In the Dori Valley, in the darkness of the forest bordering the fiery red meadows of the forgotten Lake Korus, the moons of Mars glorifying their meteoric orbit down in the sky of a dying star, I gently sneaked behind a ghostly figure who apparently moved with bad things as he stayed carefully in the darkest.
For six long Martian months, I had wandered near the temple of the creepy Sun. There, in a slowly circulating closet, deep beneath the surface of Mars, my princess creeped like a grave — alive or dead? Had the murder weapon of the angry Phaidor hit the heart of my loved one? Only time would give a definite answer to that question.
I had to wait six hundred and eighty-seven days on Mars before the booth door came up at the end of the tunnel where I last saw the hugely lovely Dejah Thorisini.
This time was halfway, or it would be tomorrow, but the sight that had caught my eye, just before the puffing smoke blinded my eyes and that narrow gap I had seen in Helium’s princess booth, closed, separating us from each other for a long year on Mars, was still alive in my memory and bright, dimming all the events that happened before and after it.
As clearly as if everything had happened yesterday, I still saw the frustrated, jealous rage-distorted face of Phaidor, the daughter of Matai Shang, as he daggered to the woman I loved.
I saw a red maid, Ptarth Thuvia, jump in between to prevent the atrocity.
The smoke from the burning temple had then shrouded the tragedy, but the victim’s tanning in the event of an attack echoed in my ears. After that, everything had been quiet, and when the smoke had dissipated, the chamber of the revolving temple, into which the trio of nobles had been tucked away, had escaped from sight and hearing.
After this awful moment, a lot had happened that I had to pay attention to, but I don’t remember the event for a moment, and whenever I can get rid of the many tasks I had as we reorganized the government of the firstborn, after our victorious fleet and ground force had defeated them, I spent all my time in the vicinity of the prison of my son, Helium Carthoris, the mother’s corner.
The black race, which for many generations had worshiped the idol of Mars from
Issus, had fallen into an originally chaotic state when I had revealed
Issus only as a Catalan old Akka. In his rage, the firstborn
had torn him to pieces.
From the high pedestal of proud complacency, the firstborn had deviated into the abyss of discount. Their idol had fallen and with him all their false religion. Their dreaded and invincible fleet had suffered a crushing defeat after having to fight the superior ships and better soldiers of the Red People of Helium.
The ferocious green herds of the yellow seabeds of outer Mars had ridden their wild thoats in the sacred parks of the temple of Issus, and of all of them, the most fierce, Thark’s Jeddak Tars Tarkas, had sat on the throne of Issus, ruling the firstborn questions of the fate of the conquered people.
Almost unanimously, I was asked to ascend to the ancient throne of blacks, and even the firstborn supported this show of the shield. But I didn’t want to hear about it. My heart could never adjust to the liking of this breed that had treated my princess and son offensively.
My suggestion became Xodar as a first-born jeddak. He had been a computer, or prince, before Issus had deprived him of his value, so he was undoubtedly suitable for the high place in question.
When peace was thus secured in the Dor Valley, the green soldiers dispersed to their deserted seabeds and we Heliumians returned to our own land. There again, I was offered a throne, for no information had arrived about the missing Jeddak of Helium, Tardos Mori, the grandfather of Dejah Thoris, and his son, Mors Kayak, the father of Dejah Thoris, the Jedi of Helium.
A second year ago, they had set out to explore the northern hemisphere in search of Carthoris, and their people were finally, depressed, to believe the vague rumors of their deaths oozing from the icy poles.
Again, I refused to step on the throne, for I could not bear to believe that the brave Tardos Mors and his equally brave son had died.
“Take their breastplates as your ruler until they return!” I spoke to the assembled superiors of Helium, speaking to them in the Temple of Reward and Revenge from the stand of Truth next to the throne of Righteousness, the same place where I had stood listening year after year when Zat Arrras had pronounced my death sentence.
In other words, I stepped forward and lowered my hand to Carthoris’ shoulder, which stood in the front row in the midst of the arched curves around me.
Like from one mouth echoed a resounding, multiple cry of
approval from the nobles and the people . Ten thousand swords flew into the air, and the
famous warriors of ancient Helium expressed their congratulations to Carthoris,
Helium’s new jeddak.
He was elected ruler for life or until his grandfather or his father returned. Then, after this important question for Helium had been arranged for such general satisfaction, the next day I returned to the Valley of Dor to be in the vicinity of the Temple of the Sun until the decisive day when the door of my beloved booth in captivity would open.
