The Chessmen of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 1 out of 5
This etext was prepared by Judy Boss, Omaha, NE
THE CHESSMEN OF MARS
by Edgar Rice Burroughs
PRELUDE - John Carter Comes to Earth
I Tara in a Tantrum
II At the Gale's Mercy
III The Headless Humans
V The Perfect Brain
VI In the Toils of Horror
VII A Repellent Sight
VIII Close Work
IX Adrift Over Strange Regions
XI The Choice of Tara
XII Ghek Plays Pranks
XIII A Desperate Deed
XIV At Ghek's Command
XV The Old Man of the Pits
XVI Another Change of Name
XVII A Play to the Death
XVIII A Task for Loyalty
XIX The Menace of the Dead
XX The Charge of Cowardice
XXI A Risk for Love
XXII At the Moment of Marriage
THE CHESSMEN OF MARS
JOHN CARTER COMES TO EARTH
Shea had just beaten me at chess, as usual, and, also as usual, I
had gleaned what questionable satisfaction I might by twitting
him with this indication of failing mentality by calling his
attention to the nth time to that theory, propounded by certain
scientists, which is based upon the assertion that phenomenal
chess players are always found to be from the ranks of children
under twelve, adults over seventy-two or the mentally
defective--a theory that is lightly ignored upon those rare
occasions that I win. Shea had gone to bed and I should have
followed suit, for we are always in the saddle here before
sunrise; but instead I sat there before the chess table in the
library, idly blowing smoke at the dishonored head of my defeated
While thus profitably employed I heard the east door of the
living-room open and someone enter. I thought it was Shea
returning to speak with me on some matter of tomorrow's work; but
when I raised my eyes to the doorway that connects the two rooms
I saw framed there the figure of a bronzed giant, his otherwise
naked body trapped with a jewel-encrusted harness from which
there hung at one side an ornate short-sword and at the other a
pistol of strange pattern. The black hair, the steel-gray eyes,
brave and smiling, the noble features--I recognized them at once,
and leaping to my feet I advanced with outstretched hand.
"John Carter!" I cried. "You?"
"None other, my son," he replied, taking my hand in one of his
and placing the other upon my shoulder.
"And what are you doing here?" I asked. "It has been long years
since you revisited Earth, and never before in the trappings of
Mars. Lord! but it is good to see you--and not a day older in
appearance than when you trotted me on your knee in my babyhood.
How do you explain it, John Carter, Warlord of Mars, or do you
try to explain it?"
"Why attempt to explain the inexplicable?" he replied. "As I have
told you before, I am a very old man. I do not know how old I am.
I recall no childhood; but recollect only having been always as
you see me now and as you saw me first when you were five years
old. You, yourself, have aged, though not as much as most men in
a corresponding number of years, which may be accounted for by
the fact that the same blood runs in our veins; but I have not
aged at all. I have discussed the question with a noted Martian
scientist, a friend of mine; but his theories are still only
theories. However, I am content with the fact--I never age, and I
love life and the vigor of youth.
"And now as to your natural question as to what brings me to
Earth again and in this, to earthly eyes, strange habiliment. We
may thank Kar Komak, the bowman of Lothar. It was he who gave me
the idea upon which I have been experimenting until at last I
have achieved success. As you know I have long possessed the
power to cross the void in spirit, but never before have I been
able to impart to inanimate things a similar power. Now, however,
you see me for the first time precisely as my Martian fellows see
me--you see the very short-sword that has tasted the blood of
many a savage foeman; the harness with the devices of Helium and
the insignia of my rank; the pistol that was presented to me by
Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark.
"Aside from seeing you, which is my principal reason for being
here, and satisfying myself that I can transport inanimate things
from Mars to Earth, and therefore animate things if I so desire,
I have no purpose. Earth is not for me. My every interest is upon
Barsoom--my wife, my children, my work; all are there. I will
spend a quiet evening with you and then back to the world I love
even better than I love life."
As he spoke he dropped into the chair upon the opposite side of
the chess table.
"You spoke of children," I said. "Have you more than Carthoris?"
"A daughter," he replied, "only a little younger than Carthoris,
and, barring one, the fairest thing that ever breathed the thin
air of dying Mars. Only Dejah Thoris, her mother, could be more
beautiful than Tara of Helium."
For a moment he fingered the chessmen idly. "We have a game on
Mars similar to chess," he said, "very similar. And there is a
race there that plays it grimly with men and naked swords. We
call the game jetan. It is played on a board like yours, except
that there are a hundred squares and we use twenty pieces on
each side. I never see it played without thinking of Tara of
Helium and what befell her among the chessmen of Barsoom.
Would you like to hear her story?"
I said that I would and so he told it to me, and now I shall try
to re-tell it for you as nearly in the words of The Warlord of
Mars as I can recall them, but in the third person. If there be
inconsistencies and errors, let the blame fall not upon John
Carter, but rather upon my faulty memory, where it belongs. It is
a strange tale and utterly Barsoomian.
TARA IN A TANTRUM
Tara of Helium rose from the pile of silks and soft furs upon
which she had been reclining, stretched her lithe body languidly,
and crossed toward the center of the room, where, above a large
table, a bronze disc depended from the low ceiling. Her carriage
was that of health and physical perfection--the effortless
harmony of faultless coordination. A scarf of silken gossamer
crossing over one shoulder was wrapped about her body; her black
hair was piled high upon her head. With a wooden stick she tapped
upon the bronze disc, lightly, and presently the summons was
answered by a slave girl, who entered, smiling, to be greeted
similarly by her mistress.
"Are my father's guests arriving?" asked the princess.
"Yes, Tara of Helium, they come," replied the slave. "I have seen
Kantos Kan, Overlord of the Navy, and Prince Soran of Ptarth, and
Djor Kantos, son of Kantos Kan," she shot a roguish glance at her
mistress as she mentioned Djor Kantos' name, "and--oh, there were
others, many have come."
"The bath, then, Uthia," said her mistress. "And why, Uthia," she
added, "do you look thus and smile when you mention the name of
The slave girl laughed gaily. "It is so plain to all that he
worships you," she replied.
"It is not plain to me," said Tara of Helium. "He is the friend
of my brother, Carthoris, and so he is here much; but not to see
me. It is his friendship for Carthoris that brings him thus often
to the palace of my father."
"But Carthoris is hunting in the north with Talu, Jeddak of
Okar," Uthia reminded her.
"My bath, Uthia!" cried Tara of Helium. "That tongue of yours
will bring you to some misadventure yet."
"The bath is ready, Tara of Helium," the girl responded, her eyes
still twinkling with merriment, for she well knew that in the
heart of her mistress was no anger that could displace the love
of the princess for her slave. Preceding the daughter of The
Warlord she opened the door of an adjoining room where lay the
bath--a gleaming pool of scented water in a marble basin. Golden
stanchions supported a chain of gold encircling it and leading
down into the water on either side of marble steps. A glass dome
let in the sun-light, which flooded the interior, glancing from
the polished white of the marble walls and the procession of
bathers and fishes, which, in conventional design, were inlaid
with gold in a broad band that circled the room.
Tara of Helium removed the scarf from about her and handed it to
the slave. Slowly she descended the steps to the water, the
temperature of which she tested with a symmetrical foot,
undeformed by tight shoes and high heels--a lovely foot, as God
intended that feet should be and seldom are. Finding the water to
her liking, the girl swam leisurely to and fro about the pool.
With the silken ease of the seal she swam, now at the surface,
now below, her smooth muscles rolling softly beneath her clear
skin--a wordless song of health and happiness and grace.
Presently she emerged and gave herself into the hands of the
slave girl, who rubbed the body of her mistress with a sweet
smelling semi-liquid substance contained in a golden urn, until
the glowing skin was covered with a foamy lather, then a quick
plunge into the pool, a drying with soft towels, and the bath was
over. Typical of the life of the princess was the simple elegance
of her bath--no retinue of useless slaves, no pomp, no idle waste
of precious moments. In another half hour her hair was dried and
built into the strange, but becoming, coiffure of her station;
her leathern trappings, encrusted with gold and jewels, had been
adjusted to her figure and she was ready to mingle with the
guests that had been bidden to the midday function at the palace
of The Warlord.
As she left her apartments to make her way to the gardens where
the guests were congregating, two warriors, the insignia of the
House of the Prince of Helium upon their harness, followed a few
paces behind her, grim reminders that the assassin's blade may
never be ignored upon Barsoom, where, in a measure, it
counterbalances the great natural span of human life, which is
estimated at not less than a thousand years.
As they neared the entrance to the garden another woman,
similarly guarded, approached them from another quarter of the
great palace. As she neared them Tara of Helium turned toward her
with a smile and a happy greeting, while her guards knelt with
bowed heads in willing and voluntary adoration of the beloved of
Helium. Thus always, solely at the command of their own hearts,
did the warriors of Helium greet Dejah Thoris, whose deathless
beauty had more than once brought them to bloody warfare with
other nations of Barsoom. So great was the love of the people of
Helium for the mate of John Carter it amounted practically to
worship, as though she were indeed the goddess that she looked.
The mother and daughter exchanged the gentle, Barsoomian, "kaor"
of greeting and kissed. Then together they entered the gardens
where the guests were. A huge warrior drew his short-sword and
struck his metal shield with the flat of it, the brazen sound
ringing out above the laughter and the speech.
"The Princess comes!" he cried. "Dejah Thoris! The Princess
comes! Tara of Helium!" Thus always is royalty announced. The
guests arose; the two women inclined their heads; the guards fell
back upon either side of the entrance-way; a number of nobles
advanced to pay their respects; the laughing and the talking were
resumed and Dejah Thoris and her daughter moved simply and
naturally among their guests, no suggestion of differing rank
apparent in the bearing of any who were there, though there was
more than a single Jeddak and many common warriors whose only
title lay in brave deeds, or noble patriotism. Thus it is upon
Mars where men are judged upon their own merits rather than upon
those of their grandsires, even though pride of lineage be great.
