CHAPTER 65: "CALL TO DUTY"
Novelization of the JCB strip by Dale R. Broadhurst
Now the Princess of Helium understood for certain that
the lone visitor was Sola, the green woman. The look of recognition in
Dejah Thoris' eyes evolved into a mien of regal poise and intelligence
that hitherto had been absent from her beautiful countenance. The Thark
saw this subtle transformation and adjusted to it flawlessly.
Kneeling before her mistress, she declared thankfully:
"A desperate search for you at last brings reward, your majesty."
"Get up off your knees, you silly thing! Do you suppose
I am the Jeddra of Helium or something!"
"Three days ago," Sola continued, "Oman, the mechanical
man, showed me where you lay, above us on yon Plateau of Eo. My heart has
been as water since that sad hour. Now you have at last come back to us
-- to Dotar Sojat and Sola of Thark -- and are your old self again, as
I have hoped for against all possibilities to the contrary. Let this outcast
of Thark, your own dear friend Sola, rededicate herself to your service!"
The three friends spent the remainder of the day and much
of the night sharing their interwoven experiences of the previous days.
Only after many explanations and much happy feasting together did each
of then comprehend fully what the others had been through. But now they
were safely back where they had started, sheltered in the cliffs of the
great plateau with Woola and the one remaining thoat from Thark. At last
things made sense and they could enjoy the company of familiar companions
around a crackling campfire.
The following morning the three friends resumed their
reminiscences, while they loaded their sleeping silks and furs into the
already bulging saddle bags.
"All of this Oman has provided for us?" the red princess
asked in amazement.
"Two trips he made on the flying device, down from the
mesa; one with Sola and your sleeping self and another with me as passenger.
On the second flight we carried these things down here to this little camp.
I declined his offer to send robots along with us, but he insisted that
the mechanical camera birds accompany us for three days' travel. After
that, we are on our own."
Then Sola broached a more sober subject: "I have heard
that many brave Heliumite warriors have already lost their lives searching
for you, Dejah Thoris. On Vovo's view screen both Dotar Sojat and myself
saw the flyers departing Helium on regular schedules. If we watch the skies
as we move to the north and the east, I am certain we shall see one of
the search parties ere long."
The princess nodded in agreement. "It is my duty to return."
And so it was, that bright summer morning, that John Carter
and Dejah Thoris, abandoning their dreams of a forest paradise, set out
with Sola toward the faraway Kingdom of Helium.
"We now leave the rocky soil of the mountain," John Carter
spoke, "and before us stretches the thick moss of the dead sea floor. The
thoat is happy grazing on the yellow stuff and Woola scampers off on lizard's
trail. But our cheerful journey now assumes more dangerous aspects, as
we all well know. I pray that you can guide us safely through these desert
"I know where we are, chieftain," Sola replied, "but we
are far from Helium and it may be a very difficult journey. The last time
I was here was years ago and it took the caravan twenty days to reach the
capital of Thark. We shall not go that far before we hit upon a waterway,
I presume. If it be a familiar one, the princess will thenceforth be the
guide. Until then, I do my best."
"I have a boon to ask of you both, my friends, when we
reach the first habitations of strangers on this journey." Sola asked most
"And what might that be," Dejah Thoris called down from
atop the thoat.
"That your majesty and the brave chieftain make no mention
of my role in your escape nor in any of your experiences since our leaving
Thark. If you must say anything, you can truthfully report that you met
me north of Go-La-Ra and leave it at that. Once I know my father's fate,
I will release you from your promise, at least in part. But until then,
the safety of Tars Tarkas I impress upon your thoughts, ahead of my own
life, if need be."
Both humans made that promise to the green maiden, and
thus it came to pass that little was ever said of all that faithful Sola
of Thark did in the service of Dejah Thoris and John Carter. In fact, Captain
Carter's own account greatly abbreviates Sola's part in his adventures
on Mars, and that omission was made with her approval and at her request.
Near the end of their first day back on the dead sea bottom,
the little party stopped to spend the night under a rock outcrop in grim
wasteland. There they found numerous fossilized bones of former denizens
of the Martian deep. The princess, who knew more of these creatures and
of Barsoom's ancient past than did her two companions put together, amused
them with tales of the days when Mars was young. The accounts she gave
were so vivid and imaginative that they held her auditors' attention until
well after the sun had gone down.
When all the tales were told and the three companions
settled in for the night, John Carter exchanged telepathic thoughts with
the princess for a short time.
"Where I come from, dear princess, it would be a rude
act indeed for a gentleman to intrude upon a lady's dreams. We have been
through an extraordinary experience. But forgive me if I do not speak much
about it. My life as a fighting man lies in this world and not in the realm
Dejah Thoris has not shared what else the two close friends
spoke of that night, under the hurtling moons of Mars, but from all indications
she and the Warlord have provided over the years, they too came to an agreement
not to say much of the perils that they faced between the night of their
escape from Thark and the day of their departure from Eo. So it is that
Sola's story, along with an account of many other important happenings,
was long kept from the knowledge of Captain Carter's friends.
Be that as it may, the closeness that the two shared in
their dreamland fantasy forever entwined the fates of the fighting man
and the red princes. And it was from that time forward that the mutual
passion and affection they shared grew into the most remarkable love story
two worlds have ever known.