|Part of the way was black as sin, but for the most it was fairly
well lighted. The stretch where I must hug the left wall to avoid
the pits was darkest of them all, and I was nearly over the edge of
the abyss before I knew that I was near the danger spot. A narrow
ledge, scarce a foot wide, was all that had been left to carry
the initiated past that frightful cavity into which the unknowing
must surely have toppled at the first step. But at last I had won
safely beyond it, and then a feeble light made the balance of the
way plain, until, at the end of the last corridor, I came suddenly
out into the glare of day upon a field of snow and ice.
Clad for the warm atmosphere of the hothouse city of Kadabra, the
sudden change to arctic frigidity was anything but pleasant; but
the worst of it was that I knew I could not endure the bitter cold,
almost naked as I was, and that I would perish before ever I could
overtake Thurid and Dejah Thoris.
To be thus blocked by nature, who had had all the arts and wiles
of cunning man pitted against him, seemed a cruel fate, and as I
staggered back into the warmth of the tunnel's end I was as near
hopelessness as I ever have been.
I had by no means given up my intention of continuing the pursuit,
for if needs be I would go ahead though I perished ere ever I
reached my goal, but if there were a safer way it were well worth
the delay to attempt to discover it, that I might come again to
the side of Dejah Thoris in fit condition to do battle for her.
Scarce had I returned to the tunnel than I stumbled over a portion
of a fur garment that seemed fastened to the floor of the corridor
close to the wall. In the darkness I could not see what held it,
but by groping with my hands I discovered that it was wedged beneath
the bottom of a closed door.
Pushing the portal aside, I found myself upon the threshold of a
small chamber, the walls of which were lined with hooks from which
depended suits of the complete outdoor apparel of the yellow men.
Situated as it was at the mouth of a tunnel leading from the palace,
it was quite evident that this was the dressing-room used by the
nobles leaving and entering the hothouse city, and that Thurid,
having knowledge of it, had stopped here to outfit himself and
Dejah Thoris before venturing into the bitter cold of the arctic
In his haste he had dropped several garments upon the floor, and
the telltale fur that had fallen partly within the corridor had
proved the means of guiding me to the very spot he would least have
wished me to have knowledge of.
It required but the matter of a few seconds to don the necessary
orluk-skin clothing, with the heavy, fur-lined boots that are so
essential a part of the garmenture of one who would successfully
contend with the frozen trails and the icy winds of the bleak
Once more I stepped beyond the tunnel's mouth to find the fresh
tracks of Thurid and Dejah Thoris in the new-fallen snow. Now, at
last, was my task an easy one, for though the going was rough in
the extreme, I was no longer vexed by doubts as to the direction
I should follow, or harassed by darkness or hidden dangers.
Through a snow-covered canyon the way led up toward the summit of
low hills. Beyond these it dipped again into another canon, only
to rise a quarter-mile farther on toward a pass which skirted the
flank of a rocky hill.
I could see by the signs of those who had gone before that when Dejah
Thoris had walked she had been continually holding back, and that
the black man had been compelled to drag her. For other stretches
only his foot-prints were visible, deep and close together in
the heavy snow, and I knew from these signs that then he had been
forced to carry her, and I could well imagine that she had fought
him fiercely every step of the way.
As I came round the jutting promontory of the hill's shoulder I saw
that which quickened my pulses and set my heart to beating high,
for within a tiny basin between the crest of this hill and the next
stood four people before the mouth of a great cave, and beside them
upon the gleaming snow rested a flier which had evidently but just
been dragged from its hiding place.
The four were Dejah Thoris, Phaidor, Thurid, and Matai Shang. The
two men were engaged in a heated argument--the Father of Therns
threatening, while the black scoffed at him as he went about the
work at which he was engaged.
As I crept toward them cautiously that I might come as near as
possible before being discovered, I saw that finally the men appeared
to have reached some sort of a compromise, for with Phaidor's
assistance they both set about dragging the resisting Dejah Thoris
to the flier's deck.
Here they made her fast, and then both again descended to the ground
to complete the preparations for departure. Phaidor entered the
small cabin upon the vessel's deck.
I had come to within a quarter of a mile of them when Matai Shang
espied me. I saw him seize Thurid by the shoulder, wheeling him
around in my direction as he pointed to where I was now plainly
visible, for the moment that I knew I had been perceived I cast
aside every attempt at stealth and broke into a mad race for the
The two redoubled their efforts at the propeller at which they were
working, and which very evidently was being replaced after having
been removed for some purpose of repair.