Tara of Helium let her slow gaze wander among the throng of
guests until presently it halted upon one she sought. Was the
faint shadow of a frown that crossed her brow an indication of
displeasure at the sight that met her eyes, or did the brilliant
rays of the noonday sun distress her? Who may say! She had been
reared to believe that one day she should wed Djor Kantos, son of
her father's best friend. It had been the dearest wish of Kantos
Kan and The Warlord that this should be, and Tara of Helium had
accepted it as a matter of all but accomplished fact. Djor Kantos
had seemed to accept the matter in the same way. They had spoken
of it casually as something that would, as a matter of course,
take place in the indefinite future, as, for instance, his
promotion in the navy, in which he was now a padwar; or the set
functions of the court of her grandfather, Tardos Mors, Jeddak of
Helium; or Death. They had never spoken of love and that had
puzzled Tara of Helium upon the rare occasions she gave it
thought, for she knew that people who were to wed were usually
much occupied with the matter of love and she had all of a
woman's curiosity--she wondered what love was like. She was very
fond of Djor Kantos and she knew that he was very fond of her.
They liked to be together, for they liked the same things and the
same people and the same books and their dancing was a joy, not
only to themselves but to those who watched them. She could not
imagine wanting to marry anyone other than Djor Kantos.
So perhaps it was only the sun that made her brows contract just
the tiniest bit at the same instant that she discovered Djor
Kantos sitting in earnest conversation with Olvia Marthis,
daughter of the Jed of Hastor. It was Djor Kantos' duty
immediately to pay his respects to Dejah Thoris and Tara of
Helium; but he did not do so and presently the daughter of The
Warlord frowned indeed. She looked long at Olvia Marthis, and
though she had seen her many times before and knew her well, she
looked at her today through new eyes that saw, apparently for the
first time, that the girl from Hastor was noticeably beautiful
even among those other beautiful women of Helium. Tara of Helium
was disturbed. She attempted to analyze her emotions; but found
it difficult. Olvia Marthis was her friend--she was very fond of
her and she felt no anger toward her. Was she angry with Djor
Kantos? No, she finally decided that she was not. It was merely
surprise, then, that she felt--surprise that Djor Kantos could be
more interested in another than in herself. She was about to
cross the garden and join them when she heard her father's voice
directly behind her.
"Tara of Helium!" he called, and she turned to see him
approaching with a strange warrior whose harness and metal bore
devices with which she was unfamiliar. Even among the gorgeous
trappings of the men of Helium and the visitors from distant
empires those of the stranger were remarkable for their barbaric
splendor. The leather of his harness was completely hidden
beneath ornaments of platinum thickly set with brilliant
diamonds, as were the scabbards of his swords and the ornate
holster that held his long, Martian pistol. Moving through the
sunlit garden at the side of the great Warlord, the scintillant
rays of his countless gems enveloping him as in an aureole of
light imparted to his noble figure a suggestion of godliness.
"Tara of Helium, I bring you Gahan, Jed of Gathol," said John
Carter, after the simple Barsoomian custom of presentation.
"Kaor! Gahan, Jed of Gathol," returned Tara of Helium.
"My sword is at your feet, Tara of Helium," said the young
The Warlord left them and the two seated themselves upon an
ersite bench beneath a spreading sorapus tree.
"Far Gathol," mused the girl. "Ever in my mind has it been
connected with mystery and romance and the half-forgotten lore of
the ancients. I cannot think of Gathol as existing today,
possibly because I have never before seen a Gatholian."
"And perhaps too because of the great distance that separates
Helium and Gathol, as well as the comparative insignificance of
my little free city, which might easily be lost in one corner of
mighty Helium," added Gahan. "But what we lack in power we make
up in pride," he continued, laughing. "We believe ours the oldest
inhabited city upon Barsoom. It is one of the few that has
retained its freedom, and this despite the fact that its ancient
diamond mines are the richest known and, unlike practically all
the other fields, are today apparently as inexhaustible as ever."
"Tell me of Gathol," urged the girl. "The very thought fills me
with interest," nor was it likely that the handsome face of the
young jed detracted anything from the glamour of far Gathol.
Nor did Gahan seem displeased with the excuse for further
monopolizing the society of his fair companion. His eyes seemed
chained to her exquisite features, from which they moved no
further than to a rounded breast, part hid beneath its jeweled
covering, a naked shoulder or the symmetry of a perfect arm,
resplendent in bracelets of barbaric magnificence.
"Your ancient history has doubtless told you that Gathol was
built upon an island in Throxeus, mightiest of the five oceans of
old Barsoom. As the ocean receded Gathol crept down the sides of
the mountain, the summit of which was the island upon which she
had been built, until today she covers the slopes from summit to
base, while the bowels of the great hill are honeycombed with the
galleries of her mines. Entirely surrounding us is a great salt
marsh, which protects us from invasion by land, while the rugged
and ofttimes vertical topography of our mountain renders the
landing of hostile airships a precarious undertaking."
"That, and your brave warriors?" suggested the girl.
Gahan smiled. "We do not speak of that except to enemies," he
said, "and then with tongues of steel rather than of flesh."
"But what practice in the art of war has a people which nature
has thus protected from attack?" asked Tara of Helium, who had
liked the young jed's answer to her previous question, but yet in
whose mind persisted a vague conviction of the possible
effeminacy of her companion, induced, doubtless, by the
magnificence of his trappings and weapons which carried a
suggestion of splendid show rather than grim utility.
"Our natural barriers, while they have doubtless saved us from
defeat on countless occasions, have not by any means rendered us
immune from attack," he explained, "for so great is the wealth of
Gathol's diamond treasury that there yet may be found those who
will risk almost certain defeat in an effort to loot our
unconquered city; so thus we find occasional practice in the
exercise of arms; but there is more to Gathol than the mountain
city. My country extends from Polodona (Equator) north ten karads
and from the tenth karad west of Horz to the twentieth west,
including thus a million square haads, the greater proportion of
which is fine grazing land where run our great herds of thoats
"Surrounded as we are by predatory enemies our herdsmen must
indeed be warriors or we should have no herds, and you may be
assured they get plenty of fighting. Then there is our constant
need of workers in the mines. The Gatholians consider themselves
a race of warriors and as such prefer not to labor in the mines.
The law is, however, that each male Gatholian shall give an hour
a day in labor to the government. That is practically the only
tax that is levied upon them. They prefer however, to furnish a
substitute to perform this labor, and as our own people will not
hire out for labor in the mines it has been necessary to obtain
slaves, and I do not need to tell you that slaves are not won
without fighting. We sell these slaves in the public market, the
proceeds going, half and half, to the government and the warriors
who bring them in. The purchasers are credited with the amount of
labor performed by their particular slaves. At the end of a year
a good slave will have performed the labor tax of his master for
six years, and if slaves are plentiful he is freed and permitted
to return to his own people."
"You fight in platinum and diamonds?" asked Tara, indicating his
gorgeous trappings with a quizzical smile.
Gahan laughed. "We are a vain people," he admitted,
good-naturedly, "and it is possible that we place too much value
on personal appearances. We vie with one another in the splendor
of our accoutrements when trapped for the observance of the
lighter duties of life, though when we take the field our leather
is the plainest I ever have seen worn by fighting men of Barsoom.
We pride ourselves, too, upon our physical beauty, and especially
upon the beauty of our women. May I dare to say, Tara of Helium,
that I am hoping for the day when you will visit Gathol that my
people may see one who is really beautiful?"
"The women of Helium are taught to frown with displeasure upon
the tongue of the flatterer," rejoined the girl, but Gahan, Jed
of Gathol, observed that she smiled as she said it.
A bugle sounded, clear and sweet, above the laughter and the
talk. "The Dance of Barsoom!" exclaimed the young warrior. "I
claim you for it, Tara of Helium."
The girl glanced in the direction of the bench where she had last
seen Djor Kantos. He was not in sight. She inclined her head in
assent to the claim of the Gatholian. Slaves were passing among
the guests, distributing small musical instruments of a single
string. Upon each instrument were characters which indicated the
pitch and length of its tone. The instruments were of skeel, the
string of gut, and were shaped to fit the left forearm of the
dancer, to which it was strapped. There was also a ring wound
with gut which was worn between the first and second joints of
the index finger of the right hand and which, when passed over
the string of the instrument, elicited the single note required
of the dancer.
The guests had risen and were slowly making their way toward the
expanse of scarlet sward at the south end of the gardens where
the dance was to be held, when Djor Kantos came hurriedly toward
Tara of Helium. "I claim--" he exclaimed as he neared her; but
she interrupted him with a gesture.
"You are too late, Djor Kantos," she cried in mock anger. "No
laggard may claim Tara of Helium; but haste now lest thou lose
also Olvia Marthis, whom I have never seen wait long to be
claimed for this or any other dance."
"I have already lost her," admitted Djor Kantos ruefully.
"And you mean to say that you came for Tara of Helium only after
having lost Olvia Marthis?" demanded the girl, still simulating
"Oh, Tara of Helium, you know better than that," insisted the
young man. "Was it not natural that I should assume that you
would expect me, who alone has claimed you for the Dance of
Barsoom for at least twelve times past?"
"And sit and play with my thumbs until you saw fit to come for
me?" she questioned. "Ah, no, Djor Kantos; Tara of Helium is for
no laggard," and she threw him a sweet smile and passed on toward
the assembling dancers with Gahan, Jed of far Gathol.
The Dance of Barsoom bears a relation similar to the more formal
dancing functions of Mars that The Grand March does to ours,
though it is infinitely more intricate and more beautiful. Before
a Martian youth of either sex may attend an important social
function where there is dancing, he must have become proficient
in at least three dances--The Dance of Barsoom, his national
dance, and the dance of his city. In these three dances the
dancers furnish their own music, which never varies; nor do the
steps or figures vary, having been handed down from time
immemorial. All Barsoomian dances are stately and beautiful, but
The Dance of Barsoom is a wondrous epic of motion and
harmony--there is no grotesque posturing, no vulgar or suggestive
movements. It has been described as the interpretation of the
highest ideals of a world that aspired to grace and beauty and
chastity in woman, and strength and dignity and loyalty in man.
Today, John Carter, Warlord of Mars, with Dejah Thoris, his mate,
led in the dancing, and if there was another couple that vied
with them in possession of the silent admiration of the guests it
was the resplendent Jed of Gathol and his beautiful partner. In
the ever-changing figures of the dance the man found himself now
with the girl's hand in his and again with an arm about the lithe
body that the jeweled harness but inadequately covered, and the
girl, though she had danced a thousand dances in the past,
realized for the first time the personal contact of a man's arm
against her naked flesh. It troubled her that she should notice
it, and she looked up questioningly and almost with displeasure
at the man as though it was his fault. Their eyes met and she saw
in his that which she had never seen in the eyes of Djor Kantos.
