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Volume 3678
The Fifteenth Runner-Up in the Seven Wonders of Barsoom 
Part IV
by Woodrow Edgar Nichols, Jr.

Map of Barsoom
This section could have been entitled “The Revenge of Zodanga,” if only it hadn’t failed.

But the Revenge was to be expected, for on a planet that had evolved just fine over billions of years, Zodanga was on a spiral of destiny to rule it. Then John Carter intervened on the side of Helium and Zodanga was flustered almost to extinction.

But Zodanga rose again in the person of Zat Arras, of whom we know nothing of his history. It is as if ERB had a Barsoomian history book at his perusal and forgot to give us the essentials of this man. It would have been nice, for he too falls madly in love with the Princess and becomes a Scopes Trial prosecutor in the Mythos. All Barsoomians are moths to Dejah Thoris’s flame, especially Zodangans. She is the epitome of the Barsoomian perfect female: cunning; not totally bound to morality or custom; outrageously beautiful; scientific minded; a passionate and effective orator; excellent diplomat...and, of course, she is the hottest babe on the planet, driving virtually everyone crazy with whom she comes into contact.

A Zodangan noble who had been on a diplomatic mission to Helium said that it was a fact that Helium had the most beautiful women on Barsoom, of whom Dejah Thoris was the flower. The Red Flower of Helium. Femme Fatale to most men and women she encounters. She is the most complex woman in the Mythos, and there is something witchy and mysterious in her power over others. She even entranced a Tharkian council and drove their Jeddak mad with lust.

It is this power that drew both Thuvia and Phaidor to her side, both of whom fell madly in love with the Princess of Helium and it is their actions that determine the outcome of the planet.

If one is to overanalyze the Barsoomian Mythos, one could argue that Dejah Thoris is the real power controlling Barsoomian evolution. This is why I call this power the Dejah Thoris Effect, or DTE.

However, her mysterious side has presently been suppressed by married life and motherhood, but her past three hundred years of wild escapades still must call to her like a siren.

How she must miss the whole planet being at war with Helium because of her beauty. We know she truly misses John Carter because no man on Barsoom ever equaled his super powers and his mad love for her. Her son was the spitting image of her chieftan, and now, he too, is gone. She is left to be harassed by another Zodangan, Zat Arras – half the man of Sab Than – who has done something to her that is unmentionable.

As for Carter, the planet changed again after he disappeared following his success at the atmosphere plant. His almost death at the factory caused his spirit or ka to return to his physical body back in the Arizona cave. This is one of the real enigmas of the Mythos, never satisfactorily answered: how can Carter’s astral body have physical, corporeal existence on Barsoom? And was it the faith of Tars Tarkas that was instrumental in bringing Carter backfrom Earth? We will deal with these enigmas in a later series.

Prior to the disaster at the factory, Carter had served in the armed forces of Helium for ten years. Thus, there are a lot of unpublished stories to be told during this period, one of which would deal with the rivalry between Carter and Zat Arras, appointed to be Jed of Zodanga by Tardos Mors after her defeat at the hands of the Green Hordes under the command of Tars Tarkas.

ERB never makes it clear whether Zat Arras is a native Zodangan or a noble Heliumite sent to Zodanga to rule on the Jeddak of Helium’s behalf. From the point of view in The Gods of Mars, however, it appears that he is a native Zodangan, allegedly loyal to Helium. If that is the case, then any animosity existing between Zodangans and Carter would be easily explainable.

After all, John Carter may be the Savior of Barsoom, but he was also the means by which Zodanga’s empire was crushed, leaving her as merely an extension of the Heliumite Empire.

Of course, Zat Arras could also be a noble Heliumite, flustered in his attempt to woo the Princess of Helium for himself by the advent of Carter. That would give him plenty of reason for wanting to get Revenge on Carter. Take your pick.

I failed to mention Zat Arras's name as a victim of love of Barsoom’s greatest femme fatale, Dejah Thoris, but he was one of her greatest victims, as we shall see. We are not told how long he had burned a torch for the Princess, but if he was from Zodanga, it was likely from the time Sab Than had in her bondage. If from Helium, he could have been a suitor of the Princess before Carter’s advent.

