Thuvan Dihn was not long in joining me; and, though we found the hooked weapo_ strange and savage thing with which to deal, the three of us soon despatche_he five black-bearded warriors who opposed us.
When the battle was over our new acquaintance turned to me, and removing th_hield from his wrist, held it out. I did not know the significance of hi_ct, but judged that it was but a form of expressing his gratitude to me.
I afterward learned that it symbolized the offering of a man's life in retur_or some great favor done him; and my act of refusing, which I had immediatel_one, was what was expected of me.
"Then accept from Talu, Prince of Marentina," said the yellow man, "this toke_f my gratitude," and reaching beneath one of his wide sleeves he withdrew _racelet and placed it upon my arm. He then went through the same ceremon_ith Thuvan Dihn.
Next he asked our names, and from what land we hailed. He seemed quit_amiliar with the geography of the outerworld, and when I said I was fro_elium he raised his brows.
"Ah," he said, "you seek your ruler and his company?"
"Know you of them?" I asked.
"But little more than that they were captured by my uncle, Salensus Oll, Jeddak of Jeddaks, Ruler of Okar, land of the yellow men of Barsoom. As t_heir fate I know nothing, for I am at war with my uncle, who would crush m_ower in the principality of Marentina.
"These from whom you have just saved me are warriors he has sent out to fin_nd slay me, for they know that often I come alone to hunt and kill the sacre_pt which Salensus Oll so much reveres. It is partly because I hate hi_eligion that Salensus Oll hates me; but mostly does he fear my growing powe_nd the great faction which has arisen throughout Okar that would be glad t_ee me ruler of Okar and Jeddak of Jeddaks in his place.
"He is a cruel and tyrannous master whom all hate, and were it not for th_reat fear they have of him I could raise an army overnight that would wip_ut the few that might remain loyal to him. My own people are faithful to me, and the little valley of Marentina has paid no tribute to the court o_alensus Oll for a year.
"Nor can he force us, for a dozen men may hold the narrow way to Marentin_gainst a million. But now, as to thine own affairs. How may I aid you? M_alace is at your disposal, if you wish to honor me by coming to Marentina."
"When our work is done we shall be glad to accept your invitation," I replied.
"But now you can assist us most by directing us to the court of Salensus Oll, and suggesting some means by which we may gain admission to the city and th_alace, or whatever other place we find our friends to be confined."
Talu gazed ruefully at our smooth faces and at Thuvan Dihn's red skin and m_hite one.
"First you must come to Marentina," he said, "for a great change must b_rought in your appearance before you can hope to enter any city in Okar. Yo_ust have yellow faces and black beards, and your apparel and trappings mus_e those least likely to arouse suspicion. In my palace is one who can mak_ou appear as truly yellow men as does Salensus Oll himself."
His counsel seemed wise; and as there was apparently no other way to insure _uccessful entry to Kadabra, the capital city of Okar, we set out with Talu, Prince of Marentina, for his little, rock-bound country.
The way was over some of the worst traveling I have ever seen, and I do no_onder that in this land where there are neither thoats nor fliers tha_arentina is in little fear of invasion; but at last we reached ou_estination, the first view of which I had from a slight elevation a half-mil_rom the city.
Nestled in a deep valley lay a city of Martian concrete, whose every stree_nd plaza and open space was roofed with glass. All about lay snow and ice, but there was none upon the rounded, domelike, crystal covering that envelope_he whole city.
Then I saw how these people combated the rigors of the arctic, and lived i_uxury and comfort in the midst of a land of perpetual ice. Their cities wer_eritable hothouses, and when I had come within this one my respect an_dmiration for the scientific and engineering skill of this buried nation wa_nbounded.
The moment we entered the city Talu threw off his outer garments of fur, a_id we, and I saw that his apparel differed but little from that of the re_aces of Barsoom. Except for his leathern harness, covered thick with jewel_nd metal, he was naked, nor could one have comfortably worn apparel in tha_arm and humid atmosphere.
For three days we remained the guests of Prince Talu, and during that time h_howered upon us every attention and courtesy within his power. He showed u_ll that was of interest in his great city.
The Marentina atmosphere plant will maintain life indefinitely in the citie_f the north pole after all life upon the balance of dying Mars is extinc_hrough the failure of the air supply, should the great central plant agai_ease functioning as it did upon that memorable occasion that gave me th_pportunity of restoring life and happiness to the strange world that I ha_lready learned to love so well.
He showed us the heating system that stores the sun's rays in great reservoir_eneath the city, and how little is necessary to maintain the perpetual summe_eat of the glorious garden spot within this arctic paradise.
Broad avenues of sod sewn with the seed of the ocher vegetation of the dea_ea bottoms carried the noiseless traffic of light and airy ground fliers tha_re the only form of artificial transportation used north of the gigantic ice- barrier.
The broad tires of these unique fliers are but rubber-like gas bags fille_ith the eighth Barsoomian ray, or ray of propulsion—that remarkable discover_f the Martians that has made possible the great fleets of mighty airship_hat render the red man of the outer world supreme. It is this ray whic_ropels the inherent or reflected light of the planet off into space, and whe_onfined gives to the Martian craft their airy buoyancy.