It was at the very end of the dance and they both stopped
suddenly with the music and stood there looking straight into
each other's eyes. It was Gahan of Gathol who spoke first.
"Tara of Helium, I love you!" he said.
The girl drew herself to her full height. "The Jed of Gathol
forgets himself," she exclaimed haughtily.
"The Jed of Gathol would forget everything but you, Tara of
Helium," he replied. Fiercely he pressed the soft hand that he
still retained from the last position of the dance. "I love you,
Tara of Helium," he repeated. "Why should your ears refuse to
hear what your eyes but just now did not refuse to see--and
"What meanest thou?" she cried. "Are the men of Gathol such
"They are neither boors nor fools," he replied, quietly. "They
know when they love a woman--and when she loves them."
Tara of Helium stamped her little foot in anger. "Go!" she said,
"before it is necessary to acquaint my father with the dishonor
of his guest."
She turned and walked away. "Wait!" cried the man. "Just another
"Of apology?" she asked.
"Of prophecy," he said.
"I do not care to hear it," replied Tara of Helium, and left
him standing there. She was strangely unstrung and shortly
thereafter returned to her own quarter of the palace, where she
stood for a long time by a window looking out beyond the scarlet
tower of Greater Helium toward the northwest.
Presently she turned angrily away. "I hate him!" she exclaimed
"Whom?" inquired the privileged Uthia.
Tara of Helium stamped her foot. "That ill-mannered boor, the Jed
of Gathol," she replied.
Uthia raised her slim brows.
At the stamping of the little foot, a great beast rose from the
corner of the room and crossed to Tara of Helium where it stood
looking up into her face. She placed her hand upon the ugly head.
"Dear old Woola," she said; "no love could be deeper than yours,
yet it never offends. Would that men might pattern themselves
AT THE GALE'S MERCY
Tara of Helium did not return to her father's guests, but awaited
in her own apartments the word from Djor Kantos which she knew
must come, begging her to return to the gardens. She would then
refuse, haughtily. But no appeal came from Djor Kantos. At first
Tara of Helium was angry, then she was hurt, and always she was
puzzled. She could not understand. Occasionally she thought of
the Jed of Gathol and then she would stamp her foot, for she was
very angry indeed with Gahan. The presumption of the man! He had
insinuated that he read love for him in her eyes. Never had she
been so insulted and humiliated. Never had she so thoroughly
hated a man. Suddenly she turned toward Uthia.
"My flying leather!" she commanded.
"But the guests!" exclaimed the slave girl. "Your father, The
Warlord, will expect you to return."
"He will be disappointed," snapped Tara of Helium.
The slave hesitated. "He does not approve of your flying alone,"
she reminded her mistress.
The young princess sprang to her feet and seized the unhappy
slave by the shoulders, shaking her. "You are becoming
unbearable, Uthia," she cried. "Soon there will be no alternative
than to send you to the public slave-market. Then possibly you
will find a master to your liking."
Tears came to the soft eyes of the slave girl. "It is because I
love you, my princess," she said softly. Tara of Helium melted.
She took the slave in her arms and kissed her.
"I have the disposition of a thoat, Uthia," she said. "Forgive
me! I love you and there is nothing that I would not do for you
and nothing would I do to harm you. Again, as I have so often in
the past, I offer you your freedom."
"I do not wish my freedom if it will separate me from you, Tara
of Helium," replied Uthia. "I am happy here with you--I think
that I should die without you."
Again the girls kissed. "And you will not fly alone, then?"
questioned the slave.
Tara of Helium laughed and pinched her companion. "You persistent
little pest," she cried. "Of course I shall fly--does not Tara of
Helium always do that which pleases her?"
Uthia shook her head sorrowfully. "Alas! she does," she admitted.
"Iron is the Warlord of Barsoom to the influences of all but two.
In the hands of Dejah Thoris and Tara of Helium he is as potters'
"Then run and fetch my flying leather like the sweet slave you
are," directed the mistress.
* * * * *
Far out across the ochre sea-bottoms beyond the twin cities of
Helium raced the swift flier of Tara of Helium. Thrilling to the
speed and the buoyancy and the obedience of the little craft the
girl drove toward the northwest. Why she should choose that
direction she did not pause to consider. Perhaps because in that
direction lay the least known areas of Barsoom, and, ergo,
Romance, Mystery, and Adventure. In that direction also lay far
Gathol; but to that fact she gave no conscious thought.
She did, however, think occasionally of the jed of that distant
kingdom, but the reaction to these thoughts was scarcely
pleasurable. They still brought a flush of shame to her cheeks
and a surge of angry blood to her heart. She was very angry with
the Jed of Gathol, and though she should never see him again she
was quite sure that hate of him would remain fresh in her memory
forever. Mostly her thoughts revolved about another--Djor Kantos.
And when she thought of him she thought also of Olvia Marthis of
Hastor. Tara of Helium thought that she was jealous of the fair
Olvia and it made her very angry to think that. She was angry
with Djor Kantos and herself, but she was not angry at all with
Olvia Marthis, whom she loved, and so of course she was not
jealous really. The trouble was, that Tara of Helium had failed
for once to have her own way. Djor Kantos had not come running
like a willing slave when she had expected him, and, ah, here was
the nub of the whole thing! Gahan, Jed of Gathol, a stranger, had
been a witness to her humiliation. He had seen her unclaimed at
the beginning of a great function and he had had to come to her
rescue to save her, as he doubtless thought, from the inglorious
fate of a wall-flower. At the recurring thought, Tara of Helium
could feel her whole body burning with scarlet shame and then she
went suddenly white and cold with rage; whereupon she turned her
flier about so abruptly that she was all but torn from her
lashings upon the flat, narrow deck. She reached home just before
dark. The guests had departed. Quiet had descended upon the
palace. An hour later she joined her father and mother at the
"You deserted us, Tara of Helium," said John Carter. "It is not
what the guests of John Carter should expect."
"They did not come to see me," replied Tara of Helium. "I did not
"They were no less your guests," replied her father.
The girl rose, and came and stood beside him and put her arms
about his neck.
"My proper old Virginian," she cried, rumpling his shock of black
"In Virginia you would be turned over your father's knee and
spanked," said the man, smiling.
She crept into his lap and kissed him. "You do not love me any
more," she announced. "No one loves me," but she could not
compose her features into a pout because bubbling laughter
insisted upon breaking through.
"The trouble is there are too many who love you," he said. "And
now there is another."
"Indeed!" she cried. "What do you mean?"
"Gahan of Gathol has asked permission to woo you."
The girl sat up very straight and tilted her chin in the air. "I
would not wed with a walking diamond-mine," she said. "I will not
"I told him as much," replied her father, "and that you were as
good as betrothed to another. He was very courteous about it; but
at the same time he gave me to understand that he was accustomed
to getting what he wanted and that he wanted you very much. I
suppose it will mean another war. Your mother's beauty kept
Helium at war for many years, and--well, Tara of Helium, if I
were a young man I should doubtless be willing to set all Barsoom
afire to win you, as I still would to keep your divine mother,"
and he smiled across the sorapus table and its golden service at
the undimmed beauty of Mars' most beautiful woman.
"Our little girl should not yet be troubled with such matters,"
said Dejah Thoris. "Remember, John Carter, that you are not
dealing with an Earth child, whose span of life would be more
than half completed before a daughter of Barsoom reached actual
"But do not the daughters of Barsoom sometimes marry as early as
twenty?" he insisted.
"Yes, but they will still be desirable in the eyes of men after
forty generations of Earth folk have returned to dust--there is
no hurry, at least, upon Barsoom. We do not fade and decay here
as you tell me those of your planet do, though you, yourself,
belie your own words. When the time seems proper Tara of Helium
shall wed with Djor Kantos, and until then let us give the matter
no further thought."
"No," said the girl, "the subject irks me, and I shall not marry
Djor Kantos, or another--I do not intend to wed."
Her father and mother looked at her and smiled. "When Gahan of
Gathol returns he may carry you off," said the former.
"He has gone?" asked the girl.
"His flier departs for Gathol in the morning," John Carter
"I have seen the last of him then," remarked Tara of Helium with
a sigh of relief.
"He says not," returned John Carter.
The girl dismissed the subject with a shrug and the conversation
passed to other topics. A letter had arrived from Thuvia of
Ptarth, who was visiting at her father's court while Carthoris,
her mate, hunted in Okar. Word had been received that the Tharks
and Warhoons were again at war, or rather that there had been an
engagement, for war was their habitual state. In the memory of
man there had been no peace between these two savage green
hordes--only a single temporary truce. Two new battleships had
been launched at Hastor. A little band of holy therns was
attempting to revive the ancient and discredited religion of
Issus, who they claimed still lived in spirit and had
communicated with them. There were rumors of war from Dusar. A
scientist claimed to have discovered human life on the further
moon. A madman had attempted to destroy the atmosphere plant.
Seven people had been assassinated in Greater Helium during the
last ten zodes, (the equivalent of an Earth day).
Following the meal Dejah Thoris and The Warlord played at jetan,
the Barsoomian game of chess, which is played upon a board of a
hundred alternate black and orange squares. One player has twenty
black pieces, the other, twenty orange pieces. A brief
description of the game may interest those Earth readers who care
for chess, and will not be lost upon those who pursue this
narrative to its conclusion, since before they are done they will
find that a knowledge of jetan will add to the interest and the
thrills that are in store for them.
The men are placed upon the board as in chess upon the first two
rows next the players. In order from left to right on the line of
squares nearest the players, the jetan pieces are Warrior,
Padwar, Dwar, Flier, Chief, Princess, Flier, Dwar, Padwar,
Warrior. In the next line all are Panthans except the end pieces,
which are called Thoats, and represent mounted warriors.
The Panthans, which are represented as warriors with one feather,
may move one space in any direction except backward; the Thoats,
mounted warriors with three feathers, may move one straight and
one diagonal, and may jump intervening pieces; Warriors, foot
soldiers with two feathers, straight in any direction, or
diagonally, two spaces; Padwars, lieutenants wearing two
feathers, two diagonal in any direction, or combination; Dwars,
captains wearing three feathers, three spaces straight in any
direction, or combination; Fliers, represented by a propellor
with three blades, three spaces in any direction, or combination,
diagonally, and may jump intervening pieces; the Chief, indicated
by a diadem with ten jewels, three spaces in any direction,
straight, or diagonal; Princess, diadem with a single jewel, same
as Chief, and can jump intervening pieces.