As for Carter’s recent advent, the strange God of Barsoom has brought Carter back and placed him into seemingly the worse place on the entire planet: the Valley Dor. If he survives the Valley Dor, he will have to confront what comes next: the superstition of Issus demanding that anyone returning from the Valley must be put to death as a blasphemer. Thus, the Religion of Issus will be the means of Zodangan Revenge against Helium, at least that is how Zat Arras perceives it. And the city of Greater Helium will be the chosen theater for this Revenge.

So, Carter wakes up in the Valley Dor, saves Tars Tarkas, is saved by Thuvia, is captured by the First Born, rescues his son, Carthoris, and the Black Dator, Xodar, from the Isle of Shador, and eventually find himself under the protection of a battleship from Helium, which has just saved Carter and his party from a horde of Warhoons.

Except for returning from the Valley Dor, Carter expects to be received as a hero, for he learns from his son that he has achieved the status of Jesus or Elvis in Helium and on the whole planet:

“‘They loved you also and fairly worship your memory as the savior of Barsoom.

“‘Each year that brings its anniversery of the day that saw you racing across a near dead world to unlock the secret of that awful portal behind which lay the mighty power of life for countless millions a great festival is held in your honor; but there are tears mingled with the thanksgiving – tears of real regret that the author of the happiness is not with them to share the joy of living he died to give them. Upon all Barsoom there is no greater name than John Carter.’” (GM/14.)

We must assume that if this festival was held in Zodanga every year that it was done under orders of Helium, since most Zodangans, at least the survivors who had been loyal to their old Jeddak, view Carter as a destroyer, not a savior.

Anyway, the battleship that has just rescued them is under the command of Hor Vastus and he shortly receives word from Kantos Kan to turn over the honored guests to him in his ship, the Xavarian. Carter’s presence immeditately causes a crisis of loyalty in every sailor in the fleet, one humongous national cognitive dissonance as fear and superstition meet loyalty to a hero in a head-on collision.

Both Hor Vastus and Kantos Kan, now admiral of the entire Helium navy, keep from questioning Carter on where he has been. Most Heliumites presumed that Carter died in the rescue of the atmosphere factory, but many rumors had persisted that he was in the Valley Dor living the life of Riley. If this is true, then Martian custom has a remedy for such a situation: Death! Thus, don’t ask, don’t tell, is the policy they follow. That stays true until Carter is confronted by the commander of the fleet, Zat Arras, Jed of Zodanga, and acting Jed of Helium.

But first, Hor Vastus lays down his sword at the feet of Carter, letting him know that he will not be ruled by Religion, that his friendship is stronger than Issus. He receives equal respect from his old friend from the Warhoon arena, Kantos Kan, from whom he learns of the brokenhearted Princess.

“He did not ask me where I had been. Like Hor Vastus, he too dreaded the truth and would not be the one to wrest a statement from me. That it must come some time he well knew, but until it came he seemed satisfied to but know that I was with him once again....

“‘For a year,’ he said, ‘ever since Carthoris disappeared, Dejah Thoris has grieved and mourned for her lost boy. The blow of years ago, when you did not return from the atmosphere plant, was lessened to some extent by the duties of motherhood, for your son broke his white shell that very night.

“‘That she suffered terribly then, all Helium knew, for did not all Helium suffer with her the loss of her lord! But with the boy gone there was nothing left, and after expedition upon expedition returned with the same hopeless tale as to no clue as to his whereabouts, our beloved Princess drooped lower and lower, until all who saw her felt that it could be but a matter of days ere she went to join her loved ones within the precincts of the Valley Dor.

“‘As a last resort, Mors Kojak, her father, and Tardos Mors, her grandfather, took command of two mighty expeditions, and a month ago sailed away to explore every inch of ground in the northern hemisphere of Barsoom. For two weeks no word has come back from them, but rumors were rife that they had met with a terrible disaster and that all were dead.

“‘About this time Zat Arras renewed his importunities for her hand in marriage. He has been for ever after her since you disappeared. She hated him and feared him, but with both her father and grandfather gone, Zat Arras was very powerful, for he is still Jed of Zodanga, to which position, you will remember, Tardos Mors appointed him after you had refused the honor.

