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Volume 2269
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Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter®of Mars

Volume 2269


69. "CAPTIVE" -- Mar. 28, '43
(read novelization

P1: John Carter fought savagely against the Martian headhunters who sought to capture him. 

P2: Suddenly, Dak Kova, the Jed, dodged to the rear and dealt him a smashing blow witht he flat of his sword. 

P3: They strapped the unconscious man to the back of a vicious thoat. Meanwhile, in the far hills -- 

P4: -- Dejah Thoris cried to Sola: "They've killed him!" But Sola replied: "Headhunters do not carry away dead men's bodies." 

P5: "I did not want to leave him," the girl whispered half to herself. "I love him." 

P6: With their captive prize, Dak Kova and his warriors raced toward the ancient city of Warhoon, on the banks of the Dead Sea. 


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Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst

John Carter had fought savagely against the Martian headhunters who sought to capture him. The rare sport of this day's chase would be told and retold around the Warhoon campfires and drinking rooms for weeks to come. But among the great troop headed back to the Warhoon capital, only Dak Kova was crafty enough to fully comprehend the beating his unruly cavalry had taken. "One little human killed over fifty of us. Great Issus!" he exclaimed to nobody in particular. "Another twenty fighters so wounded that they'll be useless for a month! Hah! This humiliation calls for vengeance. My own fingers will see to that!" One of his powerful upper hand absentmindedly crushed the skulls in his necklace, as the unhappy green Jed imagined different ways to assuage his offended sense of honor. 

The limp body of the little swordsman had been lashed by two junior fighters to the back of a huge sub-chieftain's squealing thoat. The many little rivulets of blood that criss-crossed the outlander's flesh had dried into an irregular pattern of lines reminiscent of the canals and deserts of the warlike world. John Carter's lifeless frame was a horrid sight to behold. But the two Martian girls who secretly spied upon the killing ground from across the plain were spared the unpleasant display. All they had been able to discern from that great distance was that the Warhoon Jed had maneuvered his mount close behind the tottering Earthman and leaned over to deal the human a smashing blow with the flat of his sword, just as he collapsed and disappeared from the girls' strained glimpses through the turmoil of that terrible struggle. 

Now that the last of the Warhoon riders had departed the two Martian maidens came out of concealment and telescopically scanned the plain. Sola gazed upon the many Warhoon bodies, slain by their otherworldly friend and rendered headless by their fellow green men. She was more than used to such horrendous sights, but the mutilated corpses sickened the red girl. When a pair of wild calots appeared among the dead and began their gruesome feasting, the Heliumite princess turned her tear-filled eyes away and shook her head in despair. Dejah Thoris cried to Sola: "They've killed him!" 

For a while the Thark female said nothing. Meticulously she examined every square sofad of the bloody landscape. At last she picked out the lineaments of a torn cape and a crimsoned warrior's harness, both too small to have belonged to Warhoon adults. John Carter had been beaten and stripped, but his body was gone. That much was certain. At last Sola replied: "Headhunters do not carry away dead men's bodies. Your man yet lived when the warriors departed." 

The Princess of Helium took a deep breath of relief at this news, dried her eyes and held her head high once again. "Then we must reach Helium all the more quickly, dear friend. A hundred battle fliers will fill these skies within a few hours after I return. I promise that!" she cried. Then, in softer tones -- "I did not want to leave him, Sola, I love him." 

With their captive prize, Dak Kova and his warriors raced toward the ancient city of Warhoon, situate on the banks of the southeastern dead sea. The troop exchanged mounts at an outpost late that night. The lesser moon was just rising when the Jed and five hundred men rode back out upon the empty plains. The most badly wounded of his men the great Jed left there to fend for themselves. Deprived of their thoats and weapons stragglers must trek back to the capital city. This is the Warhoon custom and it effectively weeds out the weaker members of the barbarian horde. 

Another day passed without incident. Dak Kova's band entered the decaying ruins of the great metropolis after sunset. The green men of Barsoom display little inclination to build, but the towering walls of the city from which the horde takes its name are an exception to that truism. Rebuilt and reinforced for millennia, the vanished white race who constructed Warhoon before history began would scarcely recognize the massive ersite piles today. Taking the shape of a huge, sixteen-pointed star, the walls feature protruding blockhouses at every turn. All along the top are gun emplacements -- with the barrels pointed upward. No sane foe attacks the green race's fortified cities from the ground, without first inflicting great damage from the skies. Much of Warhoon's wealth is invested in its walls, but the greatest treasure of the barbarian horde is spent upon its artillery pieces -- each and every one a product of the arsenals of Eo. 

As the savage caravan entered the gates of Warhoon a spark of life yet lingered in the Earthman's breast. For two days his festering wounds had received no care at all. Nor had a single drop of water wet his parched lips. He clung to the world of the living by the slenderest of threads and could not have lasted another hour, much less another day. But in savage Warhoon the rudiments of battlefield medicine were still remembered. That, along with gunnery, constitutes what little science the more intelligent green Martians have elected to salvage, out of all the compiled knowledge of the ages. 

[In Captain Carter's telling of his adventures the chronology is a little confused. Events he has transpiring upon the road to the capital actually took place within the vast city, between the walls and the royal palace. This is a small matter in the memories of a man who awoke in strange surroundings and who was at first barely cognizant of his situation in that hoary metropolis.] 

When the Earthman regained consciousness he was lying among a pile of silks and furs, in the corner of a small room lit by flickering candles and a single radium torch, the brilliant beam of which shone directly into his astonished eyes. 

"He will live, O Jed," grunted the ancient and ugly green female who was just then completing a cursory examination of the badly injured man. She and several curious warriors were bending over John Carter -- and arguing among themselves about whether he was truly a man of the red race. 

"Cease your stupid chatter!" Dak Kova barked, and they fell silent immediately. 

"I care not whether he is an albino Zodangan, or a survivor of the sickly pale runts who lived in Warhoon, before time began." Then the Jed stroked a mangled ear on his forehead and stared at the ceiling a moment, as if lost in thought. A hint of a smile played upon his lips. "All I need to know is if he will recover in time to take part in the Great Games?" 

"Indeed, he will, sire," promised the aged green woman. "He is already responding to my medicinal vapors. I can thicken his blood and restore his vigor in a matter of days." The unsightly nurse used an obscene word that brought forth a chuckle from the great Jed. 

"Then I must sharpen my dagger, so I can take another trophy for my necklace, eh!" 

They snickered aloud at the crude humor of the broken-tusked field marshal. His olive skinned upper breast was already adorned with two skulls of the red race, along with other severed human body parts, best left unmentioned. 


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