The game is won when a player places any of his pieces on the
same square with his opponent's Princess, or when a Chief takes a
Chief. It is drawn when a Chief is taken by any opposing piece
other than the opposing Chief; or when both sides have been
reduced to three pieces, or less, of equal value, and the game is
not terminated in the following ten moves, five apiece. This is
but a general outline of the game, briefly stated.
It was this game that Dejah Thoris and John Carter were playing
when Tara of Helium bid them good night, retiring to her own
quarters and her sleeping silks and furs. "Until morning, my
beloved," she called back to them as she passed from the
apartment, nor little did she guess, nor her parents, that this
might indeed be the last time that they would ever set eyes upon
The morning broke dull and gray. Ominous clouds billowed
restlessly and low. Beneath them torn fragments scudded toward
the northwest. From her window Tara of Helium looked out upon
this unusual scene. Dense clouds seldom overcast the Barsoomian
sky. At this hour of the day it was her custom to ride one of
those small thoats that are the saddle animals of the red
Martians, but the sight of the billowing clouds lured her to a
new adventure. Uthia still slept and the girl did not disturb
her. Instead, she dressed quietly and went to the hangar upon the
roof of the palace directly above her quarters where her own
swift flier was housed. She had never driven through the clouds.
It was an adventure that always she had longed to experience. The
wind was strong and it was with difficulty that she maneuvered
the craft from the hangar without accident, but once away it
raced swiftly out above the twin cities. The buffeting winds
caught and tossed it, and the girl laughed aloud in sheer joy of
the resultant thrills. She handled the little ship like a
veteran, though few veterans would have faced the menace of such
a storm in so light a craft. Swiftly she rose toward the clouds,
racing with the scudding streamers of the storm-swept fragments,
and a moment later she was swallowed by the dense masses
billowing above. Here was a new world, a world of chaos unpeopled
except for herself; but it was a cold, damp, lonely world and she
found it depressing after the novelty of it had been dissipated,
by an overpowering sense of the magnitude of the forces surging
about her. Suddenly she felt very lonely and very cold and very
little. Hurriedly, therefore, she rose until presently her craft
broke through into the glorious sunlight that transformed the
upper surface of the somber element into rolling masses of
burnished silver. Here it was still cold, but without the
dampness of the clouds, and in the eye of the brilliant sun her
spirits rose with the mounting needle of her altimeter. Gazing at
the clouds, now far beneath, the girl experienced the sensation
of hanging stationary in mid-heaven; but the whirring of her
propellor, the wind beating upon her, the high figures that rose
and fell beneath the glass of her speedometer, these told her
that her speed was terrific. It was then that she determined to
The first attempt she made above the clouds, but it was
unsuccessful. To her surprise she discovered that she could not
even turn against the high wind, which rocked and buffeted the
frail craft. Then she dropped swiftly to the dark and wind-swept
zone between the hurtling clouds and the gloomy surface of the
shadowed ground. Here she tried again to force the nose of the
flier back toward Helium, but the tempest seized the frail thing
and hurled it remorselessly about, rolling it over and over and
tossing it as it were a cork in a cataract. At last the girl
succeeded in righting the flier, perilously close to the ground.
Never before had she been so close to death, yet she was not
terrified. Her coolness had saved her, that and the strength of
the deck lashings that held her. Traveling with the storm she was
safe, but where was it bearing her? She pictured the apprehension
of her father and mother when she failed to appear at the morning
meal. They would find her flier missing and they would guess that
somewhere in the path of the storm it lay a wrecked and tangled
mass upon her dead body, and then brave men would go out in
search of her, risking their lives; and that lives would be lost
in the search, she knew, for she realized now that never in her
life-time had such a tempest raged upon Barsoom.
She must turn back! She must reach Helium before her mad lust for
thrills had cost the sacrifice of a single courageous life! She
determined that greater safety and likelihood of success lay
above the clouds, and once again she rose through the chilling,
wind-tossed vapor. Her speed again was terrific, for the wind
seemed to have increased rather than to have lessened. She sought
gradually to check the swift flight of her craft, but though she
finally succeeded in reversing her motor the wind but carried her
on as it would. Then it was that Tara of Helium lost her temper.
Had her world not always bowed in acquiescence to her every wish?
What were these elements that they dared to thwart her? She would
demonstrate to them that the daughter of The Warlord was not to
be denied! They would learn that Tara of Helium might not be
ruled even by the forces of nature!
And so she drove her motor forward again and then with her firm,
white teeth set in grim determination she drove the steering
lever far down to port with the intention of forcing the nose of
her craft straight into the teeth of the wind, and the wind
seized the frail thing and toppled it over upon its back, and
twisted and turned it and hurled it over and over; the propellor
raced for an instant in an air pocket and then the tempest seized
it again and twisted it from its shaft, leaving the girl helpless
upon an unmanageable atom that rose and fell, and rolled and
tumbled--the sport of the elements she had defied. Tara of
Helium's first sensation was one of surprise--that she had failed
to have her own way. Then she commenced to feel concern--not for
her own safety but for the anxiety of her parents and the dangers
that the inevitable searchers must face. She reproached herself
for the thoughtless selfishness that had jeopardized the peace
and safety of others. She realized her own grave danger, too; but
she was still unterrified, as befitted the daughter of Dejah
Thoris and John Carter. She knew that her buoyancy tanks might
keep her afloat indefinitely, but she had neither food nor water,
and she was being borne toward the least-known area of Barsoom.
Perhaps it would be better to land immediately and await the
coming of the searchers, rather than to allow herself to be
carried still further from Helium, thus greatly reducing the
chances of early discovery; but when she dropped toward the
ground she discovered that the violence of the wind rendered an
attempt to land tantamount to destruction and she rose again,
Carried along a few hundred feet above the ground she was better
able to appreciate the Titanic proportions of the storm than when
she had flown in the comparative serenity of the zone above the
clouds, for now she could distinctly see the effect of the wind
upon the surface of Barsoom. The air was filled with dust and
flying bits of vegetation and when the storm carried her across
an irrigated area of farm land she saw great trees and stone
walls and buildings lifted high in air and scattered broadcast
over the devastated country; and then she was carried swiftly on
to other sights that forced in upon her consciousness a rapidly
growing conviction that after all Tara of Helium was a very small
and insignificant and helpless person. It was quite a shock to
her self-pride while it lasted, and toward evening she was ready
to believe that it was going to last forever. There had been no
abatement in the ferocity of the tempest, nor was there
indication of any. She could only guess at the distance she had
been carried for she could not believe in the correctness of the
high figures that had been piled upon the record of her odometer.
They seemed unbelievable and yet, had she known it, they were
quite true--in twelve hours she had flown and been carried by the
storm full seven thousand haads. Just before dark she was carried
over one of the deserted cities of ancient Mars. It was Torquas,
but she did not know it. Had she, she might readily have been
forgiven for abandoning the last vestige of hope, for to the
people of Helium Torquas seems as remote as do the South Sea
Islands to us. And still the tempest, its fury unabated, bore her
All that night she hurtled through the dark beneath the clouds,
or rose to race through the moonlit void beneath the glory of
Barsoom's two satellites. She was cold and hungry and altogether
miserable, but her brave little spirit refused to admit that her
plight was hopeless even though reason proclaimed the truth. Her
reply to reason, sometime spoken aloud in sudden defiance,
recalled the Spartan stubbornness of her sire in the face of
certain annihilation: "I still live!"
That morning there had been an early visitor at the palace of The
Warlord. It was Gahan, Jed of Gathol. He had arrived shortly
after the absence of Tara of Helium had been noted, and in the
excitement he had remained unannounced until John Carter had
happened upon him in the great reception corridor of the palace
as The Warlord was hurrying out to arrange for the dispatch of
ships in search of his daughter.
Gahan read the concern upon the face of The Warlord. "Forgive me
if I intrude, John Carter," he said. "I but came to ask the
indulgence of another day since it would be fool-hardy to attempt
to navigate a ship in such a storm."
"Remain, Gahan, a welcome guest until you choose to leave us,"
replied The Warlord; "but you must forgive any seeming
inattention upon the part of Helium until my daughter is restored
"You daughter! Restored! What do you mean?" exclaimed the
Gatholian. "I do not understand."
"She is gone, together with her light flier. That is all we know.
We can only assume that she decided to fly before the morning
meal and was caught in the clutches of the tempest. You will
pardon me, Gahan, if I leave you abruptly--I am arranging to send
ships in search of her;" but Gahan, Jed of Gathol, was already
speeding in the direction of the palace gate. There he leaped
upon a waiting thoat and followed by two warriors in the metal of
Gathol, he dashed through the avenues of Helium toward the palace
that had been set aside for his entertainment.
THE HEADLESS HUMANS
Above the roof of the palace that housed the Jed of Gathol and
his entourage, the cruiser Vanator tore at her stout moorings.
The groaning tackle bespoke the mad fury of the gale, while the
worried faces of those members of the crew whose duties demanded
their presence on the straining craft gave corroborative evidence
of the gravity of the situation. Only stout lashings prevented
these men from being swept from the deck, while those upon the
roof below were constantly compelled to cling to rails and
stanchions to save themselves from being carried away by each new
burst of meteoric fury. Upon the prow of the Vanator was painted
the device of Gathol, but no pennants were displayed in the upper
works since the storm had carried away several in rapid
succession, just as it seemed to the watching men that it must
carry away the ship itself. They could not believe that any
tackle could withstand for long this Titanic force. To each of
the twelve lashings clung a brawny warrior with drawn
short-sword. Had but a single mooring given to the power of the
tempest eleven short-swords would have cut the others; since,
partially moored, the ship was doomed, while free in the tempest
it stood at least some slight chance for life.
"By the blood of Issus, I believe they will hold!" screamed one
warrior to another.
"And if they do not hold may the spirits of our ancestors reward
the brave warriors upon the Vanator," replied another of those
upon the roof of the palace, "for it will not be long from the
moment her cables part before her crew dons the leather of the
dead; but yet, Tanus, I believe they will hold. Give thanks at
least that we did not sail before the tempest fell, since now
each of us has a chance to live."
"Yes," replied Tanus, "I should hate to be abroad today upon the
stoutest ship that sails the Barsoomian sky."
It was then that Gahan the Jed appeared upon the roof. With him
were the balance of his own party and a dozen warriors of Helium.
The young chief turned to his followers.