“‘He had a secret audience six days ago. What took place none knows, but the next day Dejah Thoris had disappeared, and with her had gone a dozen of her household guard and body servants, including Sola the green woman – Tars Tarkas’ daughter, you recall. No word left they of their intentions, but it is always thus with those who go upon the voluntary pilgrimage from which none returns. We cannot think aught than that Dejah Thoris sought the icy bosom of Iss, and that her devoted servants have chosen to accompany her.

“‘Zat Arras was at Helium when she disappeared. He commands this fleet which has been searching for her since. No trace of her have we found, and I fear that it be a futile quest.’” (GM/16.)

This is a lot of information to digest. At first it appears that Zat Arras was trying to succeed where Sab Than failed. If he is a Zodangan, then this could signify one last try for the old alma mater. Marrying the Princess would achieve the same goal as Sab Than’s: uniting the two empires with one blood. With John Carter, Carthoris, Tardos Mors, and Mors Kojak out of the way, this must have seemed like all but a done deal. But then John Carter returns unexpectedly from the dead.

We know already the fate of Tordas Mors and Mors Kojak: they are rotting in a cell in Kadabra, victims of the great magnet shaft known as the Guardian of the North. They will be effectively out of the picture until Carter rescues them at the end of Warlord of Mars.

Thus, in the fevered mind of Zat Arras there can be but one solution: John Carter must die! And the means is so easily at hand: he has broken the ancient taboo and returned alive from Valley Dor. One can imagine a rush of victorious contentment coming to his countenance as he siezes upon this solution to get rid of his rival.

And what exactly took place during the secret audience between Dejah Thoris and Zat Arras that drove her to the River Iss the next day? When Sola is later found and retells her story we are told little that is new:

“‘Seven days ago, after her audience with Zat Arras, Dejah Thoris attempted to slip from the palace in the dead of night. Although I had not heard the outcome of her interview with Zat Arras I knew that something had occurred then to cause her the keenest mental agony, and when I discovered her creeping from the palace I did not need to be told her destination.’” (GM/18.)
ERB’s silence on the ‘something that occurred” makes me suspect some kind of sexual assault or rape. He is likely silent on the subject for in this case there was no one to rescue the Princess at the last minute. ERB knew he could write near rape scenes under the censorship of the time, but he also knew that he wasn’t allowed to write a scene where the act was completed.

Whatever the “something” was, it was serious enough and shocking enough to make her go over the edge into total despair. What else could it have been?

Unless, as in the case of Tars Tarkas, she had heard rumors, and that if the rumors were true then her final hope of finding John Carter still alive lay in Valley Dor. For some unfathomable reason, he had chosen Martian Paradise over his love for her. She must have a deep desire to know the reason, for is she not Dejah Thoris?

“I was about to ask Kantos Kan to prosecute a further search for her when a flier from the flagship of the fleet arrived at the Xavarian with an officer bearing a message to Kantos Kan from Arras.

“My friend read the dispatch and then turned to me.

“‘Zat Arras commands me to bring our “prisoners” before him. There is naught else to do. He is supreme in Helium; yet it would be far more in keeping with chivalry and good taste were he to come hither and greet the savior of Barsoom with the honors that are his due.’

“‘You know full well, my friend,’ I said, smiling, ‘that Zat Arras has good cause to hate me. Nothing would please him better than to humiliate me and then to kill me. Now that he has so excellent an excuse, let us go and see if has the courage to take advantage of it.’

“Summoning Carthoris, Tars Tarkas, and Xodar, we entered the small flier with Kantos Kan and Zat Arras’ officer, and in a moment were stepping to the deck of Zat Arras’ flagship.

“As we approached the Jed of Zodanga no sign or recognition crossed his face; not even to Carthoris did he vouchsafe a friendly word. His attitude was cold, haughty, and uncompromising.

“‘Kaor, Zat Arras,’ I said in greeting, but he did not respond.

“‘Why were these prisoners not disarmed?’ he asked to Kantos Kan.

“‘They are not prisoners, Zat Arras,’ replied the officer. ‘Two of them are of Helium’s noblest family. Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, is Tardos Mors’ best beloved ally. The other is a friend and companion of the Prince of Helium – that is enough for me to know.’

“‘It is not enough for me, however,’ retorted Zat Arras. ‘More must I hear from those who have taken the pilgrimage than their names. Where have you been, John Carter?’ 