They had the thing completed before I had covered half the distance
that lay between me and them, and then both made a rush for the
Thurid was the first to reach it, and with the agility of a monkey
clambered swiftly to the boat's deck, where a touch of the button
controlling the buoyancy tanks sent the craft slowly upward, though
not with the speed that marks the well-conditioned flier.
I was still some hundred yards away as I saw them rising from my
Back by the city of Kadabra lay a great fleet of mighty fliers--the
ships of Helium and Ptarth that I had saved from destruction earlier
in the day; but before ever I could reach them Thurid could easily
make good his escape.
As I ran I saw Matai Shang clambering up the swaying, swinging
ladder toward the deck, while above him leaned the evil face of the
First Born. A trailing rope from the vessel's stern put new hope
in me, for if I could but reach it before it whipped too high above
my head there was yet a chance to gain the deck by its slender aid.
That there was something radically wrong with the flier was evident
from its lack of buoyancy, and the further fact that though Thurid
had turned twice to the starting lever the boat still hung motionless
in the air, except for a slight drifting with a low breeze from
Now Matai Shang was close to the gunwale. A long, claw-like hand
was reaching up to grasp the metal rail.
Thurid leaned farther down toward his co-conspirator.
Suddenly a raised dagger gleamed in the upflung hand of the black.
Down it drove toward the white face of the Father of Therns. With
a loud shriek of fear the Holy Hekkador grasped frantically at that
I was almost to the trailing rope by now. The craft was still
rising slowly, the while it drifted from me. Then I stumbled on
the icy way, striking my head upon a rock as I fell sprawling but
an arm's length from the rope, the end of which was now just leaving
With the blow upon my head came unconsciousness.
It could not have been more than a few seconds that I lay senseless
there upon the northern ice, while all that was dearest to me
drifted farther from my reach in the clutches of that black fiend,
for when I opened my eyes Thurid and Matai Shang yet battled at the
ladder's top, and the flier drifted but a hundred yards farther to
the south--but the end of the trailing rope was now a good thirty
feet above the ground.
Goaded to madness by the cruel misfortune that had tripped me when
success was almost within my grasp, I tore frantically across the
intervening space, and just beneath the rope's dangling end I put
my earthly muscles to the supreme test.
With a mighty, catlike bound I sprang upward toward that slender
strand--the only avenue which yet remained that could carry me to
my vanishing love.
A foot above its lowest end my fingers closed. Tightly as I clung
I felt the rope slipping, slipping through my grasp. I tried to
raise my free hand to take a second hold above my first, but the
change of position that resulted caused me to slip more rapidly
toward the end of the rope.
Slowly I felt the tantalizing thing escaping me. In a moment all
that I had gained would be lost--then my fingers reached a knot at
the very end of the rope and slipped no more.
With a prayer of gratitude upon my lips I scrambled upward toward
the boat's deck. I could not see Thurid and Matai Shang now,
but I heard the sounds of conflict and thus knew that they still
fought--the thern for his life and the black for the increased
buoyancy that relief from the weight of even a single body would
give the craft.
Should Matai Shang die before I reached the deck my chances of ever
reaching it would be slender indeed, for the black dator need but
cut the rope above me to be freed from me forever, for the vessel
had drifted across the brink of a chasm into whose yawning depths
my body would drop to be crushed to a shapeless pulp should Thurid
reach the rope now.
At last my hand closed upon the ship's rail and that very instant
a horrid shriek rang out below me that sent my blood cold and turned
my horrified eyes downward to a shrieking, hurtling, twisting thing
that shot downward into the awful chasm beneath me.
It was Matai Shang, Holy Hekkador, Father of Therns, gone to his
Then my head came above the deck and I saw Thurid, dagger in hand,
leaping toward me. He was opposite the forward end of the cabin,
while I was attempting to clamber aboard near the vessel's stern.
But a few paces lay between us. No power on earth could raise me
to that deck before the infuriated black would be upon me.
My end had come. I knew it; but had there been a doubt in my mind
the nasty leer of triumph upon that wicked face would have convinced
me. Beyond Thurid I could see my Dejah Thoris, wide-eyed and
horrified, struggling at her bonds. That she should be forced to
witness my awful death made my bitter fate seem doubly cruel.
I ceased my efforts to climb across the gunwale. Instead I took
a firm grasp upon the rail with my left hand and drew my dagger.
I should at least die as I had lived--fighting.
As Thurid came opposite the cabin's doorway a new element projected
itself into the grim tragedy of the air that was being enacted upon
the deck of Matai Shang's disabled flier.
It was Phaidor.
With flushed face and disheveled hair, and eyes that betrayed the
recent presence of mortal tears--above which this proud goddess had
always held herself--she leaped to the deck directly before me.
In her hand was a long, slim dagger. I cast a last look upon
my beloved princess, smiling, as men should who are about to die.
