19: "THE DRAGON"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
There are times when the heart so overcomes
vigilance that triumph is almost immediately swallowed up by tragedy. Luckily
for John Carter and Dejah Thoris, that warm summer's day in Go-La-Ra, two
impending perils met each other head-on to subdue a seemingly inevitable
Moving quickly across the flat roof
of the building, John Carter slashed his long blade into the durkoos' nest.
The startled, blind chicks were no great danger, he soon discovered. His
path was then directly to the unfortunate victim, who still teetered on
the edge of the building, in great danger of falling to a terrible death.
He pulled her from the peril and it was only then that he saw how horribly
the purple mists had altered the fair form of Dejah Thoris, Princess of
Helium. He gathered the slender body up in his arms and, for the first
time since his advent upon Mars, John Carter wept.
"My, princess!" he cried out, "I did
not think I would find you in time!" Then, after pausing to hold his cheek
to hers, he continued, "You have been through such terrible experiences!
I would have done anything to ..."
Dejah Thoris' eyes spoke of an irrepressible
love, but the girl's unbending gray lips stuttered out a dire warning.
"My chieftain! The -- door! The --
John Carter turned to face a most unexpected
invader. Only then did it occur to him that he had neglected to secure
the ramp-exit doorway! Through the passage which he had just exited appeared
a monstrous reptile -- another hizzah, more than double the size of the
dragon he had slain inside the building. Still covered in the gore of one
frightful hizzah, John Carter turned to face yet another!
The roof, empty but for bits of rubbish
and the smashed bird nest, offered no possible hiding place or means of
escape. His only option, short of suicide, was to stand and fight the enormous
reptile. Captain Carter gripped the handle of the antique long-sword with
new urgency, hoping he might find one small unprotected spot at which to
strike. As he closed his fingers he noticed that the yellow oil had long
since rubbed off and that they were becoming increasingly stiff. The man
raised his long-sword to meet the invulnerable monstrosity, but the contest
The sun shines through the thin air
of Barsoom with a distinctive burning intensity, especially when it is
at its zenith. A blocking of its rays immediately lowers the temperature,
quite perceptibly -- John Carter felt oddly cool. At the same time, the
appearance of a large enveloping shadow alerted the swordsman to the girl's
second warning -- for, even as the dragon rushed out through the open portal,
the mother durkoos was plunging down from the sky with its wicked talons
extended and open for the kill!
Although his heart ached beyond measure
for the plight of the battered, rigid girl, John Carter had no choice but
to release her and then to simultaneously confront two giant intruders,
either one of which might kill him in an instant!
As the Earthman braced himself for
what might be the final conflict of his life, a very strange thing happened.
The great bird had been soaring down directly upon Dejah Thoris and himself.
Perhaps an eye-blink's time remained before they would be struck with incredible
force and ferocity. At the last possible instant, however, the great bird
turned and circled a little above the roof, carefully inspecting the creatures
that dared trespass on the sanctity of its nest. Then the winged terror
swooped down in a mighty dive to attack its old enemy, the male, chick-devouring
reptile. The hizzah had one eye on the humans and one eye on the bird.
It was not taken unawares, in fact its sinuous form shot upward with the
speed of a striking cobra and the two giant things met in deadly combat,
six feet off the ground. To Captain Carter, who had served with General
Scott at Vera Cruz, it looked like the great seal of Mexico's eagle and
rattlesnake image come to life!
The durkoos appeared to be unaffected
by the giant reptile's venomous stabs, while the dragon's impervious scales
protected it equally well from both talon and beak. It was impossible for
the humans to determine which monster had the advantage, but for the moment
it was enough just to see that they were totally preoccupied in attacking
Taking the poor girl back up into his
arms, the Virginia swordsman looked for some way off the high roof, but
the only imaginable route of escape was back through the ramp-way exit
door and down through the unlit, reptile infested passage. Even as he considered
that unlikely path, a chilling sound caught his ear, the scraping of hard,
reptilian scales upon the carborundum building stone. Two wicked points
of light shone from the doorway and then the form of a third hizzah began
to emerge into the light of day. Although a female, it was in every way
as large and terrifying as the dragon fighting with the giant bird overhead.
Carter realized then that all hope of escape for them through the doorway
had been cut off, but perhaps there was another way.
On the dead sea bottom, 150 haads [40
miles] away, the green girl replaced the saddle and the camp luggage upon
the giant thoat. She donned her leather harness, tightened her zitidar
sandals, and placed the short sword in her belt. Sola's firm flat bosom
heaved in a long gasp of tender emotion, quite remarkable for a Thark.
She had lost her mother, then her people and perhaps now even her unknowing
father, but she would not lose the human friends she cared for so much.
Sola daughter of Gozava was ready to fight and die, if that was the only
path left open to friendship and love!
Woola ceased his anxious pacing and
whining. Even the unimaginative beast could sense enough of Sola's thoughts
to understand that they were about to go out to join John Carter. The calot
ran ahead of the girl, pointing out the scent trail northward, then stood
there, licking his rows of teeth with a long rough tongue, waiting. It
was time to get moving!
With a cold, unemotional stare the
female dragon in the doorway eyed the battle going on in the sky, only
a few feet away. It also spent a second or two in contemplating the nest
full of screeching durkoos chicks. Finally it turned its cruel unblinking
eyes upon the slender human and her armed companion. The slithering monster's
mouth had a hungry look about it -- the long green tongue darted back and
forth, as if seeking out the most tasty morsel of flesh on the roof. Then
it moved very quickly upon the humans, fangs exposed and dripping venom.
John Carter looked up. The struggle
between bird and reptile raged on in the sky above. The battling pair were
barely two feet above his head. With the girl held tight to his chest,
he leaped up, grabbed one leg of the durkoos and hoped against hope that
the huge bird might rise upward, if only for a few moments. Amazingly that
is just what happened! But the male hizzah had wrapped itself around the
bird's neck and together they all were swept away from the rooftop!