“‘I have just come from the Valley Dor and the Land of the First Born, Zat Arras,’ I replied.

“‘Ah!’ he exclaimed in evident pleasure, ‘you do not deny it, then? You have returned from the bosom of Iss?’

“‘I have come back from a land of false hope, from a valley of torture and death; with my companions I have escaped from the hideous clutches of lying fiends. I have come back to the Barsoom that I saved from a painless death to again save her, but this time from death it its most frightful form.’

“‘Cease, blasphemer!’ cried Zat Arras. ‘Hope not to save thy cowardly carcass by inventing horrid lies to –’ But he got no further. One does not call John Carter “coward” and “liar” thus lightly, and Zat Arras should have known it. Before a hand could be raised to stop me, I was at his side and one hand grasped his throat.

“‘Come I from heaven or hell, Zat Arras, you will find me still the same John Carter that I have always been; nor did ever man call me such names and live – without apologizing.’ And with that I commenced to bend him back across my knee and tighten my grip upon his throat.

“‘Seize him!’ cried Zat Arras, and a dozen officers sprang forward to assist him.

“Kantos Kan came close and whispered to me.

“‘Desist, I beg of you. It will but involve us all, for I cannot see these men lay hands upon you without aiding you. My officers and men will join me and we shall have a mutiny then that may lead to revolution. For the sake of Tardos Mors and Helium, desist.’

“At his words I released Zat Arras and, turning my back upon him, walked toward the ship’s rail.

“‘Come, Kantos Kan,’ I said, ‘the Prince of Helium would return to the Xavarian.’” (GM/16.)

Even ERB knew that John Carter could go too far in his macho pride, in his willingness to plunge nations into war over a petty grievance. Here, Kantos Kan proved to be the cooler head and Carter had the good sense in the end to follow his advice.

Okay, so what is revealed in the text is that there is a real rivalry between Carter and Zat Arras that predates the present time. If Zat Arras is a Zodangan, then his hatred for Carter could be as the result of Carter being the prime cause of Zodanga’s humiliation, further aggravated by him first being offered the Jeddakship of Zodanga, and, because Carter refused it, he only got it by default. Or, as I said earlier, if he was a Heliumite, it could be as the result of jealousy over the Princess that predated his first advent, or which occurred during his first ten year period on Barsoom.

Whatever the reason, the die is cast between them. Only one of them is bound to get out of this situation alive.

As Carter returns victorious to Helium, many Heliumites cast their swords before him, but the thoughts of Carter and his companions are glum:

“Our journey thither was uneventful. Carthoris and I were wrapped in the gloomiest of thoughts. Kantos Kan was sombre in contemplation of the further calamity that might fall upon Helium should Zat Arras attempt to follow the ageold precedent that allotted a terrible death to fugitives from the Valley Dor. Tars Tarkas grieved for the loss of his daughter. Xodar alone was care-free – a fugitive and outlaw, he could be no worse off in Helium than elsewhere.

“‘Let us hope that we may at least go out with good red blood upon our blades,’ he said. It was a simple wish and one most likely to be gratified.” (GM/16.)

They are silent about their adventures on their return, knowing that their presence is already dividing Helium into two camps.
“I knew that sooner or later the time must come when our friends and enemies would be forced to declare themselves openly. When we reached Helium there must be an accounting, and if Tardos Mors had not returned I feared that the enmity of Zat Arras might weigh heavily against us, for he represented the government of Helium. To take sides against him was equivalent to treason. The majority of the troops would doubtless follow the lead of their officers, and I knew many of the highest most powerful men of both land and air forces would cleave to John Carter in the face of god, man, or devil.” (GM/16.)
We are not told why this must be so under Heliumite law or custom. After all, Zodanga was a fairly recent addition to the Empire of Helium. Its only distinction in the Empire is the fact that at one time it was the greatest nation on Barsoom. Surely Hastor, or one of the older cities in the Empire, would have had more priority? And most of Zodangan’s nobility and military class were killed during the war of acquisition. Why her current leaders would be given the political supremacy in Helium’s order of leadership succession is a mystery that ERB took to his grave. Oh, if only we had access to the history of Barsoom to which ERB had access in his mind.
“I knew that Zat Arras dare not trust the people near us, for he feared that their love for Carthoris and myself might break into a demonstration which would wipe out their superstitious horror of the crime we were to be charged with. What his plans were I could only guess, but that they were sinister was evidenced by the fact that only his most trusted servitors accompanied us upon the flier to the Temple of Reward.” (GM/16.)
They are kept there overnight, and in the morning they are summoned before “an impartial body” in the great hall of the temple.
“A few moments before the appointed time on the following morning a strong guard of Zat Arras’ officers appeared at our quarters to conduct us to the great hall of the temple.