Then I turned my face up toward Phaidor--waiting for the blow.
Never have I seen that beautiful face more beautiful than it was
at that moment. It seemed incredible that one so lovely could
yet harbor within her fair bosom a heart so cruel and relentless,
and today there was a new expression in her wondrous eyes that I
never before had seen there--an unfamiliar softness, and a look of
Thurid was beside her now--pushing past to reach me first, and
then what happened happened so quickly that it was all over before
I could realize the truth of it.
Phaidor's slim hand shot out to close upon the black's dagger wrist.
Her right hand went high with its gleaming blade.
"That for Matai Shang!" she cried, and she buried her blade deep
in the dator's breast. "That for the wrong you would have done
Dejah Thoris!" and again the sharp steel sank into the bloody flesh.
"And that, and that, and that!" she shrieked, "for John Carter,
Prince of Helium," and with each word her sharp point pierced the
vile heart of the great villain. Then, with a vindictive shove she
cast the carcass of the First Born from the deck to fall in awful
silence after the body of his victim.
I had been so paralyzed by surprise that I had made no move to reach
the deck during the awe-inspiring scene which I had just witnessed,
and now I was to be still further amazed by her next act, for
Phaidor extended her hand to me and assisted me to the deck, where
I stood gazing at her in unconcealed and stupefied wonderment.
A wan smile touched her lips--it was not the cruel and haughty
smile of the goddess with which I was familiar. "You wonder, John
Carter," she said, "what strange thing has wrought this change in
me? I will tell you. It is love--love of you," and when I darkened
my brows in disapproval of her words she raised an appealing hand.
"Wait," she said. "It is a different love from mine--it is the
love of your princess, Dejah Thoris, for you that has taught me
what true love may be--what it should be, and how far from real
love was my selfish and jealous passion for you.
"Now I am different. Now could I love as Dejah Thoris loves, and
so my only happiness can be to know that you and she are once more
united, for in her alone can you find true happiness.
"But I am unhappy because of the wickedness that I have wrought. I
have many sins to expiate, and though I be deathless, life is all
too short for the atonement.
"But there is another way, and if Phaidor, daughter of the Holy
Hekkador of the Holy Therns, has sinned she has this day already
made partial reparation, and lest you doubt the sincerity of her
protestations and her avowal of a new love that embraces Dejah
Thoris also, she will prove her sincerity in the only way that
lies open--having saved you for another, Phaidor leaves you to her
With her last word she turned and leaped from the vessel's deck
into the abyss below.
With a cry of horror I sprang forward in a vain attempt to save the
life that for two years I would so gladly have seen extinguished.
I was too late.
With tear-dimmed eyes I turned away that I might not see the awful
A moment later I had struck the bonds from Dejah Thoris, and as her
dear arms went about my neck and her perfect lips pressed to mine
I forgot the horrors that I had witnessed and the suffering that
I had endured in the rapture of my reward.
16. THE NEW RULER
The flier upon whose deck Dejah Thoris and I found ourselves after
twelve long years of separation proved entirely useless. Her
buoyancy tanks leaked badly. Her engine would not start. We were
helpless there in mid air above the arctic ice.
The craft had drifted across the chasm which held the corpses of
Matai Shang, Thurid, and Phaidor, and now hung above a low hill.
Opening the buoyancy escape valves I permitted her to come slowly
to the ground, and as she touched, Dejah Thoris and I stepped from
her deck and, hand in hand, turned back across the frozen waste
toward the city of Kadabra.
Through the tunnel that had led me in pursuit of them we passed,
walking slowly, for we had much to say to each other.
She told me of that last terrible moment months before when the
door of her prison cell within the Temple of the Sun was slowly
closing between us. Of how Phaidor had sprung upon her with
uplifted dagger, and of Thuvia's shriek as she had realized the
foul intention of the thern goddess.
It had been that cry that had rung in my ears all the long, weary
months that I had been left in cruel doubt as to my princess' fate;
for I had not known that Thuvia had wrested the blade from the
daughter of Matai Shang before it had touched either Dejah Thoris
She told me, too, of the awful eternity of her imprisonment. Of
the cruel hatred of Phaidor, and the tender love of Thuvia, and
of how even when despair was the darkest those two red girls had
clung to the same hope and belief--that John Carter would find a
way to release them.
Presently we came to the chamber of Solan. I had been proceeding
without thought of caution, for I was sure that the city and the
palace were both in the hands of my friends by this time.
And so it was that I bolted into the chamber full into the midst
of a dozen nobles of the court of Salensus Oll. They were passing
through on their way to the outside world along the corridors we
had just traversed.