"I sail at once upon the Vanator," he said, "in search of Tara of
Helium who is thought to have been carried away upon a one-man
flier by the storm. I do not need to explain to you the slender
chances the Vanator has to withstand the fury of the tempest, nor
will I order you to your deaths. Let those who wish remain behind
without dishonor. The others will follow me," and he leaped for
the rope ladder that lashed wildly in the gale.
The first man to follow him was Tanus and when the last reached
the deck of the cruiser there remained upon the palace roof only
the twelve warriors of Helium, who, with naked swords, had taken
the posts of the Gatholians at the moorings.
Not a single warrior who had remained aboard the Vanator would
leave her now.
"I expected no less," said Gahan, as with the help of those
already on the deck he and the others found secure lashings. The
commander of the Vanator shook his head. He loved his trim craft,
the pride of her class in the little navy of Gathol. It was of
her he thought--not of himself. He saw her lying torn and twisted
upon the ochre vegetation of some distant sea-bottom, to be
presently overrun and looted by some savage, green horde. He
looked at Gahan.
"Are you ready, San Tothis?" asked the jed.
"All is ready."
"Then cut away!"
Word was passed across the deck and over the side to the
Heliumetic warriors below that at the third gun they were to cut
away. Twelve keen swords must strike simultaneously and with
equal power, and each must sever completely and instantly three
strands of heavy cable that no loose end fouling a block bring
immediate disaster upon the Vanator.
Boom! The voice of the signal gun rolled down through the
screaming wind to the twelve warriors upon the roof. Boom! Twelve
swords were raised above twelve brawny shoulders. Boom! Twelve
keen edges severed twelve complaining moorings, clean and as one.
The Vanator, her propellors whirling, shot forward with the
storm. The tempest struck her in the stern as with a mailed fist
and stood the great ship upon her nose, and then it caught her
and spun her as a child's top spins; and upon the palace roof the
twelve men looked on in silent helplessness and prayed for the
souls of the brave warriors who were going to their death. And
others saw, from Helium's lofty landing stages and from a
thousand hangars upon a thousand roofs; but only for an instant
did the preparations stop that would send other brave men into
the frightful maelstrom of that apparently hopeless search, for
such is the courage of the warriors of Barsoom.
But the Vanator did not fall to the ground, within sight of the
city at least, though as long as the watchers could see her never
for an instant did she rest upon an even keel. Sometimes she lay
upon one side or the other, or again she hurtled along keel up,
or rolled over and over, or stood upon her nose or her tail at
the caprice of the great force that carried her along. And the
watchers saw that this great ship was merely being blown away
with the other bits of debris great and small that filled the
sky. Never in the memory of man or the annals of recorded history
had such a storm raged across the face of Barsoom.
And in another instant was the Vanator forgotten as the lofty,
scarlet tower that had marked Lesser Helium for ages crashed to
ground, carrying death and demolition upon the city beneath.
Panic reigned. A fire broke out in the ruins. The city's every
force seemed crippled, and it was then that The Warlord ordered
the men that were about to set forth in search of Tara of Helium
to devote their energies to the salvation of the city, for he too
had witnessed the start of the Vanator and realized the futility
of wasting men who were needed sorely if Lesser Helium was to be
saved from utter destruction.
Shortly after noon of the second day the storm commenced to
abate, and before the sun went down, the little craft upon which
Tara of Helium had hovered between life and death these many
hours drifted slowly before a gentle breeze above a landscape of
rolling hills that once had been lofty mountains upon a Martian
continent. The girl was exhausted from loss of sleep, from lack
of food and drink, and from the nervous reaction consequent to
the terrifying experiences through which she had passed. In the
near distance, just topping an intervening hill, she caught a
momentary glimpse of what appeared to be a dome-capped tower.
Quickly she dropped the flier until the hill shut it off from the
view of the possible occupants of the structure she had seen. The
tower meant to her the habitation of man, suggesting the presence
of water and, perhaps, of food. If the tower was the deserted
relic of a bygone age she would scarcely find food there, but
there was still a chance that there might be water. If it was
inhabited, then must her approach be cautious, for only enemies
might be expected to abide in so far distant a land. Tara of
Helium knew that she must be far from the twin cities of her
grandfather's empire, but had she guessed within even a thousand
haads of the reality, she had been stunned by realization of the
utter hopelessness of her state.
Keeping the craft low, for the buoyancy tanks were still intact,
the girl skimmed the ground until the gently-moving wind had
carried her to the side of the last hill that intervened between
her and the structure she had thought a man-built tower. Here she
brought the flier to the ground among some stunted trees, and
dragging it beneath one where it might be somewhat hidden from
craft passing above, she made it fast and set forth to
reconnoiter. Like most women of her class she was armed only with
a single slender blade, so that in such an emergency as now
confronted her she must depend almost solely upon her cleverness
in remaining undiscovered by enemies. With utmost caution she
crept warily toward the crest of the hill, taking advantage of
every natural screen that the landscape afforded to conceal her
approach from possible observers ahead, while momentarily she
cast quick glances rearward lest she be taken by surprise from
She came at last to the summit, where, from the concealment of a
low bush, she could see what lay beyond. Beneath her spread a
beautiful valley surrounded by low hills. Dotting it were
numerous circular towers, dome-capped, and surrounding each tower
was a stone wall enclosing several acres of ground. The valley
appeared to be in a high state of cultivation. Upon the opposite
side of the hill and just beneath her was a tower and enclosure.
It was the roof of the former that had first attracted her
attention. In all respects it seemed identical in construction
with those further out in the valley--a high, plastered wall of
massive construction surrounding a similarly constructed tower,
upon whose gray surface was painted in vivid colors a strange
device. The towers were about forty sofads in diameter,
approximately forty earth-feet, and sixty in height to the base
of the dome. To an Earth man they would have immediately
suggested the silos in which dairy farmers store ensilage for
their herds; but closer scrutiny, revealing an occasional
embrasured opening together with the strange construction of the
domes, would have altered such a conclusion. Tara of Helium saw
that the domes seemed to be faced with innumerable prisms of
glass, those that were exposed to the declining sun scintillating
so gorgeously as to remind her suddenly of the magnificent
trappings of Gahan of Gathol. As she thought of the man she shook
her head angrily, and moved cautiously forward a foot or two that
she might get a less obstructed view of the nearer tower and its
As Tara of Helium looked down into the enclosure surrounding the
nearest tower, her brows contracted momentarily in frowning
surprise, and then her eyes went wide in an expression of
incredulity tinged with horror, for what she saw was a score or
two of human bodies--naked and headless. For a long moment she
watched, breathless; unable to believe the evidence of her own
eyes--that these grewsome things moved and had life! She saw them
crawling about on hands and knees over and across one another,
searching about with their fingers. And she saw some of them at
troughs, for which the others seemed to be searching, and those
at the troughs were taking something from these receptacles and
apparently putting it in a hole where their necks should have
been. They were not far beneath her--she could see them
distinctly and she saw that there were the bodies of both men and
women, and that they were beautifully proportioned, and that
their skin was similar to hers, but of a slightly lighter red. At
first she had thought that she was looking upon a shambles and
that the bodies, but recently decapitated, were moving under the
impulse of muscular reaction; but presently she realized that
this was their normal condition. The horror of them fascinated
her, so that she could scarce take her eyes from them. It was
evident from their groping hands that they were eyeless, and
their sluggish movements suggested a rudimentary nervous system
and a correspondingly minute brain. The girl wondered how they
subsisted for she could not, even by the wildest stretch of
imagination, picture these imperfect creatures as intelligent
tillers of the soil. Yet that the soil of the valley was tilled
was evident and that these things had food was equally so. But
who tilled the soil? Who kept and fed these unhappy things, and
for what purpose? It was an enigma beyond her powers of
The sight of food aroused again a consciousness of her own
gnawing hunger and the thirst that parched her throat. She could
see both food and water within the enclosure; but would she dare
enter even should she find means of ingress? She doubted it,
since the very thought of possible contact with these grewsome
creatures sent a shudder through her frame.
Then her eyes wandered again out across the valley until
presently they picked out what appeared to be a tiny stream
winding its way through the center of the farm lands--a strange
sight upon Barsoom. Ah, if it were but water! Then might she hope
with a real hope, for the fields would give her sustenance which
she could gain by night, while by day she hid among the
surrounding hills, and sometime, yes, sometime she knew, the
searchers would come, for John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, would
never cease to search for his daughter until every square haad of
the planet had been combed again and again. She knew him and she
knew the warriors of Helium and so she knew that could she but
manage to escape harm until they came, they would indeed come at
She would have to wait until dark before she dare venture into
the valley, and in the meantime she thought it well to search out
a place of safety nearby where she might be reasonably safe from
savage beasts. It was possible that the district was free from
carnivora, but one might never be sure in a strange land. As she
was about to withdraw be hind the brow of the hill her attention
was again attracted to the enclosure below. Two figures had
emerged from the tower. Their beautiful bodies seemed identical
with those of the headless creatures among which they moved, but
the newcomers were not headless. Upon their shoulders were heads
that seemed human, yet which the girl intuitively sensed were not
human. They were just a trifle too far away for her to see them
distinctly in the waning light of the dying day, but she knew
that they were too large, they were out of proportion to the
perfectly proportioned bodies, and they were oblate in form. She
could see that the men wore some manner of harness to which were
slung the customary long-sword and short-sword of the Barsoomian
warrior, and that about their short necks were massive leather
collars cut to fit closely over the shoulders and snugly to the
lower part of the head. Their features were scarce discernible,
but there was a suggestion of grotesqueness about them that
carried to her a feeling of revulsion.
The two carried a long rope to which were fastened, at intervals
of about two sofads, what she later guessed were light manacles,
for she saw the warriors passing among the poor creatures in the
enclosure and about the right wrist of each they fastened one of
the manacles. When all had been thus fastened to the rope one of
the warriors commenced to pull and tug at the loose end as though
attempting to drag the headless company toward the tower, while
the other went among them with a long, light whip with which he
flicked them upon the naked skin. Slowly, dully, the creatures
rose to their feet and between the tugging of the warrior in
front and the lashing of him behind the hopeless band was finally
herded within the tower. Tara of Helium shuddered as she turned
away. What manner of creatures were these?
