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Authors: Burroughs, Edgar Rice

The gods of mars

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THE GODS OF MARS* * *EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS *The Gods of MarsFirst published in 1914ISBN 978-1-62012-484-0Duke Classics© 2012 Duke Classics and its licensors. All rights reserved.While every effort has been used to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in this edition, Duke Classics does not assume liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in this book. Duke Classics does not accept responsibility for loss suffered as a result of reliance upon the accuracy or currency of information contained in this book.Contents*ForewordChapter I - The Plant MenChapter II - A Forest BattleChapter III - The Chamber of MysteryChapter IV - ThuviaChapter V - Corridors of PerilChapter VI - The Black Pirates of BarsoomChapter VII - A Fair GoddessChapter VIII - The Depths of OmeanChapter IX - Issus, Goddess of Life EternalChapter X - The Prison Isle of ShadorChapter XI - When Hell Broke LooseChapter XII - Doomed to DieChapter XIII - A Break for LibertyChapter XIV - The Eyes in the DarkChapter XV - Flight and PursuitChapter XVI - Under ArrestChapter XVII - The Death SentenceChapter XVIII - Sola’s StoryChapter XIX - Black DespairChapter XX - The Air BattleChapter XXI - Through Flood and FlameChapter XXII - Victory and DefeatEndnotesForeword*

Twelve years had passed since I had laid the body of my great-uncle,Captain John Carter, of Virginia, away from the sight of men in thatstrange mausoleum in the old cemetery at Richmond.

Often had I pondered on the odd instructions he had left me governingthe construction of his mighty tomb, and especially those parts whichdirected that he be laid in anopencasket and that the ponderousmechanism which controlled the bolts of the vault’s huge door beaccessibleonly from the inside.

Twelve years had passed since I had read the remarkable manuscript ofthis remarkable man; this man who remembered no childhood and who couldnot even offer a vague guess as to his age; who was always young andyet who had dandled my grandfather’s great-grandfather upon his knee;this man who had spent ten years upon the planet Mars; who had foughtfor the green men of Barsoom and fought against them; who had foughtfor and against the red men and who had won the ever beautiful DejahThoris, Princess of Helium, for his wife, and for nearly ten years hadbeen a prince of the house of Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium.

Twelve years had passed since his body had been found upon the bluffbefore his cottage overlooking the Hudson, and oft-times during theselong years I had wondered if John Carter were really dead, or if heagain roamed the dead sea bottoms of that dying planet; if he hadreturned to Barsoom to find that he had opened the frowning portals ofthe mighty atmosphere plant in time to save the countless millions whowere dying of asphyxiation on that far-gone day that had seen himhurtled ruthlessly through forty-eight million miles of space back toEarth once more. I had wondered if he had found his black-hairedPrincess and the slender son he had dreamed was with her in the royalgardens of Tardos Mors, awaiting his return.

Or, had he found that he had been too late, and thus gone back to aliving death upon a dead world? Or was he really dead after all, neverto return either to his mother Earth or his beloved Mars?

Thus was I lost in useless speculation one sultry August evening whenold Ben, my body servant, handed me a telegram. Tearing it open I read:

‘Meet me to-morrow hotel Raleigh Richmond.

‘JOHN CARTER’

Early the next morning I took the first train for Richmond and withintwo hours was being ushered into the room occupied by John Carter.

As I entered he rose to greet me, his old-time cordial smile of welcomelighting his handsome face. Apparently he had not aged a minute, butwas still the straight, clean-limbed fighting-man of thirty. His keengrey eyes were undimmed, and the only lines upon his face were thelines of iron character and determination that always had been theresince first I remembered him, nearly thirty-five years before.

‘Well, nephew,’ he greeted me, ‘do you feel as though you were seeing aghost, or suffering from the effects of too many of Uncle Ben’s juleps?’

‘Juleps, I reckon,’ I replied, ‘for I certainly feel mighty good; butmaybe it’s just the sight of you again that affects me. You have beenback to Mars? Tell me. And Dejah Thoris? You found her well andawaiting you?’