The ground fliers of Marentina contain just sufficient buoyancy in thei_utomobile-like wheels to give the cars traction for steering purposes; an_hough the hind wheels are geared to the engine, and aid in driving th_achine, the bulk of this work is carried by a small propeller at the stern.
I know of no more delightful sensation than that of riding in one of thes_uxuriously appointed cars which skim, light and airy as feathers, along th_oft, mossy avenues of Marentina. They move with absolute noiselessnes_etween borders of crimson sward and beneath arching trees gorgeous with th_ondrous blooms that mark so many of the highly cultivated varieties o_arsoomian vegetation.
By the end of the third day the court barber—I can think of no other earthl_ppellation by which to describe him—had wrought so remarkable _ransformation in both Thuvan Dihn and myself that our own wives would neve_ave known us. Our skins were of the same lemon color as his own, and great, black beards and mustaches had been deftly affixed to our smooth faces. Th_rappings of warriors of Okar aided in the deception; and for wear beyond th_othouse cities we each had suits of the black- and yellow-striped orluk.
Talu gave us careful directions for the journey to Kadabra, the capital cit_f the Okar nation, which is the racial name of the yellow men. This goo_riend even accompanied us part way, and then, promising to aid us in any wa_hat he found possible, bade us adieu.
On parting he slipped upon my finger a curiously wrought ring set with a dead- black, lusterless stone, which appeared more like a bit of bituminous coa_han the priceless Barsoomian gem which in reality it is.
"There had been but three others cut from the mother stone," he said, "whic_s in my possession. These three are worn by nobles high in my confidence, al_f whom have been sent on secret missions to the court of Salensus Oll.
"Should you come within fifty feet of any of these three you will feel _apid, pricking sensation in the finger upon which you wear this ring. He wh_ears one of its mates will experience the same feeling; it is caused by a_lectrical action that takes place the moment two of these gems cut from th_ame mother stone come within the radius of each other's power. By it you wil_now that a friend is at hand upon whom you may depend for assistance in tim_f need.
"Should another wearer of one of these gems call upon you for aid do not den_im, and should death threaten you swallow the ring rather than let it fal_nto the hands of enemies. Guard it with your life, John Carter, for some da_t may mean more than life to you."
With this parting admonition our good friend turned back toward Marentina, an_e set our faces in the direction of the city of Kadabra and the court o_alensus Oll, Jeddak of Jeddaks.
That very evening we came within sight of the walled and glass-roofed city o_adabra. It lies in a low depression near the pole, surrounded by rocky, snow- clad hills. From the pass through which we entered the valley we had _plendid view of this great city of the north. Its crystal domes sparkled i_he brilliant sunlight gleaming above the frost-covered outer wall tha_ircles the entire one hundred miles of its circumference.
At regular intervals great gates give entrance to the city; but even at th_istance from which we looked upon the massive pile we could see that all wer_losed, and, in accordance with Talu's suggestion, we deferred attempting t_nter the city until the following morning.
As he had said, we found numerous caves in the hillsides about us, and int_ne of these we crept for the night. Our warm orluk skins kept us perfectl_omfortable, and it was only after a most refreshing sleep that we awok_hortly after daylight on the following morning.
Already the city was astir, and from several of the gates we saw parties o_ellow men emerging. Following closely each detail of the instructions give_s by our good friend of Marentina, we remained concealed for several hour_ntil one party of some half dozen warriors had passed along the trail belo_ur hiding place and entered the hills by way of the pass along which we ha_ome the previous evening.
After giving them time to get well out of sight of our cave, Thuvan Dihn and _rept out and followed them, overtaking them when they were well into th_ills.
When we had come almost to them I called aloud to their leader, when the whol_arty halted and turned toward us. The crucial test had come. Could we bu_eceive these men the rest would be comparatively easy.
"Kaor!" I cried as I came closer to them.
"Kaor!" responded the officer in charge of the party.
"We be from Illall," I continued, giving the name of the most remote city o_kar, which has little or no intercourse with Kadabra. "Only yesterday w_rrived, and this morning the captain of the gate told us that you wer_etting out to hunt orluks, which is a sport we do not find in our ow_eighborhood. We have hastened after you to pray that you allow us t_ccompany you."
The officer was entirely deceived, and graciously permitted us to go with the_or the day. The chance guess that they were bound upon an orluk hunt prove_orrect, and Talu had said that the chances were ten to one that such would b_he mission of any party leaving Kadabra by the pass through which we entere_he valley, since that way leads directly to the vast plains frequented b_his elephantine beast of prey.
In so far as the hunt was concerned, the day was a failure, for we did not se_ single orluk; but this proved more than fortunate for us, since the yello_en were so chagrined by their misfortune that they would not enter the cit_y the same gate by which they had left it in the morning, as it seemed tha_hey had made great boasts to the captain of that gate about their skill a_his dangerous sport.
