CHAPTER 5: "SENTENCE OF DOOM"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
The inclinations and motivations of
the green men of Mars pass all human logic. Had it been not for the chance
happening of some fighting breaking out at the other end of the plaza,
the comrades of the dead Sojat Azad might have delighted themselves in
tearing John Carter apart, bone by bone, then and there. But the uproar
of a conflict between warriors is irresistibly attractive to the giant
barbarians. The better part of the crowd turned their attention to the
new brawl and no Thark who remained nearby interfered with the Earthman
on the podium. Even Tars Tarkas sauntered off to investigate the new commotion,
leaving the human captives practically unrestrained. Only a handful of
disinterested guards continued to watch the two smaller beings.
"I witnessed the destruction of your
airships," said John Carter as he offered a piece of cloth to staunch the
flow of blood from her nostrils. "It was a contemptible ambush upon peaceful
visitors and am sorry to have watched it. When I saw him strike you I could
stand no more."
The red maiden rose to her feet, straightened
her disheveled hair and wiped the remainder of the blood from her face.
Then Dejah Thoris eyed the stranger intently.
"Why did you do it?" she asked. "You
ignored my signal when first I saw you! And now you risk your life and
kill one of your companions for reasons I cannot understand. What strange
manner of man are you, who lives among the green barbarians and wears their
vile insignia? Your form is that of my race, while your color is pallid
and your speech is as inapt as that of a hatchling. Tell me, are you human,
or are you -- are you something else?"
"It is a strange tale," Captain Carter
replied. "I can hardly believe it myself. But know that I would be your
friend, and your servant if you will allow that. We are both held here
against our wills and it seems that will continue for a while at least."
"So you are also their prisoner, even
though you bear arms and the regalia of a Tharkian warrior? What is your
name? Where your country?"
"My name is John Carter, and I claim
Virginia as my home. Whether you can believe it or not, I come from that
blue star which shines brightly even after sunrise. Why I am permitted
to carry the weapons of the Thark I killed a few days ago I do not know.
But the leader of these giants has extended me unusual trust and also what
passes here for friendship."
Their conversation was interrupted
by one of the guards who had overheard what they were saying. With a few
grunts he indicated that the dead one's arms, accouterments and ornaments
now belonged to John Carter. A young Thark female stripped him, bundled
the belongings and then dragged away the lifeless body, leaving a trail
of his blood behind her. A few yards away Sola sat with John Carter's calot
watching. The Earthman half smiled when he caught a few of her thoughts.
She was already calculating how to trim down Sojat Azad's harness to human
The two humans noticed that Tars Tarkas
had returned. His eyes rested upon them in a most quizzical manner. Finally
he addressed the Earthman.
"I see you have found one of your own
size with whom you can speak the tongue of Barsoom. The red women are talkative.
She almost had me convinced that we should help them make new air and water.
Hah! Let her carry her pleas to Tal Hajus herself!
"You have just slain our youngest chieftain,"
he continued. "We must offer an account of your actions to my master, Jed
Lorquas Ptomel, and if he wills it, also an account to his master, Jeddak
Tal Hajus. In the meanwhile, Dotar Sojat, you have made yourself a chieftain
among the Thark. Chieftains protect their retinues and the horde." Then,
glancing at Dejah Thoris, he added, "and it seems you have just added one
more to your retinue!"
The required interview with Lorquas
Ptomel, Jed among the Tharks of Barsoom, produced no change in their situation.
Tars Tarkas made preparations to transfer the two captives to the far off
city of Thark, where Tal Hajus would determine their ultimate lot. Before
the journey commenced John Carter asserted his new authority and assigned
Sola to watch over Dejah Thoris. His repeated acts of kindness in her behalf
had won him Sola's loyality, while behavior modled by the red princess
taught the green girl what it meant to be a friend.
After Tars Tarkas and his company arrived
at the ancient metropolis of Thark the green man came close, on several
occasions, to freeing John Carter entirely. It has become obvious to the
giant warrior that the Earthman would find a way to escape, sooner or later,
and when that day came the captor's life would be worth no more than his
former captive's. But the Thark's sense of loyality to his Jeddak prevailed
and he eventually conducted the humans to the audience chamber of Tal Hajus,
Jeddak of all the Thark hordes. And so Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium,
and John Carter, gentleman of Virginia, followed by the faithful Woola,
passed into the palace and throne room, ready to learn their fate.
"O mighty Tal Hajus," began Tars Tarkas,
after the traditional tokens of subjection had been rendered, "I present
to you these two little captives -- a princess of Helium who begs a treaty
with Thark and a man of some similar race who slew the chieftain Sojat
Azad, in personal combat, for the sake of this girl."
The floor of the throne room was thronged
with green chieftains, but upon seeing the princess Tal Hajus dismissed
them all with a wave of his hand.
"Leave us, Tars Tarkas. Take the strange
man and his calot away. I will see to his judgment later. If Helium seeks
intercourse and alliance with the green men, I will consumate it here,
after I speak with this princess -- alone!"
The one who issued these commands was
the most hideous beast the red girl had ever put her eyes upon. He had
all the cruel, terrible features of the green warriors, but accentuated
by signs of animal passions exceeding those of the usual Thark. His great
protruding eyes gloated upon the lines of her beautiful figure as his dissolute
mind ejaculated forth a stream of insults and lewd insinuations.
"Princess of Helium, eh? Know you not
that treaties among our hordes last only so long as a single battle campaign?
Know you not that in our alliances the jeds exchange their long-swords,
their necklaces, and their females? Oh yes, I will give you a treaty, Princess
of Helium -- a treaty with ten days of pleasure to show you all the love
I harbor for your race. Is your heart big enough to accommodate my great
passion? I shall see. If not, word of that fact shall go forth to Tardos
Mors, that he may grovel upon the ground in the agony of his sorrow. Open
a place within your heart now to contain what I have to implant there and
I will hold back my more blistering passion until tomorrow. Disappoint
me and my torture of your red race will commence tonight. Either way, thou
art Tal Hajus'; come join me in my furs and silks, wench!"