I left Hor Resistance, Kantos Kan, and my other excellent subordinates and assistants to Carthoris in Helium to support their wisdom, fitness, and faithfulness in carrying out the heavy tasks laid upon their shoulders. Only Woola, my Martian dog, followed me.
Tonight, the faithful animal moved silently on my hocks. A creature the size of a Shetland pony creeping behind me, with a horrible head, horrible tusks, and ten short, powerful legs, looked really scary. But I thought it was a legacy of love and affection.
The creature in front of us was the first-born computer Thurid, whom I had become my uncompromising enemy by pouring him bare-handed on the ground in the courtyard of the Temple of Issus and tying him with his own spare belts in the sight of black noble men and women who had praised his condition from time to time.
Like many of his comrades, he had seemingly unadulteratedly adapted to the new circumstances and swore an oath of allegiance to his new ruler, Xodar. But I knew he hated me and I was sure he was enviously envious and hated Xodar, which is why I kept an eye on his stuff until it was recently discovered that he was braiding some kind of tricks.
Several times I had noticed that when he got dark, he left the walled city of the firstborn and headed for a creepy hollow into the Dori Valley, where no human could have any honest things to do.
Tonight, he made rapid progress along the edge of the forest until he was sure to make the city visible and audible. He then deviated from the fiery red lawn, straightening across it to the forgotten Lake Korus.
In the low sky, just at the valley, the rays of the glorious closer moon reflected in a thousand colors from his jeweled outfits and made his smooth, shiny black skin flicker. Twice he rumbled behind him towards the woods like at least a person moving on bad things, though he apparently certainly believed he was not being followed.
I didn’t dare go after him to an open moonlit place, as my intention was by no means to disturb his business. I hoped he could reach his goal without any idea so that I could know where this night sneaker was heading and in what kind of tasks he was moving.
So I remained hidden until Thurid had disappeared behind the steep shoreline of the lake about four hundred yards from me. Then I hurried Woola across my meadow across the meadow behind the black computer. It was grave-quiet in a mysterious valley of death that rested warm and sheltered in the depression surrounding the south pole of the dying star. Against the backdrop of the landscape rose the Golden Rocks as a huge protective wall high towards the starry sky, the precious metals of their walls and the shimmering gems glistening in the bright light of the glorious moons of Mars.
Behind me was a forest that had been milled by creepy plant people as flat and smooth as a well-kept park.
In front of me rested the forgotten Lake Korus, and farther meandered the mysterious stream of Iss from the foot of the Golden Cliffs to Korus, to the shores of which, for countless generations of men, it had brought the astonished and unfortunate Martians out of the false sky for a voluntary pilgrimage.
The plant people with their blood-sucking gloves and the terrible white monkeys that were the horror of the Dori Valley at daytime had been hiding in their nests for the night.
There was no longer a sacred thern on the balcony of the Golden Cliffs above Iss, inviting them with their creepy cries at the victims who, on the cold, wide surface of ancient Iss, were cellulating in their palate.
The navies of Helium and the firstborn had cleaned the strongholds and temples of the therns when they had refused to surrender and accept a new arrangement that had liberated the long-suffering Mars from their false religion.
In a few other secluded lands, they had still retained their memorable powers, but their hedgerow, Matai Shang, the father of the therns, had been expelled from his temple. We had done our best to arrest him, but he, along with some of his loved ones, had slipped out of our hands and was now hiding in some unknown place.
As I walked carefully to the ridge of the shallow mound, and the forgotten Lake Korus opened before my eyes, I saw Thurid just leaving the shore on the shimmering surface of the water in a small crowd — one of those strangely carved, unimaginably old boats that the holy therne had used to place with priests and lower therns beaches to make it easier for their victims to travel far.
Twenty similar boats had been towed to me on the shore of the lake, and each had a long block with a thorn at one end and a paddling paddle at the other. Thurid steered along the shore, and as he arched behind a nearby headland, I pushed one boat into the waters and, calling Woola with me, pushed it off the shore.
After Thurid, I headed along the shore towards the mouth of Issi. The more distant moon was about to sink behind the horizon, and the hills bordering the lake created a gloomy shadow. Thuria, the closer moon, had fallen and would not rise until after almost four hours, so darkness would be my shelter at least for so long.