“In twos we entered the chamber and marched down the broad Aisle of Hope, as it is called, to the platform in the center of the hall. Before and behind us marched armed guards, while three solid ranks of Zodangan soldiery lined either side of the aisle from the entrance to the rostrum.” (GM/17.)

The scene sounds very similar to the situation in the audience chamber of Than Kosis during the wedding ceremony, but I am afraid no Zodangan present lived through that event, so no Zodangan in Helium at this time was there to see the irony.
“As we reached the raised enclosure I saw our judges. As is the custom upon Barsoom there were thirty-one, supposedly selected by lot from men of the noble class, for nobles were on trial. But to my amazement I saw no single friendly face among them. Practically all were Zodangans, and it was I to whom Zodanga owed her defeat at the hands of the green hordes and her subsequent vassalage to Helium. There could be little justice for John Carter, or his son, or for the great Thark who had commanded the savage tribesmen who overran Zodanga’s broad avenues, looting, burning, and murdering.” (GM/17.)
Carter is ordered to stand on the Pedestal of Truth while Zat Arras sits in the golden chair of the presiding magistrate. Zat Arras then addresses the audience:
‘Know you, judges and people of Helium,’ he said, ‘that John Carter, one time Prince of Helium, has returned by his own statement from the Valley Dor and even from the Temple of Issus itself. That, in the presence of many men of Helium he has blasphemed against the Sacred Iss, and against the Valley Dor, and the Lost Sea of Korus, and the Holy Therns themselves, and even against Issus, Goddess of Death, and of Life Eternal. And know you further by witness of thine own eyes that see him here now upon the Pedestal of Truth that he has indeed returned from the sacred precincts in the face of our ancient customs, and in violation of the sanctity of our ancient religion.

“‘He who once be dead may not live again. He who attempts it must be made dead forever. Judges, your duty lays plain before you – here can be no testimony in contravention of truth. What reward shall be meted to John Carter in accordance with the acts he has committed?’

“‘Death!’ shouted one of the judges.

“And then a man sprang to his feet in the audience, and raising his hand on high, cried: ‘Justice! Justice! Justice!’ It was Kantos Kan, and as all eyes turned toward him he leaped past the Zodangan soldiery and sprang upon the platform.

“‘What manner of justice be this?’ he cried to Zat Arras. ‘The defendant has not been heard, nor has he had an opportunity to call others in his behalf. In the name of the people of Helium I demand fair and impartial treatment for the Prince of Helium.’

“A great cry arose from the audience then: ‘Justice! Justice! Justice!’ and Zat Arras dared not deny them.

“‘Speak, then,’ he snarled, turning to me; ‘but blaspheme not against the things that are sacred upon Barsoom.’

“‘Men of Helium,’ I cried, turning to the spectators, and speaking over the heads of my judges, ‘how can John Carter expect justice from the men of Zodanga? He cannot nor does he ask it. It is to the men of Helium that he states his case; nor does he appeal for mercy to any.’” (GM/17.)

It is this section and at the very end that convince me that Zat Arras is from Zodanga. The Zodangans appear to be fiercely loyal to him. He identifies with their cause. If he was from Helium, you would expect there to be local sympathy for him, but he appears to have no Heliumite followers.

He may have seen the opportunity much in the same way Than Kosis saw Helium’s momentary time of weakness, as a moment to strike and make Zodanga supreme on Barsoom.

But if this was the case, he is seeing it all blow away before his own eyes as Carter gives an impassioned defense of his journey in Dor and the horrors that await the pilgrim there.

“‘It is to you of Helium that I speak now. When I am done let the men of Zodanga have their will with me. Zat Arras has taken my sword from me, so the men of Zodanga no longer fear me. Will you listen?’