‘Yes, I have been to Barsoom again, and—but it’s a long story, toolong to tell in the limited time I have before I must return. I havelearned the secret, nephew, and I may traverse the trackless void at mywill, coming and going between the countless planets as I list; but myheart is always in Barsoom, and while it is there in the keeping of myMartian Princess, I doubt that I shall ever again leave the dying worldthat is my life.

‘I have come now because my affection for you prompted me to see youonce more before you pass over for ever into that other life that Ishall never know, and which though I have died thrice and shall dieagain to-night, as you know death, I am as unable to fathom as are you.

‘Even the wise and mysterious therns of Barsoom, that ancient cultwhich for countless ages has been credited with holding the secret oflife and death in their impregnable fastnesses upon the hither slopesof the Mountains of Otz, are as ignorant as we. I have proved it,though I near lost my life in the doing of it; but you shall read itall in the notes I have been making during the last three months that Ihave been back upon Earth.’

He patted a swelling portfolio that lay on the table at his elbow.

‘I know that you are interested and that you believe, and I know thatthe world, too, is interested, though they will not believe for manyyears; yes, for many ages, since they cannot understand. Earth menhave not yet progressed to a point where they can comprehend the thingsthat I have written in those notes.

‘Give them what you wish of it, what you think will not harm them, butdo not feel aggrieved if they laugh at you.’

That night I walked down to the cemetery with him. At the door of hisvault he turned and pressed my hand.

‘Good-bye, nephew,’ he said. ‘I may never see you again, for I doubtthat I can ever bring myself to leave my wife and boy while they live,and the span of life upon Barsoom is often more than a thousand years.’

He entered the vault. The great door swung slowly to. The ponderousbolts grated into place. The lock clicked. I have never seen CaptainJohn Carter, of Virginia, since.

But here is the story of his return to Mars on that other occasion, asI have gleaned it from the great mass of notes which he left for meupon the table of his room in the hotel at Richmond.

There is much which I have left out; much which I have not dared totell; but you will find the story of his second search for DejahThoris, Princess of Helium, even more remarkable than was his firstmanuscript which I gave to an unbelieving world a short time since andthrough which we followed the fighting Virginian across dead seabottoms under the moons of Mars.

E. R. B.

Chapter I - The Plant Men*

As I stood upon the bluff before my cottage on that clear cold night inthe early part of March, 1886, the noble Hudson flowing like the greyand silent spectre of a dead river below me, I felt again the strange,compelling influence of the mighty god of war, my beloved Mars, whichfor ten long and lonesome years I had implored with outstretched armsto carry me back to my lost love.

Not since that other March night in 1866, when I had stood without thatArizona cave in which my still and lifeless body lay wrapped in thesimilitude of earthly death had I felt the irresistible attraction ofthe god of my profession.

With arms outstretched toward the red eye of the great star I stoodpraying for a return of that strange power which twice had drawn methrough the immensity of space, praying as I had prayed on a thousandnights before during the long ten years that I had waited and hoped.

Suddenly a qualm of nausea swept over me, my senses swam, my knees gavebeneath me and I pitched headlong to the ground upon the very verge ofthe dizzy bluff.

Instantly my brain cleared and there swept back across the threshold ofmy memory the vivid picture of the horrors of that ghostly Arizonacave; again, as on that far-gone night, my muscles refused to respondto my will and again, as though even here upon the banks of the placidHudson, I could hear the awful moans and rustling of the fearsome thingwhich had lurked and threatened me from the dark recesses of the cave,I made the same mighty and superhuman effort to break the bonds of thestrange anaesthesia which held me, and again came the sharp click as ofthe sudden parting of a taut wire, and I stood naked and free besidethe staring, lifeless thing that had so recently pulsed with the warm,red life-blood of John Carter.

With scarcely a parting glance I turned my eyes again toward Mars,lifted my hands toward his lurid rays, and waited.