The black warrior continued his journey all the way to Issi’s mouth. Without hesitation for a moment, he then paddled violently, turning his ship against the flow of this horrible stream.
I stayed after him, now daring to get closer to him, for now he therefore had much to do as he struggled against the current, that he did not have to look behind him. He steered his boat along the shore, where the water ran more slowly.
Before long, he arrived at a cave-like opening at the foot of the Golden Cliffs, from where a stream erupted into the air. But still on, he paddled his boat, the gap of his autumn black into darkness.
I felt like a hopeless attempt to follow him there, as I couldn’t even see the width of my palm in front of me and I was almost giving up chasing and leaving my boat to drift with the stream back to its mouth when I suddenly turned from one bend to such a faint reflection in front of me.
The creature I was chasing was clearly visible again, and in the increasingly bright light of the vast phosphorus-bearing veins on the jagged roof of the tunnel, it wasn’t hard for me to stay on his trail in the first place.
I moved on the Iss stream for the first time and everything I saw then is vividly in my memory until my death.
As horrible as it seemed to me at the time, my environment could hardly compare to the conditions that existed before the great green warrior Tars Tarkas, the black computer Xodar, and I revealed the truth to the outside world and , a wonderful valley of happiness and love.
In the wide stream of the stream, here and there, the shallow islands still had, by the way, the skeletons and semi-milled bodies of hikers who, after coming under fear or suddenly realizing the truth, had stopped, almost at the end of their journey.
On these creepily stinking, horrible islands of death, he foolishly fought screaming and rumorable, disgusting descriptions of the remnants of his awful festive meals. On islands where there were only bones cleaned cleanly, they attacked each other, the weaker succumbing to the food of the stronger, or reached out their hands resembling the claws of a bird of prey, grabbing swollen bodies drifting with the stream.
Thurid paid no attention to the creatures that screamed at him, threatening at times, screaming at times — he was apparently accustomed to the horrible sight around him. He continued his journey up the river for perhaps a mile and a half. He then paddled across the stream to its left slope and pulled his boat almost to a shallow tongue level with the water surface.
I didn’t dare go after him across the stream, for then he would surely have noticed me. Instead, I clung to the opposite wall in the dark shadow beneath the big rock protrusion. From there, I could keep an eye on Thurid without fear of seeing me.
The black man stood on the tongue next to his boat, staring at the current upward, as if waiting for someone to arrive from that direction.
While staying in the sheltered rock shelter, I noticed that there was a strong current flowing directly toward the middle reaches of the river, making it difficult for me to keep my boat still. I paddled deeper into the darkness to catch the wall, but even as I progressed several meters, I still groped blankly. When, then, quite soon, I had lost my black sight, I was compelled to remain in my place, staying to my best in my positions, paddling fiercely behind me against the flow beneath the rock.
I couldn’t guess where this discriminatory flow of water came from, as I clearly saw the vibrating, turbulent confluence of the river’s highway and the mysterious flow that aroused my curiosity.
I was still contemplating this phenomenon as my attention suddenly caught on to Thurid, who had raised both hands forward above his head to the general way of greeting the Martians, and moments later I heard quietly but quite clearly his barsoom greeting, “Kaor!”
I turned to look up the river, in the same direction he was looking, and soon a long boat with six men appeared in narrow view. Five of them paddled while the sixth sat in the place of honor.
The men’s white skin, a wavy, yellow wig covering the bald head, and a handsome gemstone embedded in a round gold plate hanging from the forehead indicated that they were sacred thernes.
As they lowered their ship onto the tongue where Thurid was waiting for them, the man in the bow got up and got out of the boat. It was then that I saw that he was none other than Matai Shang, the father of the therns.
I was amazed at the cordiality of the greetings exchanged between the two men, for Barsoom’s blacks and whites were each other’s inherited enemies, and as far as I know, the two men of this campaign race had never met each other except in battle.
The recent upheavals that had overthrown the dominance of their peoples had apparently caused these two men to ally with each other – at least against a common enemy – and now I understood why Thurid had visited the Dor Valley so often at night. His secret pursuits were of such a nature that they concerned me and my friends very closely.
I would have liked to have been closer to them, to have heard their conversation. But now I couldn’t even think of paddling across the river, which is why I kept quiet in my places, keeping an eye on them. Surely they would have paid a lot if someone had expressed to them how close I was and how easy it would have been for them to overwhelm me and kill me.