“‘Speak, John Carter, Prince of Helium,’ cried a great noble from the audience, and the multitude echoed his permission, until the building rocked with the noise of their demonstration.

“Zat Arras knew better than to interfere with such a sentiment as was expressed that day in the Temple of Reward, and so for two hours I talked with the people of Helium.

“But when I had finished, Zat Arras arose and, turning to the judges, said in a low tone: ‘My nobles, you have heard John Carter’s plea; every opportunity has been given him to prove his innocence if he be not guilty; but instead he has but utilized the time in further blasphemy. What, gentlemen, is your verdict?’

“‘Death to the blasphemer!’ cried one, springing to his feet, and in an instant the entire thirty-one judges were on their feet with upraised swords in token of the unanimity of their verdict.

“If the people did not hear Zat Arras’s charge, they certainly did hear the verdict of the tribunal. A sullen murmer rose louder and louder about the packed coliseum, and then Kantos Kan, who had not left the platform since first he had taken his place near me, raised his hand for silence. When he could be heard he spoke to the people in a cool and level voice.

“‘You have heard the fate that the men of Zodanga would mete to Helium’s noblest hero. It may be the duty of the men of Helium to accept the verdict as final. Let each man act according to his own heart. Here is the answer of Kantos Kan, head of the navy of Helium, to Zat Arras and his judges,’ and with that he unbuckled his scabbard and threw his sword at my feet.

“In an instant soldiers and citizens, officers and nobles, were crowding past the soldiers of Zodanga and forcing their way to the Throne of Righteousness. A hundred men surged upon the platform, and a hundred blades rattled and clanked to the floor at my feet. Zat Arras and his officers were furious, but they were helpless. One by one I raised the swords to my lips and buckled them again upon their owners.

“‘Come,’ said Kantos Kan, ‘we will escort John Carter and his party to his own palace,’ and they formed about us and started toward the stairs leading to the Aisle of Hope.

“‘Stop!’ cried Zat Arras. ‘Soldiers of Helium, let no prisoner leave the Throne of Righteousness.’

“The soldiery from Zodanga were the only organized body of Heliumetic troops within the temple, so Zat Arras was confident his orders would be obeyed, but I do not think that he looked for the opposition that was raised the moment the soldiers advanced toward the throne.

“From every quarter of the coliseum swords flashed and men rushed threateningly upon the Zodangans. Some one raised a cry: ‘Tardos Mors is dead – a thousand years to John Carter, Jeddak of Helium.’ As I heard that and saw the ugly attitude of the men of Helium toward the soldiers of Zat Arras, I knew that only a miracle could avert a clash that would end in civil war.

“‘Hold!’ I cried, leaping to the Pedestal of Truth once more. ‘Let no man move till I am done. A single sword thrust here today may plunge Helium into a bitter and bloody war the results of which none can foresee. It will turn brother against brother and father against son. No man’s life is worth that sacrifice. Rather would I submit to the biased judgment of Zat Arras than be the cause of civil strife in Helium.’” (GM/17.)

John Carter must have learned something from Kantos Kan, because this time his is the cooler prevailing head. And he is able to come up with a saving compromise:
“‘Let us each give in a point to the other, and let this entire matter rest until Tardos Mors returns, or Mors Kojak, his son. If neither be back at the end of a year a second trial may be held – the thing has a precedent.’ And then turning to Zat Arras, I said in a low voice: ‘Unless you be a bigger fool than I take you to be, you will grasp the chance I am offering you ere it be too late. Once that multitude of swords below is drawn against your soldiery no man upon Barsoom – not even Tardos Mors himself – can avert the consquences. What say you? Speak quickly.’

“The Jed of Zodangan Helium raised his voice to the angry sea beneath us.

“‘Stay your hands, men of Helium,’ he shouted, his voice trembling with rage. ‘The sentence of the court is passed, but the day of retribution has not been set. I, Zat Arras, Jed of Zodanga, appreciating the royal connections of the prisoner and his past services to Helium and Barsoom, grant a respite of one year, or until the return of Mors Kojak, or Tardos Mors to Helium. Disperse quietly to your houses. Go.’

“No one moved. Instead, they stood in tense silence with their eyes fastened upon me, as though waiting for a signal to attack.