Nor did I have long to wait; for scarce had I turned ere I shot withthe rapidity of thought into the awful void before me. There was thesame instant of unthinkable cold and utter darkness that I hadexperienced twenty years before, and then I opened my eyes in anotherworld, beneath the burning rays of a hot sun, which beat through a tinyopening in the dome of the mighty forest in which I lay.

The scene that met my eyes was so un-Martian that my heart sprang to mythroat as the sudden fear swept through me that I had been aimlesslytossed upon some strange planet by a cruel fate.

Why not? What guide had I through the trackless waste ofinterplanetary space? What assurance that I might not as well behurtled to some far-distant star of another solar system, as to Mars?

I lay upon a close-cropped sward of red grasslike vegetation, and aboutme stretched a grove of strange and beautiful trees, covered with hugeand gorgeous blossoms and filled with brilliant, voiceless birds. Icall them birds since they were winged, but mortal eye ne’er rested onsuch odd, unearthly shapes.

The vegetation was similar to that which covers the lawns of the redMartians of the great waterways, but the trees and birds were unlikeanything that I had ever seen upon Mars, and then through the furthertrees I could see that most un-Martian of all sights—an open sea, itsblue waters shimmering beneath the brazen sun.

As I rose to investigate further I experienced the same ridiculouscatastrophe that had met my first attempt to walk under Martianconditions. The lesser attraction of this smaller planet and thereduced air pressure of its greatly rarefied atmosphere, afforded solittle resistance to my earthly muscles that the ordinary exertion ofthe mere act of rising sent me several feet into the air andprecipitated me upon my face in the soft and brilliant grass of thisstrange world.

This experience, however, gave me some slightly increased assurancethat, after all, I might indeed be in some, to me, unknown corner ofMars, and this was very possible since during my ten years’ residenceupon the planet I had explored but a comparatively tiny area of itsvast expanse.

I arose again, laughing at my forgetfulness, and soon had mastered oncemore the art of attuning my earthly sinews to these changed conditions.

As I walked slowly down the imperceptible slope toward the sea I couldnot help but note the park-like appearance of the sward and trees. Thegrass was as close-cropped and carpet-like as some old English lawn andthe trees themselves showed evidence of careful pruning to a uniformheight of about fifteen feet from the ground, so that as one turned hisglance in any direction the forest had the appearance at a littledistance of a vast, high-ceiled chamber.

All these evidences of careful and systematic cultivation convinced methat I had been fortunate enough to make my entry into Mars on thissecond occasion through the domain of a civilized people and that whenI should find them I would be accorded the courtesy and protection thatmy rank as a Prince of the house of Tardos Mors entitled me to.

The trees of the forest attracted my deep admiration as I proceededtoward the sea. Their great stems, some of them fully a hundred feetin diameter, attested their prodigious height, which I could only guessat, since at no point could I penetrate their dense foliage above me tomore than sixty or eighty feet.

As far aloft as I could see the stems and branches and twigs were assmooth and as highly polished as the newest of American-made pianos.The wood of some of the trees was as black as ebony, while theirnearest neighbours might perhaps gleam in the subdued light of theforest as clear and white as the finest china, or, again, they wereazure, scarlet, yellow, or deepest purple.

And in the same way was the foliage as gay and variegated as the stems,while the blooms that clustered thick upon them may not be described inany earthly tongue, and indeed might challenge the language of the gods.

As I neared the confines of the forest I beheld before me and betweenthe grove and the open sea, a broad expanse of meadow land, and as Iwas about to emerge from the shadows of the trees a sight met my eyesthat banished all romantic and poetic reflection upon the beauties ofthe strange landscape.

To my left the sea extended as far as the eye could reach, before meonly a vague, dim line indicated its further shore, while at my right amighty river, broad, placid, and majestic, flowed between scarlet banksto empty into the quiet sea before me.

At a little distance up the river rose mighty perpendicular bluffs,from the very base of which the great river seemed to rise.