We, therefore, approached Kadabra at a point several miles from that at whic_he party had quitted it in the morning, and so were relieved of the danger o_mbarrassing questions and explanations on the part of the gate captain, who_e had said had directed us to this particular hunting party.
We had come quite close to the city when my attention was attracted toward _all, black shaft that reared its head several hundred feet into the air fro_hat appeared to be a tangled mass of junk or wreckage, now partially snow- covered.
I did not dare venture an inquiry for fear of arousing suspicion by eviden_gnorance of something which as a yellow man I should have known; but befor_e reached the city gate I was to learn the purpose of that grim shaft and th_eaning of the mighty accumulation beneath it.
We had come almost to the gate when one of the party called to his fellows, a_he same time pointing toward the distant southern horizon. Following th_irection he indicated, my eyes descried the hull of a large flier approachin_apidly from above the crest of the encircling hills.
"Still other fools who would solve the mysteries of the forbidden north," sai_he officer, half to himself. "Will they never cease their fatal curiosity?"
"Let us hope not," answered one of the warriors, "for then what should we d_or slaves and sport?"
"True; but what stupid beasts they are to continue to come to a region fro_hence none of them ever has returned."
"Let us tarry and watch the end of this one," suggested one of the men.
The officer looked toward the city.
"The watch has seen him," he said; "we may remain, for we may be needed."
I looked toward the city and saw several hundred warriors issuing from th_earest gate. They moved leisurely, as though there were no need for haste—no_as there, as I was presently to learn.
Then I turned my eyes once more toward the flier. She was moving rapidl_oward the city, and when she had come close enough I was surprised to se_hat her propellers were idle.
Straight for that grim shaft she bore. At the last minute I saw the grea_lades move to reverse her, yet on she came as though drawn by some mighty, irresistible power.
Intense excitement prevailed upon her deck, where men were running hither an_hither, manning the guns and preparing to launch the small, one-man fliers, _leet of which is part of the equipment of every Martian war vessel. Close_nd closer to the black shaft the ship sped. In another instant she mus_trike, and then I saw the familiar signal flown that sends the lesser boat_n a great flock from the deck of the mother ship.
Instantly a hundred tiny fliers rose from her deck, like a swarm of hug_ragon flies; but scarcely were they clear of the battleship than the nose o_ach turned toward the shaft, and they, too, rushed on at frightful spee_oward the same now seemingly inevitable end that menaced the larger vessel.
A moment later the collision came. Men were hurled in every direction from th_hip's deck, while she, bent and crumpled, took the last, long plunge to th_crap-heap at the shaft's base.
With her fell a shower of her own tiny fliers, for each of them had come i_iolent collision with the solid shaft.
I noticed that the wrecked fliers scraped down the shaft's side, and tha_heir fall was not as rapid as might have been expected; and then suddenly th_ecret of the shaft burst upon me, and with it an explanation of the caus_hat prevented a flier that passed too far across the ice-barrier eve_eturning.
The shaft was a mighty magnet, and when once a vessel came within the radiu_f its powerful attraction for the aluminum steel that enters so largely int_he construction of all Barsoomian craft, no power on earth could prevent suc_n end as we had just witnessed.
I afterward learned that the shaft rests directly over the magnetic pole o_ars, but whether this adds in any way to its incalculable power of attractio_ do not know. I am a fighting man, not a scientist.
Here, at last, was an explanation of the long absence of Tardos Mors and Mor_ajak. These valiant and intrepid warriors had dared the mysteries and danger_f the frozen north to search for Carthoris, whose long absence had bowed i_rief the head of his beautiful mother, Dejah Thoris, Princess of Helium.
The moment that the last of the fliers came to rest at the base of the shaf_he black-bearded, yellow warriors swarmed over the mass of wreckage upo_hich they lay, making prisoners of those who were uninjured and occasionall_espatching with a sword-thrust one of the wounded who seemed prone to resen_heir taunts and insults.
A few of the uninjured red men battled bravely against their cruel foes, bu_or the most part they seemed too overwhelmed by the horror of the catastroph_hat had befallen them to do more than submit supinely to the golden chain_ith which they were manacled.
When the last of the prisoners had been confined, the party returned to th_ity, at the gate of which we met a pack of fierce, gold-collared apts, eac_f which marched between two warriors, who held them with strong chains of th_ame metal as their collars.
Just beyond the gate the attendants loosened the whole terrible herd, and a_hey bounded off toward the grim, black shaft I did not need to ask to kno_heir mission. Had there not been those within the cruel city of Kadabra wh_eeded succor far worse than the poor unfortunate dead and dying out there i_he cold upon the bent and broken carcasses of a thousand fliers I could no_ave restrained my desire to hasten back and do battle with those horri_reatures that had been despatched to rend and devour them.
As it was I could but follow the yellow warriors, with bowed head, and giv_hanks for the chance that had given Thuvan Dihn and me such easy ingress t_he capital of Salensus Oll.
Once within the gates, we had no difficulty in eluding our friends of th_orning, and presently found ourselves in a Martian hostelry.