CHAPTER 47: "TANGLED TURMOIL"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Before John Carter could raise his one free arm above
his head, the grazoon had cast several long strands of gummy webbing over
his face and shoulders. This precision ejection of raw silk the creature
carried out from the far side of its entrapment network. Captain Carter,
practically imprisoned in the creature's mesh, awaited his end with stoic
fortitude. He only hoped that the spider-like quadruped's venom would act
quickly, for he knew that with but one hand left free he could neither
kill the thing nor cut his way free from its trap. However, at that point
of ultimate peril, a mad scheme came to him and his steel gray eyes flashed
with implacable animation.
"I still live!" he reminded himself.
Sola's negative answer left the Odwar of Eo with nothing
more to say. He bowed his head in imitation of human Barsoomian custom
and asked the young green woman how he might be of service, since she was
a guest on the Plateau of Eo by his request.
"When you brought me to this place we walked for a long
time through a great forest. From what little I could see, I suppose the
jungle covers the entire mountain top. Tell me, is it a natural thing or
is it also a creation of Vovo?"
"I tell you truly, Sola, that it was no creation of Vovo's,
although the mechano-men now tend the foliage and give it the water our
dying world can no longer supply from its thin atmosphere. The forest was
here before ever an intelligent being drew a breath on Barsoom. Forests
like this one were the birthplace of your own race, and when the green
men had disappeared from all the face of our world, their sole remnant
"It is an unwritten history, my friend. It is a story
that no living being today knows, save for myself. I know it well, for
I saw much of it happen with my own eyes. Although your ancestors forgot
the truth a hundred thousand years ago, the Isle of Eo with its pristine
jungles was a special place for the green men of Barsoom. Now it is but
a lost mountain in a god-forsaken desert. This place is your ancient homeland,
Sola. You have more of a right to be here than any of the rest of us do."
"If what you say is truthful, Oman, then I wish to walk
for a while among the trees. I'll take Woola with me. I have never seen
such a wonder before, nor has the calot. Grant us that request; I ask no
more of you. Perhaps nothing can be done for my friends -- at least I do
not expect you to try any harder to save them than you already have done.
I thank you for your good intentions. Now I desire to be alone."
With that the Thark maiden turned on her heel and walked
out of the wizard's laboratory.
"It smells too much of unnatural things here, Woola,"
she sighed to the watchdog. "Let us breathe the bounteous air green plants
make, as our first ancestors did."
The human half of the Odwar -- the part of him so long
suppressed -- felt first sadness, and then acceptance. He had tried his
best, but he knew now that the salvation of the dreamers was not in his
hands. It never had been.
The old grazoon watched its new victim from the other
size of the web. The captured flesh would supply the fluids for many a
meal and the grazoon could sleep even more often and for longer periods
in the safety of its silken mesh. The big victim was several times the
size of the creature's usual fare of small flying things. Yes, it was a
good catch -- a very good catch.
But then a tiny glimmer of intelligence was activated
in the grazoon's slow-thinking brain. Such a large morsel would require
more than one injection of venom. In its youth the four-legged monster
might have killed the prey with a single sting. But now its death would
require two or three administrations from the grazoon's poisonous pincers.
Lazily the old bug twisted its head in a complete circle,
and seeing nothing amiss, it sauntered across the web toward the Earthman.
At the web's center the animal again stopped and looked about, then it
moved stealthily toward Carter. The animal's great pincer jaws were opening
and closing in anticipation of the kill. From both wicked-looking jaw tips
a drop of paralyzing venom emerged and gleamed menacingly in the feeble
"That's right," said John Carter. "Come closer -- just
a little closer."
Sola the daughter of Gozava and Tars Tarkas of Thark had
never before seen so many trees. They came in all shapes and sizes and
their leaves ranged in hue from sparkling emerald green to pale orange,
streaked with olive. Of course the girl did not know what emeralds, oranges
and olives were, but the green race has a keen sense of color and had Sola
known more of Jasoom she would have made those same comparisons, as well
as a thousand others. But on the Barsoom she knew, Sola had very little
to compare the colors to, let alone the entire picture of trees, shrubbery,
vines, insects, birds and all the million and one other strange sights
"They are like the trees that grow along the red people's
waterways, but larger and far more numerous. I wonder how old the oldest
one is, Woola?"
The watchdog gave no reply. Many of the plants had metal
signs attached to them, but she could not read the characters. She supposed
they were names. Playfully the green girl gave the plants her own set of
names: "skeel, pimalia, man-flower, sorapus, usalob, mantalia, sompus"
and "calot-tree." The last named specimen, she saw, had a high steel fence
around it. However piles of bones around it showed that the carnivorous
plant was not starving behind its barrier.
"Don't go near that one," Sola cautioned the watchdog,
" or you'll learn why it is named after your many-toothed breed!"
Having probed as far as she wished, the green girl turned
about at the fence and retraced her steps through the trees and the garden-like
undergrowth. She loved the balance and tranquillity of the place -- so
many different living things together. And although she did not yet know
the word for the invisible gas, the maid of Mars loved filling her lungs
with the rich, invigorating oxygen the forest's green vegetation poured
into the air.
Sola decided it would be best to spend the night on the
plateau. It was already late in the day and the thoat she had left at the
trail-head could look after itself until she returned. So the girl turned
her face toward Eo's silver tower and resolved to tell Oman that she would
stay a little longer. Along the way Sola stopped to look at the weird man-flowers.
She sat in their midst for quite a while and it was there that a singular
idea came to her.