“‘Clear the temple,’ commanded Zat Arras, in a low tone to one of his officers.

“Fearing the results of an attempt to carry out this order by force, I stepped to the edge of the platform and, pointing to the main entrance, bid them pass out. As one man they turned at my request and filed, silent and threatening, past the soldiers of Zat Arras, Jed of Zodanga, who stood scowling in impotent rage.

“Kantos Kan with the others who had sworn allegiance to me still stood upon the Throne of Righteousness with me.

“‘Come,’ said Kantos Kan to me, ‘we will escort you to your palace, my Prince. Come, Carthoris and Xodar. Come, Tars Tarkas.’ And with a haughty sneer for Zat Arras upon his handsome lips, he turned and strode to the throne steps and up the Aisle of Hope. We four and the hundred loyal ones followed behind him, nor was a hand raised to stay us, though glowering eyes followed our triumphal march through the temple.” (GM/17.)

They return to Carter’s palace in time to discover that Sola has been rescued and has fresh news of the Princess. She is in the hands of the Black Pirates, who have also captured Thuvia. Carter and his companions make plans to rescue the princess. Xodar assures them that Issus will choose both Thuvia and Dejah Thoris to serve her for a year, for he has seen both of them and knows they have no equal in beauty on Barsoom. Thus, they have that long to assemble their rescue effort.
“In the matter of equipping a fleet to enter Omean the details were left to Kantos Kan and Xodar. The former agreed to take such vessels as we required into dock as rapidly as possible, where Xodar would direct their equipment with water propellers.

“For many years the black had been in charge of the refitting of captured battleships that they might navigate Omean, and so was familiar with the construction of the propellers, housings, and the auxiliary gearing required.

“It was estimated that it would require six months to complete our preparations in view of the fact that the utmost secrecy must be maintained to keep the project from the ears of Zat Arras. Kantos Kan was confident now that the man’s ambitions were fully aroused and that nothing short of the title of Jeddak of Helium would satisfy him.

“‘I doubt,’ he said, ‘if we would even welcome Dejah Thoris’ return, for it would mean another nearer the throne than he. With you and Carthoris out of the way there would be little to prevent him from assuming the title of Jeddak, and you may rest assured that so long as he is supreme here there is no safety for either of you.’” (GM/18.)

Hor Vastus suggests there is a way if John Carter desires to be Jeddak of Helium, for the people of Helium would prefer him to Zat Arras. But Carter declines, preferring to await the return of Tardos Mors, or a national election.
“‘Until then Tardos Mors is Jeddak of Helium, and Zat Arras is his representative.

“‘As you will, John Carter,’ said Hor Vastus, ‘but – What was that?’ he whispered, pointing toward the window overlooking the gardens.

“The words were scarce out of his mouth ere he had sprung to the balcony without 

“‘There he goes!’ he cried excitedly. ‘The guards! Below there! The guards!’

“We were close behind him, and all saw the figure of a man run quickly across a little piece of sward and disappear in the shrubbery beyond.

“‘He was on the balcony when I first saw him,’ cried Hor Vastus. ‘Quick! Let us follow him!’

“Together we ran to the gardens, but even though we scoured the grounds with the entire guard for hours, no trace could we find of the night marauder.

“‘What do you make of it, Kantos Kan,’ asked Tars Tarkas.

“‘A spy sent by Zat Arras,’ he replied. ‘It was ever his way.’

“‘He will have something interesting to report to his master then,’ laughed Hor Vastus.

“‘I hope he heard only our references to a new Jeddak,’ I said. ‘If he overheard our plans to rescue Dejah Thoris, it will mean civil war, for he will attempt to thwart us, and in that I will not be thwarted. There would I turn against Tardos Mors himself, were it necessary. If it throws all Helium into a bloody conflict, I shall go on with these plans to save my Princess. Nothing shall stay me now short of death, and should I die, my friends, will you take oath to prosecute the search for her and bring her back in safety to her grandfather’s court?’

“Upon the hilt of his sword each of them swore to do as I had asked.’” (GM/18.)

It was good that Carter had them take this oath, for he will soon be out of the picture due to the machinations of Zat Arras. But Carter’s willingness to depopulate the entire planet to save the Princess is back in spades.

