of Helium overhead could save her now. The smoke from the cooking fire already burned her eyes, just as the obscene jeers of the villagers scorched her ears. Dejah Thoris, daughter of ten thousand jeddaks, could only await her fate with the composed nobility expected of one in her royal station -- with that, and with the inner tranquillity that had come with her expanded consciousness. Her only hope was that the nightmare would soon be over. 

In the center of the village courtyard the bird-men had commenced a savage, fanatical ceremony that would quite obviously culminate in the beheading of their new captive, the helpless girl from the outside world. From his place of concealment within his companion's ample beak the Earthman watched the weird ritual progress. Cro-Yat, the chief of the fantastic tribe, danced wildly around Dejah Thoris, swinging his hatchet in vulgar and menacing explication of the horror that was to come. All of this Captain Carter viewed from about the same perspective as a person looking upward at ten storey buildings -- except for the fact that the objects of his observation were living, bloodthirsty giants who had worked themselves into a murderous frenzy. 

The whirling feathered giants were moving so unpredictably and with such force in their cavorting motions that Captain Carter could only believe that it would be simply a matter of time before the plant king was crushed beneath their bestial claws. Despite the tremendous risk involved, the two intruders moved forward unobserved, approaching ever closer to the center of the barbaric revelry. To the savage bird-like giants the plant king appeared to be nothing other than an insignificant-looking shrub that supported a lone blossom on its twisted trunk. But inside that blossom John Carter waited tensely for the king to carry out the second part of its amazing scheme. Cautiously the plant completed his transit across the courtyard, dodging the moving feet, and trying very hard to continue looking like and innocent piece of shrubbery, unworthy of the bird-creatures' notice. Skirting the hot cooking fire and the boiling metal pot, he finally reached his intended goal. 

From a discrete vantage point the Odwar of Eo continued to watch Sola and the motionless bodies of the two humans Although he had relinquished control over their ultimate destinies, Oman still felt a special responsibility for their well being, so long as the three outsiders remained upon the Plateau of Eo. A pair of Vovo's mechanical camera birds served the robot leader as his eyes and ears from a distance. By this means he was able to monitor events in the forest from the tower laboratory, but not intrude noticeably upon the green girl's activities. All of his own experience in the sad affair with the humans, coupled with his study of Vovo's private notes, told Oman that the next few hours would be the most crucial ones in determining the fate of Dejah Thoris and John Carter. 

Oman had watched with apprehension as the Thark maiden removed the glass enclosures from the sleepers' beds. Probably her decision to uncover the bodies would shorten their dreaming life significantly, but whether the results would be positive or negative he could not guess. In the event of their death the odwar could offer for service the same incinerating facility that had consumed Vovo's deceased form. If they awakened from the induced dream he was prepared to supply whatever provisions and assistance they might require -- including restraints for the effects of violent insanity. Having looked over what evidence he could locate regarding the little wizard's previous research into induced dreams, the probability of the dreamers going mad seemed highly likely. Their separate fantasies would start out with some degree of structure and logic and then might well deteriorate into the meaningless ravings of a maniac. 

The robot's last lingering hope of seeing the seemingly endless induce dream come to a quick and happy conclusion had been shattered. In his searches to uncover the mystery surrounding the disappearance of the original Wizards of Eo, the robot leader uncovered proof that Vovo had destroyed their mechanical bodies and then disintegrated their superior minds. Scraps of the wizards identities, thoughts and memories might yet remain among the discarded mental circuits in Vovo's old rubbish heaps, but the Wizards of Eo were certainly not going to emerge at a late hour to save the human sleepers. They were gone forever, blotted our by the murderous schemes of Vo Dor and his dwarf assistant. In a way, Oman himself was the last of the ancient wizards; lineage and heritage -- and he had no desire whatsoever to follow in their footsteps. 

"You come now! We kill!" One of the feathered savages yelled over the tumult of his comrades' carousal. With two of the savages pushing her forward at knife point, the red princess had no choice but to comply with the bird-man's contemptuous command. In the center of the village courtyard, beside the ominous boiling pot, the two guards pushed the girl to her knees. The same two chicken-headed ruffians hauled a large log up in front of her and dropped it with a thud. The bark was worn away in one spot and in its place were old bloodstains and numerous ax marks. This horrid thing she presumed was the savages' chopping block. Since there was no sign of any other executed human giants in the village, and since several huts were decorated with severed skulls of dead bird-men, Dejah Thoris guessed that her captors were cannibals. Certainly their ceaseless telepathic chatter conveyed the idea that they would feast on one another's cooked flesh as happily as they would upon hers. 

The feathered tormentors thrust the maiden's neck down upon the log with obvious delight, then one of them brought forth a metal-bladed hatchet and set about sharpening it on a grindstone he set up in the shade of the only tree the savages had left standing in their courtyard. From her crouched position the Princess of Helium watched the grinding sparks fly -- and waited patiently for the her life to be stolen away. 


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