Suddenly it was night. The Barsoomian day had ended, and then the
brief period of twilight that renders the transition from
daylight to darkness almost as abrupt as the switching off of an
electric light, and Tara of Helium had found no sanctuary. But
perhaps there were no beasts to fear, or rather to avoid--Tara of
Helium liked not the word fear. She would have been glad,
however, had there been a cabin, even a very tiny cabin, upon her
small flier; but there was no cabin. The interior of the hull was
completely taken up by the buoyancy tanks. Ah, she had it! How
stupid of her not to have thought of it before! She could moor
the craft to the tree beneath which it rested and let it rise the
length of the rope. Lashed to the deck rings she would then be
safe from any roaming beast of prey that chanced along. In the
morning she could drop to the ground again before the craft was
As Tara of Helium crept over the brow of the hill down toward the
valley, her presence was hidden by the darkness of the night from
the sight of any chance observer who might be loitering by a
window in the nearby tower. Cluros, the farther moon, was just
rising above the horizon to commence his leisurely journey
through the heavens. Eight zodes later he would set--a trifle
over nineteen and a half Earth hours--and during that time
Thuria, his vivacious mate, would have circled the planet twice
and be more than half way around on her third trip. She had but
just set. It would be more than three and a half hours before she
shot above the opposite horizon to hurtle, swift and low, across
the face of the dying planet. During this temporary absence of
the mad moon Tara of Helium hoped to find both food and water,
and gain again the safety of her flier's deck.
She groped her way through the darkness, giving the tower and its
enclosure as wide a berth as possible. Sometimes she stumbled,
for in the long shadows cast by the rising Cluros objects were
grotesquely distorted though the light from the moon was still
not sufficient to be of much assistance to her. Nor, as a matter
of fact, did she want light. She could find the stream in the
dark, by the simple expedient of going down hill until she walked
into it and she had seen that bearing trees and many crops grew
throughout the valley, so that she would pass food in plenty ere
she reached the stream. If the moon showed her the way more
clearly and thus saved her from an occasional fall, he would,
too, show her more clearly to the strange denizens of the towers,
and that, of course, must not be. Could she have waited until the
following night conditions would have been better, since Cluros
would not appear in the heavens at all and so, during Thuria's
absence, utter darkness would reign; but the pangs of thirst and
the gnawing of hunger could be endured no longer with food and
drink both in sight, and so she had decided to risk discovery
rather than suffer longer.
Safely past the nearest tower, she moved as rapidly as she felt
consistent with safety, choosing her way wherever possible so
that she might take advantage of the shadows of the trees that
grew at intervals and at the same time discover those which bore
fruit. In this latter she met with almost immediate success, for
the very third tree beneath which she halted was heavy with ripe
fruit. Never, thought Tara of Helium, had aught so delicious
impinged upon her palate, and yet it was naught else than the
almost tasteless usa, which is considered to be palatable only
after having been cooked and highly spiced. It grows easily with
little irrigation and the trees bear abundantly. The fruit, which
ranks high in food value, is one of the staple foods of the less
well-to-do, and because of its cheapness and nutritive value
forms one of the principal rations of both armies and navies upon
Barsoom, a use which has won for it a Martian sobriquet which,
freely translated into English, would be, The Fighting Potato.
The girl was wise enough to eat but sparingly, but she filled her
pocket-pouch with the fruit before she continued upon her way.
Two towers she passed before she came at last to the stream, and
here again was she temperate, drinking but little and that very
slowly, contenting herself with rinsing her mouth frequently and
bathing her face, her hands, and her feet; and even though the
night was cold, as Martian nights are, the sensation of
refreshment more than compensated for the physical discomfort of
the low temperature. Replacing her sandals she sought among the
growing track near the stream for whatever edible berries or
tubers might be planted there, and found a couple of varieties
that could be eaten raw. With these she replaced some of the usa
in her pocket-pouch, not only to insure a variety but because she
found them more palatable. Occasionally she returned to the
stream to drink, but each time moderately. Always were her eyes
and ears alert for the first signs of danger, but she had neither
seen nor heard aught to disturb her. And presently the time
approached when she felt she must return to her flier lest she be
caught in the revealing light of low swinging Thuria. She dreaded
leaving the water for she knew that she must become very thirsty
before she could hope to come again to the stream. If she only
had some little receptacle in which to carry water, even a small
amount would tide her over until the following night; but she had
nothing and so she must content herself as best she could with
the juices of the fruit and tubers she had gathered.
After a last drink at the stream, the longest and deepest she had
allowed herself, she rose to retrace her steps toward the hills;
but even as she did so she became suddenly tense with
apprehension. What was that? She could have sworn that she saw
something move in the shadows beneath a tree not far away. For a
long minute the girl did not move--she scarce breathed. Her eyes
remained fixed upon the dense shadows below the tree, her ears
strained through the silence of the night. A low moaning came
down from the hills where her flier was hidden. She knew it
well--the weird note of the hunting banth. And the great
carnivore lay directly in her path. But he was not so close as
this other thing, hiding there in the shadows just a little way
off. What was it? It was the strain of uncertainty that weighed
heaviest upon her. Had she known the nature of the creature
lurking there half its menace would have vanished. She cast
quickly about her in search of some haven of refuge should the
thing prove dangerous.
Again arose the moaning from the hills, but this time closer.
Almost immediately it was answered from the opposite side of the
valley, behind her, and then from the distance to the right of
her, and twice upon her left. Her eyes had found a tree, quite
near. Slowly, and without taking her eyes from the shadows of
that other tree, she moved toward the overhanging branches that
might afford her sanctuary in the event of need, and at her first
move a low growl rose from the spot she had been watching and she
heard the sudden moving of a big body. Simultaneously the
creature shot into the moonlight in full charge upon her, its
tail erect, its tiny ears laid flat, its great mouth with its
multiple rows of sharp and powerful fangs already yawning for its
prey, its ten legs carrying it forward in great leaps, and now
from the beast's throat issued the frightful roar with which it
seeks to paralyze its prey. It was a banth--the great, maned lion
of Barsoom. Tara of Helium saw it coming and leaped for the tree
toward which she had been moving, and the banth realized her
intention and redoubled his speed. As his hideous roar awakened
the echoes in the hills, so too it awakened echoes in the valley;
but these echoes came from the living throats of others of his
kind, until it seemed to the girl that Fate had thrown her into
the midst of a countless multitude of these savage beasts.
Almost incredibly swift is the speed of a charging banth, and
fortunate it was that the girl had not been caught farther in the
open. As it was, her margin of safety was next to negligible, for
as she swung nimbly to the lower branches the creature in pursuit
of her crashed among the foliage almost upon her as it sprang
upward to seize her. It was only a combination of good fortune
and agility that saved her. A stout branch deflected the raking
talons of the carnivore, but so close was the call that a giant
forearm brushed her flesh in the instant before she scrambled to
the higher branches.
Baffled, the banth gave vent to his rage and disappointment in a
series of frightful roars that caused the very ground to tremble,
and to these were added the roarings and the growlings and the
moanings of his fellows as they approached from every direction,
in the hope of wresting from him whatever of his kill they could
take by craft or prowess. And now he turned snarling upon them as
they circled the tree, while the girl, huddled in a crotch above
them, looked down upon the gaunt, yellow monsters padding on
noiseless feet in a restless circle about her. She wondered now
at the strange freak of fate that had permitted her to come down
this far into the valley by night unharmed, but even more she
wondered how she was to return to the hills. She knew that she
would not dare venture it by night and she guessed, too, that by
day she might be confronted by even graver perils. To depend upon
this valley for sustenance she now saw to be beyond the pale of
possibility because of the banths that would keep her from food
and water by night, while the dwellers in the towers would
doubtless make it equally impossible for her to forage by day.
There was but one solution of her difficulty and that was to
return to her flier and pray that the wind would waft her to some
less terrorful land; but when might she return to the flier? The
banths gave little evidence of relinquishing hope of her, and even
if they wandered out of sight would she dare risk the attempt?
She doubted it.
Hopeless indeed seemed her situation--hopeless it was.
As Thuria, swift racer of the night, shot again into the sky the
scene changed. As by magic a new aspect fell athwart the face of
Nature. It was as though in the instant one had been transported
from one planet to another. It was the age-old miracle of the
Martian nights that is always new, even to Martians--two moons
resplendent in the heavens, where one had been but now;
conflicting, fast-changing shadows that altered the very hills
themselves; far Cluros, stately, majestic, almost stationary,
shedding his steady light upon the world below; Thuria, a great
and glorious orb, swinging swift across the vaulted dome of the
blue-black night, so low that she seemed to graze the hills, a
gorgeous spectacle that held the girl now beneath the spell of
its enchantment as it always had and always would.
"Ah, Thuria, mad queen of heaven!" murmured Tara of Helium. "The
hills pass in stately procession, their bosoms rising and
falling; the trees move in restless circles; the little grasses
describe their little arcs; and all is movement, restless,
mysterious movement without sound, while Thuria passes." The girl
sighed and let her gaze fall again to the stern realities
beneath. There was no mystery in the huge banths. He who had
discovered her squatted there looking hungrily up at her. Most of
the others had wandered away in search of other prey, but a few
remained hoping yet to bury their fangs in that soft body.
The night wore on. Again Thuria left the heavens to her lord and
master, hurrying on to keep her tryst with the Sun in other
skies. But a single banth waited impatiently beneath the tree
which harbored Tara of Helium. The others had left, but their
roars, and growls, and moans thundered or rumbled, or floated
back to her from near and far. What prey found they in this
little valley? There must be something that they were accustomed
to find here that they should be drawn in so great numbers. The
girl wondered what it could be.
How long the night! Numb, cold, and exhausted, Tara of Helium
clung to the tree in growing desperation, for once she had dozed
and almost fallen. Hope was low in her brave little heart. How
much more could she endure? She asked herself the question and
then, with a brave shake of her head, she squared her shoulders.
"I still live!" she said aloud.
The banth looked up and growled.
Came Thuria again and after awhile the great Sun--a flaming
lover, pursuing his heart's desire. And Cluros, the cold husband,
continued his serene way, as placid as before his house had been
violated by this hot Lothario. And now the Sun and both Moons
rode together in the sky, lending their far mysteries to make
weird the Martian dawn. Tara of Helium looked out across the fair
valley that spread upon all sides of her. It was rich and
beautiful, but even as she looked upon it she shuddered, for to
her mind came a picture of the headless things that the towers
and the walls hid. Those by day and the banths by night! Ah, was
it any wonder that she shuddered?