They make detailed plans and retire for the night. Carter is kidnapped in the middle of night and taken to Zat Arras, who waits for him in the pits of Helium.

“‘Ah,’ said Zat Arras, ‘to what kindly circumstance am I indebted for the pleasure of this unexpected visit from the Prince of Helium?’

“While he was speaking, one of my guards had removed the gag from my mouth, but I made no reply to Zat Arras: simply standing there in silence with level gaze fixed upon the Jed of Zodanga. And I doubt not that my expression was colored by the contempt I felt for the man.

“The eyes of those within the chamber were fixed first upon me and then upon Zat Arras, until finally a flush of anger crept slowly over his face.

“‘You may go,’ he said to those who had brought me and when only his two companions and ourselves were left in the chamber, he spoke to me again in a voice of ice – very slowly and deliberately, with many pauses, as though he would choose his words cautiously.

“‘John Carter,’ he said, ‘by the edict of custom, by the law of our religion, and by the verdict of an impartial court, you are condemned to die. The people cannot save you – I alone may accomplish that. You are absolutely in my power to do with as I wish – I may kill you, or I may free you, and should I elect to kill you, none would be the wiser.

“‘Should you go free in Helium for a year, in accordance with the conditions of your reprieve, there is little fear that the people would ever insist upon the execution of the sentence imposed upon you.

“‘You may go free within two minutes, upon one condition. Tardos Mors will never return to Helium. Neither will Mors Kojak, nor Dejah Thoris. Helium must select a new Jeddak within the year. Zat Arras would be Jeddak of Helium. Say that you will espouse my cause. This is the price of your freedom. I am done.’” (GM/19.)

What is it with villains, anyway? They have every chance to kill the one who eventually undoes them, yet they wish to talk and make deals with them instead and to gloat. Oh well, every villain seems to do it, so ERB cannot be singled out for this plot device. I guess it goes hand in hand with being a villain.

Carter is offered an opportunity to go about his plans in saving the Princess for one year without disturbance if he goes along with Zat Arras’s offer. But his absolutism, including his false beliefs about the Princess, will have none of it.

“I knew it was within the scope of Zat Arras’ cruel heart to destroy me, and if I were dead I could see little reason to doubt that he might easily become Jeddak of Helium. Free, I could prosecute the search for Dejah Thoris. Were I dead, my brave comrades might not be able to carry out our plans. So, by refusing to accede to his request, it was quite probable that not only would I not prevent him from becoming Jeddak of Helium, but that I would be the means of sealing Dejah Thoris’ fate – of consigning her, through my refusal, to the horrors of the arena of Issus.

“For a moment I was perplexed, but for a moment only. The proud daughter of a thousand Jeddaks would choose death to a dishonorable alliance such as this, nor could John Carter do less for Helium than his Princess would do.

“Then I turned to Zat Arras.

“‘There can be no alliance,’ I said, ‘between a traitor of Helium and a prince of the House of Tardos Mors. I do not believe, Zat Arras, that the great Jeddak is dead.’” (GM/19.)

I said that John Carter held false beliefs about the Princess because it seems that he has learned little about Dejah Thoris and her attraction for Zodangans, for she was perfectly willing to choose a dishonorable alliance with Zodanga once before with Sab Than, to the utter disbelief of Kantos Kan, a loyal Heliumite.

Of course, this time Carter may have been right since the Princess was willing to take the pilgrimage down the River Iss rather than spend another minute at the mercy of Zat Arras. What did Sab Than have that Zat Arras didn’t? We’ll never know, but to Dejah Thoris, it made every inch of difference in the world. 

Zat Arras consigns Carter to the pits and that is where we end Part Four.

I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII
7 WONDERS: I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII

RUNNERS UP: I.a | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII.2.2b.3a.3b | IX | X.2.3.4
|.XI. |.XII.2.| XIII.|.XIV.|.XV.

SYNTHETIC MEN OF MARS: Art and Commentary
A Princess of Mars
Gods of Mars
Warlord of Mars
Thuvia, Maid of Mars
Chessmen of Mars
Mastermind of Mars
A Fighting Man of Mars
Swords of Mars
Synthetic Men of Mars
Llana of Gathol
Skeleton Men of Jupiter
John Carter and the Giant of Mars

The Fall of Barsoom

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