CHAPTER 4: "DEJAH THORIS"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Among the various possessions John
Carter inherited from the green man he had killed was a calot, or Martian
watchdog. It was alloted to him by Tars Tarkas, probably more as a means
to prevent his escape than as a pet. The Martian calot is a vicious creature,
but this one was fairly intelligent and the Earthman soon won its loyalty
by treating the animal with simple acts of kindness, something a typical
Thark would never imagine doing. Woola, as the calot was called, responded
to telepathic commands and his new master used that peculiar connection
to summon or restrain the ugly, eight-legged beast. With the calot at his
side John Carter made his way to the great open audience hall at the north
end of the central plaza. There he found the chieftains of the Thark band
gathered together and discussing the proper division of the spoils that
were still being hauled in from the downed airships.
The chieftains were just then dividing
up among themselves the more valuable loot, which consisted in arms, ammunition,
silks, furs, jewels, strangely inscribed vessels, and a quantity of solid
foods and liquids, including many casks of purified drinking water. The
only items of booty that John Carter felt no shame in appropriating for
his own use were a few small printed books which the illiterate Tharks
had thrown upon a rubbish heap. These the captive inserted into the leather
pouch attached to his sword belt. He hoped one day to fathom the exotic
written language of the unfamiliar red men.
With Woola close at his heels, the
white man continued wandering about the plaza, attempting to learn something
more about the race of red Martians whose looted property the Tharks had
tossed into a hundred heterogeneous piles. Then Sola found him and remarked
rather casually that one of the red race had been taken alive. Before John
Carter could respond he caught a glimpse of a throng of green warriors
roughly dragging the prisoner from the battle craft to the podium of the
audience hall. He broke off his conversation with the green girl and pushed
his way through the crowd of giants, in order to get a decent view of the
The sight which met his eyes sent pangs
of sympathy through the soul of the battle hardened veteran. On the podium,
surrounded by contemptuous Thark guards, stood a slender, girlish figure,
similar in every detail to an earthly women, save for the vivid red pigment
of her flawless skin. Her features were the model of perfection -- her
eyes large and lustrous and her flowing hair a lustrous coal black enhancement
to her remarkable beauty. She was as destitute of clothes as the ever nude
green Martians; nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect
and symmetrical figure. Her lack of concealing garments appeared to cause
the girl no embarrassment, however; she stood among her captors with head
held high, displaying a haughty indifference to the cruel jests of the
green barbarians. At first she did not see the Earthman standing there,
half hidden by the tall olive-hued crowd, but finally her searching gaze
met his and her eyes widened with surprise.
Bronzed by constant exposure to the
sun, and dressed as he was in the harness of a Martian warrior, the beautiful
prisoner mistook him for a member of her own race. She stared at the man
with pleading intensity and made a number of slight hand signs which were
beyond his comprehension. A moment passed and John Carter could do nothing
other than push a little closer to her through the concourse of riotous
brutes. The young woman repeated the subtle sign language, but when the
Earthman still did not respond, her look of hope faded into one of disappointment
and dejection. She then averted her eyes and ignored him altogether.
Dejah Thoris had not yet recovered
from the shock of watching so many brave sons and daughters of Helium die
on board the Haldar when the monstrous Thark dragoons thrust her roughly
before the crowd in Korad. A true daughter of bloody Mars, she had witnessed
death and destruction before, but never on the scale of the disaster which
had just occurred. At least half the expedition fleet was in ruins and
all of the ships that had escaped were terribly undermanned and critically
damaged. A mandatory radio blackout in the region surrounding Zodanga precluded
wireless distress signals. There was little chance of the survivors reaching
safety. She only held back her tears by a force of will that refused the
Tharks the pleasure of seeing her suffer.
For a brief moment her hopes were raised.
She thought she saw a countryman amid the unruly swarm of onlookers. But
he must have been a gun-running panthan. He turned pale with cowardly recoil
and did not lift a finger to help her. Focusing her attention upon the
more consequential barbarians in the throng, she caught the drift of what
they were saying -- She would be carried to the capital city of Thark,
where her last agonies at the Great Games would be offered for the enjoyment
of their king, Tal Hajus. The most dignified looking and highly ornimented
of these cheifs then approached her and the raucous crowd quieted down
"Who are you and what means this trespassing
over our ancestral lands?" the Thark leader asked, addressing the prisoner.
"I am Princess Dejah Thoris, daughter
of Mors Kajak, Jed of Greater Helium. Our ships are on a purely scientific
research mission. We are recharting the air currents and taking atmospheric
density tests. We came to this desereted unclaimed place, unprepared for
battle, to resupply our ships and map the region. The work we are doing
is in the interest of all Barsoomians: our scientific work ensures that
there is sufficient air and water to support your people as well as ours.
Although you do nothing to help us and much to hinder us, we labor constantly
just to keep you, ourtselves and all the other nations alive. You may demonstrate
your martial honor and civil justice by restoring me to my people as soon
as possible. Pay homage to all your great ancestors by joining with us
in the salvation of our dying planet. As the grand-daughter of the greatest
and mightiest of the red jeddaks, I have the authority to pardon your recent
manslaughter and also to guarantee your soverign rights by treaty, this
very day. Will you release me and relay my proposal to your Jeddak, Tal
Hajus? What possible reason could you hace to refuse? Why must you always
Just then a young chieftain leaped
up to the podium. Downing the girl with a powerful rap to the head, he
placed a foot upon her lower abdomen and turning toward the assembled giants
yelled out, "Because we, not puny red cowards, are the superior race!"
The entire crowd, save for two or three of the most intelligent elders,
broke into peals of horrid, mirthless laughter. The jeering cry of "Sojat
Azad is right! Sojat Azad is right!" rang through the ancient streets of
There was more one individual in the
crowd who was not laughing. Springing upward, this bronzed man struck the
menacing Thark full in the face. A totally surprised Sojat Azad fell back
upon his four lower limbs and was in no position to commence a sword fight.
Instead, the green ruffian attempted to draw a loaded pistol from his belt.
This cowardly move the attacker thwarted with an instantaneous blow to
the chest. The attacker's calot also joined the fight and in another moment
the green man was dead.
Dejah Thoris witnessed the entire thirty
second struggle from only inches away, but none of it made any sense to
her. Into the silence that followed she blurted out a sardonic rhetorical
"Who is this strange pale man who wears
the metal of Thark? -- a Zorian gun-runner? -- or a Zodangan traitor? or
perhaps merely a dolt who risks his life for no reason?"