At sight of us they halted in their tracks, and then an ugly smile
overspread the features of their leader.
"The author of all our misfortunes!" he cried, pointing at me. "We
shall have the satisfaction of a partial vengeance at least when we
leave behind us here the dead and mutilated corpses of the Prince
and Princess of Helium.
"When they find them," he went on, jerking his thumb upward toward
the palace above, "they will realize that the vengeance of the
yellow man costs his enemies dear. Prepare to die, John Carter,
but that your end may be the more bitter, know that I may change my
intention as to meting a merciful death to your princess--possibly
she shall be preserved as a plaything for my nobles."
I stood close to the instrument-covered wall--Dejah Thoris at my
side. She looked up at me wonderingly as the warriors advanced
upon us with drawn swords, for mine still hung within its scabbard
at my side, and there was a smile upon my lips.
The yellow nobles, too, looked in surprise, and then as I made no
move to draw they hesitated, fearing a ruse; but their leader urged
them on. When they had come almost within sword's reach of me
I raised my hand and laid it upon the polished surface of a great
lever, and then, still smiling grimly, I looked my enemies full in
As one they came to a sudden stop, casting affrighted glances at
me and at one another.
"Stop!" shrieked their leader. "You dream not what you do!"
"Right you are," I replied. "John Carter does not dream. He
knows--knows that should one of you take another step toward Dejah
Thoris, Princess of Helium, I pull this lever wide, and she and I
shall die together; but we shall not die alone."
The nobles shrank back, whispering together for a few moments. At
last their leader turned to me.
"Go your way, John Carter," he said, "and we shall go ours."
"Prisoners do not go their own way," I answered, "and you are
prisoners--prisoners of the Prince of Helium."
Before they could make answer a door upon the opposite side of the
apartment opened and a score of yellow men poured into the apartment.
For an instant the nobles looked relieved, and then as their eyes
fell upon the leader of the new party their faces fell, for he was
Talu, rebel Prince of Marentina, and they knew that they could look
for neither aid nor mercy at his hands.
"Well done, John Carter," he cried. "You turn their own mighty
power against them. Fortunate for Okar is it that you were here
to prevent their escape, for these be the greatest villains north
of the ice-barrier, and this one"--pointing to the leader of the
party--"would have made himself Jeddak of Jeddaks in the place
of the dead Salensus Oll. Then indeed would we have had a more
villainous ruler than the hated tyrant who fell before your sword."
The Okarian nobles now submitted to arrest, since nothing but death
faced them should they resist, and, escorted by the warriors of
Talu, we made our way to the great audience chamber that had been
Salensus Oll's. Here was a vast concourse of warriors.
Red men from Helium and Ptarth, yellow men of the north, rubbing
elbows with the blacks of the First Born who had come under my
friend Xodar to help in the search for me and my princess. There
were savage, green warriors from the dead sea bottoms of the south,
and a handful of white-skinned therns who had renounced their
religion and sworn allegiance to Xodar.
There was Tardos Mors and Mors Kajak, and tall and mighty in his
gorgeous warrior trappings, Carthoris, my son. These three fell
upon Dejah Thoris as we entered the apartment, and though the lives
and training of royal Martians tend not toward vulgar demonstration,
I thought that they would suffocate her with their embraces.
And there were Tars Tarkas, Jeddak of Thark, and Kantos Kan,
my old-time friends, and leaping and tearing at my harness in the
exuberance of his great love was dear old Woola--frantic mad with
Long and loud was the cheering that burst forth at sight of us;
deafening was the din of ringing metal as the veteran warriors of
every Martian clime clashed their blades together on high in token
of success and victory, but as I passed among the throng of saluting
nobles and warriors, jeds and jeddaks, my heart still was heavy,
for there were two faces missing that I would have given much to
have seen there--Thuvan Dihn and Thuvia of Ptarth were not to be
found in the great chamber.
I made inquiries concerning them among men of every nation, and at
last from one of the yellow prisoners of war I learned that they
had been apprehended by an officer of the palace as they sought to
reach the Pit of Plenty while I lay imprisoned there.
I did not need to ask to know what had sent them thither--the
courageous jeddak and his loyal daughter. My informer said that
they lay now in one of the many buried dungeons of the palace
where they had been placed pending a decision as to their fate by
the tyrant of the north.
A moment later searching parties were scouring the ancient pile in
search of them, and my cup of happiness was full when I saw them
being escorted into the room by a cheering guard of honor.
Thuvia's first act was to rush to the side of Dejah Thoris, and I
needed no better proof of the love these two bore for each other
than the sincerity with which they embraced.
Looking down upon that crowded chamber stood the silent and empty
throne of Okar.