CHAPTER 21: "VICTIM OF THE DEADLY
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
It was a glorious night; both moons shone upon the silent
plain, giving the Marscape a haunting golden tinge, broken by deep blue
shadows. For more than three days they had trudged constantly northward
alongside their great beast. The giant thoats of the green men are wild,
unruly things which spend their lives bounding over the vast surface of
the red planet. The thoat that carried the rigid body of Dejah Thoris chafed
under the two controlling beings who forced it into the slow, slogging
trek; the dull-witted beast could not know that the fragile burden it carried
upon its broad back was the incomparable Princess of Helium.
My sword cannot help her now," said the man. "Yet I'd
gladly die to see her breathe again."
"Patience, Earthman," advised Sola. "I think it may be
possible. Since we left Go-La-Ra I have felt stirrings among my thoughts.
I believe it is the faint telepathy of our friend Dejah Thoris. I am convinced
that her life spark has not gone out, John Carter. Soon we shall reach
the forbidden Plateau of Eo. There perhaps we will find a remedy to her
"The very plateau you speak of, Sola, now stands before
us. Already the ground grows rough and we tread a beaten path. You have
said very little about this secret place, or why it is 'forbidden' or what
we shall encounter there. I must know what dangers we face this night --
and what hope of yours has brought us to this lonely place."
The girl hesitated, as if struggling with an inner voice
that held her back. Then she answered.
"Dotar Sojat, most that I know of this place comes from
Tars Tarkas' woman, Sarkoja, and she has told me very little. It is a place
very rarely visited, and only then by a small number of our women. And,"
Sola added, "never seen by our men, except from great distances. It called
the 'forbidden mountain' in the idiom of Thark; the Thurd and Warhoon people
call it 'Eo.'"
"Listen, Dotar Sojat, and I will tell you what I can.
As you know, the green women make the guns and ammunition for our warriors.
But, in all your travels through our country did you see one place where
the metals are mined, or the raw materials turned into gun parts, or the
complicated sighting devices assembled and calibrated? No, you did not;
for we have no such factories and shops. Some useful things we find in
the ruins, or capture from the red race, or trade for with their gun runners.
However, it is our accurate radium rifles that they come to trade their
ammunition and pistols for in these secret dealings. We and other green
people assemble the long guns, but we do not make the components. Do you
John Carter admitted that he had never given the matter
much thought, but he had seen unexplained evidence of an advanced technology
among the green race. The women held such things secret, however, and he
had no inkling as to their source.
Sola said, that for untold centuries, the green women
of the southern hordes had come to the "forbidden mountain" to trade for
gun parts, medicines and certain other things that they were unable to
produce for themselves. The inhabitants of Eo had once furnished them with
all manner of trade goods and knowledge, in return for the radium the green
scavengers gathered from the ruined cities. Over the past few centuries,
however, the trade had dwindled to a trickle. The Wizards of Eo, who had
once watched over and protected the green Martians, now seemed no longer
to care about them. Still, for them nothing was impossible. And to them
the green females came to find cures for life-threatening illnesses and
As they neared the ascent to the plateau John Carter noticed
a durkoos circling overhead in the moons' light. He had seen the bird for
the past two days. It was much smaller than the monster he had encountered
in Go-La-Ra and it behaved much differently. It appeared to be following
them and watching them. But, as it presented no immediate danger, the Earthman
gave it little attention.
"Dotar Sojat," the girl asked, "how is your arm now?"
"Cold -- it feels cold. And the flesh at the edge of the
calcified portion has turned blue. I have seen gangrene take the limbs
of many soldiers in my time. I fear I may lose my sword arm if these wizards
you speak of do not treat it soon. That would be a cruel fate for a fighting
man like myself!"
Meanwhile, not far away, two figures bent over a viewing
screen and watched events as they unfolded at the base of the forbidden
mesa. The televising apparatus was located at the top of a high metal tower
on the plateau and one of those watching the video images was himself made
of the same shining element. As the two strange beings watched, they saw
a green woman and a smaller white man unload a statue-like body from the
back of their thoat.
"Do you have the sound transmission ready, yet?" asked
the smaller of the two figures.
"No, Master Vovo," replied the metal man, "the microphone
in the mechanical bird cannot pick up their voices from such a distance.
I will cause it to land near them so it can hear their words."
"Don't bother, Oman, we will go out to meet them. Get
the flying device from the stables and meet me at the window landing. Bring
your sword and pistol. There may be trouble with the man."
All of these commands the Wizard of Eo spoke softly into
a mouthpiece, mounted below his thick green chin. Oman, the mechanical
man, hastened to obey his master's transmitted commands, leaving Vovo alone
at the view-screen. The wizard saw John Carter kneel before the stricken
girl and exchange words with the green girl. Both wore the metal of Thark,
a nation he knew well -- and from more than just their infrequent trading
with him. Vovo could well guess what the strangers were discussing; his
remote video camera had observed their progress all the way from Go-La-Ra.
"What do we do now?" questioned the Earthman.
"I do not know. Perhaps the women of my race trade their
radium here at the base of the mountain; or perhaps they ascend it by this
narrow trail on foot and carry out the exchange somewhere above. No one
has ever told me how it is done. But it will be difficult for us to carry
Dejah Thoris up the steep and winding path. Her body is frail now and a
single hard jolt might fracture an arm or a leg. Perhaps you could follow
the trail, while I remain here with her and our thoat"
As John Carter pondered what to do next, he noticed that
the odd durkoos that had been accompanying them was gone from the sky overhead.
He wondered if the bird might be a tamed pet, gone off now to warn its
owner of trespassers upon the trail to mysterious Eo.
Oman brought the "flying device" up to Vovo's window.
It was the most outlandish flyer ever seen on Mars, a mechanical contrivance
having the appearance a large thoat. Nowhere were propellers, flaps or
buoyancy tanks to be seen. It appeared to operate by magic rather than
by science. The two bizarre figures, one a misshapen green dwarf and the
other a gleaming metal robot, mounted their flying thing and departed the
silver tower. So it was that Vovo, last Wizard of Eo, and Oman the odwar
of the mechanical men, rode forth to intercept the strangers.