Several times Thurid pointed across me across the river, but it didn’t occur to me to doubt that his signpost meant me. Soon he and Matai Shang stepped into the latter’s boat, turned it around the bow, and steered across the river directly toward me.
As they approached, I pulled my boat deeper and deeper under the rock protrusion, but at last I clearly realized that they were heading in the same direction. They had five men paddling, and although their boat was bigger, it flew forward so fast that I was able to exert my strength to the extreme to get the same pace out of their way.
Every moment I was afraid the bow of my boat would shake into the rock. The light shining from the river was no longer visible, but in our direction of travel echoed a faintly distant dim glow, and there was still clear water in front of me.
I finally found out the right thing to do – I was in the channel of the underground tributary of the Issi. The rivers merged at exactly the point where I was hiding.
Thernie’s boat was now very close to me. Melani’s splash drowned in the noise of their boat, but the light above approached, so they would notice me before long.
I had to act fast and do something right on the spot. I turned the bow of my boat to the right and pressed against the rocky wall of the river, with Matai Shang and Thurid arriving in the middle of the river, which was much narrower than Iss.
As they got closer, I heard Thurid and the father of the therns talking.
“I tell you, thern,” explained the black computer, “that I just want revenge on John Carter, the prince of Helium. I will not trap you. What good would I do if I betrayed you to those who have destroyed my people and my family?”
“Let’s stop for a moment so you can present your plan,” hekkador replied. “Then as we continue our journey, we will know better our own and each other’s responsibilities.”
He gave orders to the paddlers, and they steered the boat to the side of the cliff barely ten feet from me.
If they had dropped below me, they would surely have seen me farther against the shimmering faint reflection, but they passed me by, so I would be hiding just as safely if I had been miles away.
The few words I had already heard had sparked my curiosity
, and I was very anxious to know what kind of revenge
Thurid was planning for me. I didn’t have to wait long.
I listened, holding my breath.
“I don’t demand anything from you, father of therns,” the firstborn continued. “Thurid, Issuksen dator, does not trade. When all is done, so I’m happy if you take care of the fact that I can get the ancient kindred, and high well-received in accordance with my values in one of the court, which has stayed true to have inherited from my faith, because I can not go back to Dorin valley and I do not nor anywhere else that the power of the Prince of Helium should extend.
“It happens as you hope, computer,” replied Matai Shang. “And that’s not enough – you’ll get power and wealth if you get my daughter Phaidor back to me and deliver the Helium Princess Dejah Thoris into my hands.” Oh, “he continued with a vicious growl. “The inhabitant of the earth is allowed to suffer because of the contempt he has inflicted on the saints, no insult is too cheap or too harsh for his princess. I wish I could force her to see the humiliation and suffering of this red woman.”
“You will get the woman in your power before tomorrow is over, Matai Shang,” said Thurid, “just as you say the word.”
“I’ve heard people talking about the temple of the sun, dator,” replied Matai Shang, “but to my knowledge there can be no release of prisoners, prison before the year is over. How could you do this then the impossible job?”
“Every booth in the temple can be accessed at any time,” Thurid replied. “Issus alone knew it, and he had no habit of revealing his secrets more than was necessary. After his death, I stumbled upon the ancient drawings of the temple, and in them I found clearly and down to the smallest detail the instructions for accessing the booths at any time.
“- And I found out more. Often men had gone there at the behest of Issus, always tasked with killing and torturing prisoners. But those who had thus come to know the secret roads died mysteriously as soon as they returned and recounted their journey to the cruel Issus.”
“Let’s go then!” said Matai Shang finally. “I must trust you, but at the same time you must trust me, for there are six of us against you.”
“I’m not afraid,” replied Thurid, “and you don’t have to be afraid either. Our hatred for a common enemy is an unifying guarantee that we are sincere to each other, and as we disgrace the Princess Helium, we have an even greater reason to keep our covenant
Matai Shang uttered a word to the rowers. The boat set sail up the river.
I struggled to restrain myself from attacking them to kill both despicable conspirators. But I soon realized how mad a thoughtless act would be; after all, I would kill the only person who could guide me into the booth of Dejah Thoris before it had completed its circle at the end of a long Martian year.
If he once guided Matai Shang to that holy place, then at the same time he would also guide John Carter, Prince of Helium.
Silently paddling, I slowly steered my boat into their wake.