With the coming of the Sun the great Barsoomian lion rose to his
feet. He turned angry eyes upon the girl above him, voiced a
single ominous growl, and slunk away toward the hills. The girl
watched him, and she saw that he gave the towers as wide a berth
as possible and that he never took his eyes from one of them
while he was passing it. Evidently the inmates had taught these
savage creatures to respect them. Presently he passed from sight
in a narrow defile, nor in any direction that she could see was
there another. Momentarily at least the landscape was deserted.
The girl wondered if she dared to attempt to regain the hills and
her flier. She dreaded the coming of the workmen to the fields as
she was sure they would come. She shrank from again seeing the
headless bodies, and found herself wondering if these things
would come out into the fields and work. She looked toward the
nearest tower. There was no sign of life there. The valley lay
quiet now and deserted. She lowered herself stiffly to the
ground. Her muscles were cramped and every move brought a twinge
of pain. Pausing a moment to drink again at the stream she felt
refreshed and then turned without more delay toward the hills. To
cover the distance as quickly as possible seemed the only plan to
pursue. The trees no longer offered concealment and so she did
not go out of her way to be near them. The hills seemed very far
away. She had not thought, the night before, that she had
traveled so far. Really it had not been far, but now, with the
three towers to pass in broad daylight, the distance seemed great
The second tower lay almost directly in her path. To make a
detour would not lessen the chance of detection, it would only
lengthen the period of her danger, and so she laid her course
straight for the hill where her flier was, regardless of the
tower. As she passed the first enclosure she thought that she
heard the sound of movement within, but the gate did not open and
she breathed more easily when it lay behind her. She came then to
the second enclosure, the outer wall of which she must circle, as
it lay across her route. As she passed close along it she
distinctly heard not only movement within, but voices. In the
world-language of Barsoom she heard a man issuing
instructions--so many were to pick usa, so many were to irrigate
this field, so many to cultivate that, and so on, as a foreman
lay out the day's work for his crew.
Tara of Helium had just reached the gate in the outer wall.
Without warning it swung open toward her. She saw that for a
moment it would hide her from those within and in that moment she
turned and ran, keeping close to the wall, until, passing out of
sight beyond the curve of the structure, she came to the opposite
side of the enclosure. Here, panting from her exertion and from
the excitement of her narrow escape, she threw herself among some
tall weeds that grew close to the foot of the wall. There she lay
trembling for some time, not even daring to raise her head and
look about. Never before had Tara of Helium felt the paralyzing
effects of terror. She was shocked and angry at herself, that
she, daughter of John Carter, Warlord of Barsoom, should exhibit
fear. Not even the fact that there had been none there to witness
it lessened her shame and anger, and the worst of it was she knew
that under similar circumstances she would again be equally as
craven. It was not the fear of death--she knew that. No, it was
the thought of those headless bodies and that she might see them
and that they might even touch her--lay hands upon her--seize
her. She shuddered and trembled at the thought.
After a while she gained sufficient command of herself to raise
her head and look about. To her horror she discovered that
everywhere she looked she saw people working in the fields or
preparing to do so. Workmen were coming from other towers. Little
bands were passing to this field and that. They were even some
already at work within thirty ads of her--about a hundred yards.
There were ten, perhaps, in the party nearest her, both men and
women, and all were beautiful of form and grotesque of face. So
meager were their trappings that they were practically naked; a
fact that was in no way remarkable among the tillers of the
fields of Mars. Each wore the peculiar, high leather collar that
completely hid the neck, and each wore sufficient other leather
to support a single sword and a pocket-pouch. The leather was
very old and worn, showing long, hard service, and was absolutely
plain with the exception of a single device upon the left
shoulder. The heads, however, were covered with ornaments of
precious metals and jewels, so that little more than eyes, nose,
and mouth were discernible. These were hideously inhuman and yet
grotesquely human at the same time. The eyes were far apart and
protruding, the nose scarce more than two small, parallel slits
set vertically above a round hole that was the mouth. The heads
were peculiarly repulsive--so much so that it seemed unbelievable
to the girl that they formed an integral part of the beautiful
bodies below them.
So fascinated was Tara of Helium that she could scarce take her
eyes from the strange creatures--a fact that was to prove her
undoing, for in order that she might see them she was forced to
expose a part of her own head and presently, to her
consternation, she saw that one of the creatures had stopped his
work and was staring directly at her. She did not dare move, for
it was still possible that the thing had not seen her, or at
least was only suspicious that some creature lay hid among the
weeds. If she could allay this suspicion by remaining motionless
the creature might believe that he had been mistaken and return
to his work; but, alas, such was not to be the case. She saw the
thing call the attention of others to her and almost immediately
four or five of them started to move in her direction.
It was impossible now to escape discovery. Her only hope lay in
flight. If she could elude them and reach the hills and the flier
ahead of them she might escape, and that could be accomplished in
but one way--flight, immediate and swift. Leaping to her feet she
darted along the base of the wall which she must skirt to the
opposite side, beyond which lay the hill that was her goal. Her
act was greeted by strange whistling sounds from the things
behind her, and casting a glance over her shoulder she saw them
all in rapid pursuit.
There were also shrill commands that she halt, but to these she
paid no attention. Before she had half circled the enclosure she
discovered that her chances for successful escape were great,
since it was evident to her that her pursuers were not so fleet
as she. High indeed then were her hopes as she came in sight of
the hill, but they were soon dashed by what lay before her, for
there, in the fields that lay between, were fully a hundred
creatures similar to those behind her and all were on the alert,
evidently warned by the whistling of their fellows. Instructions
and commands were shouted to and fro, with the result that those
before her spread roughly into a great half circle to intercept
her, and when she turned to the right, hoping to elude the net,
she saw others coming from fields beyond, and to the left the
same was true. But Tara of Helium would not admit defeat. Without
once pausing she turned directly toward the center of the
advancing semi-circle, beyond which lay her single chance of
escape, and as she ran she drew her long, slim dagger. Like her
valiant sire, if die she must, she would die fighting. There were
gaps in the thin line confronting her and toward the widest of
one of these she directed her course. The things on either side
of the opening guessed her intent for they closed in to place
themselves in her path. This widened the openings on either side
of them and as the girl appeared almost to rush into their arms
she turned suddenly at right angles, ran swiftly in the new
direction for a few yards, and then dashed quickly toward the
hill again. Now only a single warrior, with a wide gap on either
side of him, barred her clear way to freedom, though all the
others were speeding as rapidly as they could to intercept her.
If she could pass this one without too much delay she could
escape, of that she was certain. Her every hope hinged on this.
The creature before her realized it, too, for he moved
cautiously, though swiftly, to intercept her, as a Rugby fullback
might maneuver in the realization that he alone stood between the
opposing team and a touchdown.
At first Tara of Helium had hoped that she might dodge him, for
she could not but guess that she was not only more fleet but
infinitely more agile than these strange creatures; but soon
there came to her the realization that in the time consumed in an
attempt to elude his grasp his nearer fellows would be upon her
and escape then impossible, so she chose instead to charge
straight for him, and when he guessed her decision he stood, half
crouching and with outstretched arms, awaiting her. In one hand
was his sword, but a voice arose, crying in tones of authority.
"Take her alive! Do not harm her!" Instantly the fellow returned
his sword to its scabbard and then Tara of Helium was upon him.
Straight for that beautiful body she sprang and in the instant
that the arms closed to seize her her sharp blade drove deep into
the naked chest. The impact hurled them both to the ground and as
Tara of Helium sprang to her feet again she saw, to her horror,
that the loathsome head had rolled from the body and was now
crawling away from her on six short, spider-like legs. The body
struggled spasmodically and lay still. As brief as had been the
delay caused by the encounter, it still had been of sufficient
duration to undo her, for even as she rose two more of the things
fell upon her and instantly thereafter she was surrounded. Her
blade sank once more into naked flesh and once more a head rolled
free and crawled away. Then they overpowered her and in another
moment she was surrounded by fully a hundred of the creatures,
all seeking to lay hands upon her. At first she thought that they
wished to tear her to pieces in revenge for her having slain two
of their fellows, but presently she realized that they were
prompted more by curiosity than by any sinister motive.
"Come!" said one of her captors, both of whom had retained a hold
upon her. As he spoke he tried to lead her away with him toward
the nearest tower.
"She belongs to me," cried the other. "Did not I capture her? She
will come with me to the tower of Moak."
"Never!" insisted the first. "She is Luud's. To Luud I will take
her, and whosoever interferes may feel the keenness of my
sword--in the head!" He almost shouted the last three words.
"Come! Enough of this," cried one who spoke with some show of
authority. "She was captured in Luud's fields--she will go to
"She was discovered in Moak's fields, at the very foot of the
tower of Moak," insisted he who had claimed her for Moak.
"You have heard the Nolach speak," cried the Luud. "It shall be
as he says."
"Not while this Moak holds a sword," replied the other. "Rather
will I cut her in twain and take my half to Moak than to
relinquish her all to Luud," and he drew his sword, or rather he
laid his hand upon its hilt in a threatening gesture; but before
ever he could draw it the Luud had whipped his out and with a
fearful blow cut deep into the head of his adversary. Instantly
the big, round head collapsed, almost as a punctured balloon
collapses, as a grayish, semi-fluid matter spurted from it. The
protruding eyes, apparently lidless, merely stared, the
sphincter-like muscle of the mouth opened and closed, and then
the head toppled from the body to the ground. The body stood
dully for a moment and then slowly started to wander aimlessly
about until one of the others seized it by the arm.
One of the two heads crawling about on the ground now approached.
"This rykor belongs to Moak," it said. "I am a Moak. I will take
it," and without further discussion it commenced to crawl up the
front of the headless body, using its six short, spiderlike legs
and two stout chelae which grew just in front of its legs and
strongly resembled those of an Earthly lobster, except that they
were both of the same size. The body in the meantime stood in
passive indifference, its arms hanging idly at its sides. The
head climbed to the shoulders and settled itself inside the
leather collar that now hid its chelae and legs. Almost
immediately the body gave evidence of intelligent animation. It
raised its hands and adjusted the collar more comfortably, it
took the head between its palms and settled it in place and when
it moved around it did not wander aimlessly, but instead its
steps were firm and to some purpose.
The girl watched all these things in growing wonder, and
presently, no other of the Moaks seeming inclined to dispute the
right of the Luud to her, she was led off by her captor toward
the nearest tower. Several accompanied them, including one who
carried the loose head under his arm. The head that was being
carried conversed with the head upon the shoulders of the thing
that carried it. Tara of Helium shivered. It was horrible! All
that she had seen of these frightful creatures was horrible. And
to be a prisoner, wholly in their power. Shadow of her first
ancestor! What had she done to deserve so cruel a fate?
At the wall enclosing the tower they paused while one opened the
gate and then they passed within the enclosure, which, to the
girl's horror, she found filled with headless bodies. The
creature who carried the bodiless head now set its burden upon
the ground and the latter immediately crawled toward one of the
bodies that was lying near by. Some wandered stupidly to and fro,
but this one lay still. It was a female. The head crawled to it
and made its way to the shoulders where it settled itself. At
once the body sprang lightly erect. Another of those who had
accompanied them from the fields approached with the harness and
collar that had been taken from the dead body that the head had
formerly topped. The new body now appropriated these and the
hands deftly adjusted them. The creature was now as good as
before Tara of Helium had struck down its former body with her
slim blade. But there was a difference. Before it had been
male--now it was female. That, however, seemed to make no
difference to the head. In fact, Tara of Helium had noticed
during the scramble and the fight about her that sex differences
seemed of little moment to her captors. Males and females had
taken equal part in her pursuit, both were identically harnessed
and both carried swords, and she had seen as many females as
males draw their weapons at the moment that a quarrel between the
two factions seemed imminent.
The girl was given but brief opportunity for further observation
of the pitiful creatures in the enclosure as her captor, after
having directed the others to return to the fields, led her
toward the tower, which they entered, passing into an apartment
about ten feet wide and twenty long, in one end of which was a
stairway leading to an upper level and in the other an opening to
a similar stairway leading downward. The chamber, though on a
level with the ground, was brilliantly lighted by windows in its
inner wall, the light coming from a circular court in the center
of the tower. The walls of this court appeared to be faced with
what resembled glazed, white tile and the whole interior of it
was flooded with dazzling light, a fact which immediately
explained to the girl the purpose of the glass prisms of which
the domes were constructed. The stairways themselves were
sufficient to cause remark, since in nearly all Barsoomian
architecture inclined runways are utilized for purposes of
communication between different levels, and especially is this
true of the more ancient forms and of those of remote districts
where fewer changes have come to alter the customs of antiquity.
Down the stairway her captor led Tara of Helium. Down and down
through chambers still lighted from the brilliant well.
Occasionally they passed others going in the opposite direction
and these always stopped to examine the girl and ask questions of
"I know nothing but that she was found in the fields and that I
caught her after a fight in which she slew two rykors and in
which I slew a Moak, and that I take her to Luud, to whom, of
course, she belongs. If Luud wishes to question her that is for
Luud to do--not for me." Thus always he answered the curious.
Presently they reached a room from which a circular tunnel led
away from the tower, and into this the creature conducted her.
The tunnel was some seven feet in diameter and flattened on the
bottom to form a walk. For a hundred feet from the tower it was
lined with the same tile-like material of the light well and
amply illuminated by reflected light from that source. Beyond it
was faced with stone of various shapes and sizes, neatly cut and
fitted together--a very fine mosaic without a pattern. There were
branches, too, and other tunnels which crossed this, and
occasionally openings not more than a foot in diameter; these
latter being usually close to the floor. Above each of these
smaller openings was painted a different device, while upon the
walls of the larger tunnels at all intersections and points of
convergence hieroglyphics appeared. These the girl could not read
though she guessed that they were the names of the tunnels, or
notices indicating the points to which they led. She tried to
study some of them out, but there was not a character that was
familiar to her, which seemed strange, since, while the written
languages of the various nations of Barsoom differ, it still is
true that they have many characters and words in common.
She had tried to converse with her guard but he had not seemed
inclined to talk with her and she had finally desisted. She could
not but note that he had offered her no indignities, nor had he
been either unnecessarily rough or in any way cruel. The fact
that she had slain two of the bodies with her dagger had
apparently aroused no animosity or desire for revenge in the
minds of the strange heads that surmounted the bodies--even those
whose bodies had been killed. She did not try to understand it,
since she could not approach the peculiar relationship between
the heads and the bodies of these creatures from the basis of any
past knowledge or experience of her own. So far their treatment
of her seemed to augur naught that might arouse her fears.
Perhaps, after all, she had been fortunate to fall into the hands
of these strange people, who might not only protect her from
harm, but even aid her in returning to Helium. That they were
repulsive and uncanny she could not forget, but if they meant her
no harm she could, at least, overlook their repulsiveness.
Renewed hope aroused within her a spirit of greater cheerfulness,
and it was almost blithely now that she moved at the side of her
weird companion. She even caught herself humming a gay little
tune that was then popular in Helium. The creature at her side
turned its expressionless eyes upon her.
"What is that noise that you are making?" it asked.
"I was but humming an air," she replied.
"'Humming an air,'" he repeated. "I do not know what you mean;
but do it again, I like it."
This time she sang the words, while her companion listened
intently. His face gave no indication of what was passing in that
strange head. It was as devoid of expression as that of a spider.
It reminded her of a spider. When she had finished he turned
toward her again.
"That was different," he said. "I liked that better, even, than
the other. How do you do it?"
"Why," she said, "it is singing. Do you not know what song is?"
"No," he replied. "Tell me how you do it."
"It is difficult to explain," she told him, "since any
explanation of it presupposes some knowledge of melody and of
music, while your very question indicates that you have no
knowledge of either."
"No," he said, "I do not know what you are talking about; but
tell me how you do it."
"It is merely the melodious modulations of my voice," she
explained. "Listen!" and again she sang.
"I do not understand," he insisted; "but I like it. Could you
teach me to do it?"
"I do not know, but I shall be glad to try."
"We will see what Luud does with you," he said. "If he does not
want you I will keep you and you shall teach me to make sounds
At his request she sang again as they continued their way along
the winding tunnel, which was now lighted by occasional bulbs
which appeared to be similar to the radium bulbs with which she
was familiar and which were common to all the nations of Barsoom,
insofar as she knew, having been perfected at so remote a period
that their very origin was lost in antiquity. They consist,
usually, of a hemispherical bowl of heavy glass in which is
packed a compound containing what, according to John Carter, must
be radium. The bowl is then cemented into a metal plate with a
heavily insulated back and the whole affair set in the masonry of
wall or ceiling as desired, where it gives off light of greater
or less intensity, according to the composition of the filling
material, for an almost incalculable period of time.
As they proceeded they met a greater number of the inhabitants of
this underground world, and the girl noted that among many of
these the metal and harness were more ornate than had been those
of the workers in the fields above. The heads and bodies,
however, were similar, even identical, she thought. No one
offered her harm and she was now experiencing a feeling of relief
almost akin to happiness, when her guide turned suddenly into an
opening on the right side of the tunnel and she found herself in
a large, well lighted chamber.
THE PERFECT BRAIN
The song that had been upon her lips as she entered died
there--frozen by the sight of horror that met her eyes. In the
center of the chamber a headless body lay upon the floor--a body
that had been partially devoured--while over and upon it crawled
a half a dozen heads upon their short, spider legs, and they tore
at the flesh of the woman with their chelae and carried the bits
to their awful mouths. They were eating human flesh--eating it
Tara of Helium gasped in horror and turning away covered her eyes
with her palms.
"Come!" said her captor. "What is the matter?"
"They are eating the flesh of the woman," she whispered in tones
"Why not?" he inquired. "Did you suppose that we kept the rykor
for labor alone? Ah, no. They are delicious when kept and
fattened. Fortunate, too, are those that are bred for food, since
they are never called upon to do aught but eat."
"It is hideous!" she cried.
He looked at her steadily for a moment, but whether in surprise,
in anger, or in pity his expressionless face did not reveal. Then
he led her on across the room past the frightful thing, from
which she turned away her eyes. Lying about the floor near the
walls were half a dozen headless bodies in harness. These she
guessed had been abandoned temporarily by the feasting heads
until they again required their services. In the walls of this
room there were many of the small, round openings she had noticed
in various parts of the tunnels, the purpose of which she could
They passed through another corridor and then into a second
chamber, larger than the first and more brilliantly illuminated.
Within were several of the creatures with heads and bodies
assembled, while many headless bodies lay about near the walls.
Here her captor halted and spoke to one of the occupants of the
"I seek Luud," he said. "I bring to Luud a creature that I
captured in the fields above."
The others crowded about to examine Tara of Helium. One of them
whistled, whereupon the girl learned something of the smaller
openings in the walls, for almost immediately there crawled from
them, like giant spiders, a score or more of the hideous heads.
Each sought one of the recumbent bodies and fastened itself in
place. Immediately the bodies reacted to the intelligent
direction of the heads. They arose, the hands adjusted the
leather collars and put the balance of the harness in order, then
the creatures crossed the room to where Tara of Helium stood. She
noted that their leather was more highly ornamented than that
worn by any of the others she had previously seen, and so she
guessed that these must be higher in authority than the others.
Nor was she mistaken. The demeanor of her captor indicated it. He
addressed them as one who holds intercourse with superiors.
Several of those who examined her felt her flesh, pinching it
gently between thumb and forefinger, a familiarity that the girl
resented. She struck down their hands. "Do not touch me!" she
cried, imperiously, for was she not a princess of Helium? The
expression on those terrible faces did not change. She could not
tell whether they were angry or amused, whether her action had
filled them with respect for her, or contempt. Only one of them
"She will have to be fattened more," he said.
The girl's eyes went wide with horror. She turned upon her
captor. "Do these frightful creatures intend to devour me?" she
"That is for Luud to say," he replied, and then he leaned closer
so that his mouth was near her ear. "That noise you made which
you called song pleased me," he whispered, "and I will repay you
by warning you not to antagonize these kaldanes. They are very
powerful. Luud listens to them. Do not call them frightful. They
are very handsome. Look at their wonderful trappings, their gold,
"Thank you," she said. "You called them kaldanes--what does that
"We are all kaldanes," he replied.
"You, too?" and she pointed at him, her slim finger directed
toward his chest.
"No, not this," he explained, touching his body; "this is a
rykor; but this," and he touched his head, "is a kaldane. It is
the brain, the intellect, the power that directs all things. The
rykor," he indicated his body, "is nothing. It is not so much
even as the jewels upon our harness; no, not so much as the
harness itself. It carries us about. It is true that we would
find difficulty getting along without it; but it has less value
than harness or jewels because it is less difficult to
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