But it was not these inspiring and magnificent evidences of Nature’sgrandeur that took my immediate attention from the beauties of theforest. It was the sight of a score of figures moving slowly about themeadow near the bank of the mighty river.

Odd, grotesque shapes they were; unlike anything that I had ever seenupon Mars, and yet, at a distance, most manlike in appearance. Thelarger specimens appeared to be about ten or twelve feet in height whenthey stood erect, and to be proportioned as to torso and lowerextremities precisely as is earthly man.

Their arms, however, were very short, and from where I stood seemed asthough fashioned much after the manner of an elephant’s trunk, in thatthey moved in sinuous and snakelike undulations, as though entirelywithout bony structure, or if there were bones it seemed that they mustbe vertebral in nature.

As I watched them from behind the stem of a huge tree, one of thecreatures moved slowly in my direction, engaged in the occupation thatseemed to be the principal business of each of them, and whichconsisted in running their oddly shaped hands over the surface of thesward, for what purpose I could not determine.

As he approached quite close to me I obtained an excellent view of him,and though I was later to become better acquainted with his kind, I maysay that that single cursory examination of this awful travesty onNature would have proved quite sufficient to my desires had I been afree agent. The fastest flier of the Heliumetic Navy could not quicklyenough have carried me far from this hideous creature.

Its hairless body was a strange and ghoulish blue, except for a broadband of white which encircled its protruding, single eye: an eye thatwas all dead white—pupil, iris, and ball.

Its nose was a ragged, inflamed, circular hole in the centre of itsblank face; a hole that resembled more closely nothing that I couldthink of other than a fresh bullet wound which has not yet commenced tobleed.

Below this repulsive orifice the face was quite blank to the chin, forthe thing had no mouth that I could discover.

The head, with the exception of the face, was covered by a tangled massof jet-black hair some eight or ten inches in length. Each hair wasabout the bigness of a large angleworm, and as the thing moved themuscles of its scalp this awful head-covering seemed to writhe andwriggle and crawl about the fearsome face as though indeed eachseparate hair was endowed with independent life.

The body and the legs were as symmetrically human as Nature could havefashioned them, and the feet, too, were human in shape, but ofmonstrous proportions. From heel to toe they were fully three feetlong, and very flat and very broad.

As it came quite close to me I discovered that its strange movements,running its odd hands over the surface of the turf, were the result ofits peculiar method of feeding, which consists in cropping off thetender vegetation with its razorlike talons and sucking it up from itstwo mouths, which lie one in the palm of each hand, through itsarm-like throats.

In addition to the features which I have already described, the beastwas equipped with a massive tail about six feet in length, quite roundwhere it joined the body, but tapering to a flat, thin blade toward theend, which trailed at right angles to the ground.

By far the most remarkable feature of this most remarkable creature,however, were the two tiny replicas of it, each about six inches inlength, which dangled, one on either side, from its armpits. They weresuspended by a small stem which seemed to grow from the exact tops oftheir heads to where it connected them with the body of the adult.

Whether they were the young, or merely portions of a compositecreature, I did not know.

As I had been scrutinizing this weird monstrosity the balance of theherd had fed quite close to me and I now saw that while many had thesmaller specimens dangling from them, not all were thus equipped, and Ifurther noted that the little ones varied in size from what appeared tobe but tiny unopened buds an inch in diameter through various stages ofdevelopment to the full-fledged and perfectly formed creature of ten totwelve inches in length.

Feeding with the herd were many of the little fellows not much largerthan those which remained attached to their parents, and from the youngof that size the herd graded up to the immense adults.

Fearsome-looking as they were, I did not know whether to fear them ornot, for they did not seem to be particularly well equipped forfighting, and I was on the point of stepping from my hiding-place andrevealing myself to them to note the effect upon them of the sight of aman when my rash resolve was, fortunately for me, nipped in the bud bya strange shrieking wail, which seemed to come from the direction ofthe bluffs at my right.

Naked and unarmed, as I was, my end would have been both speedy andhorrible at the hands of these cruel creatures had I had time to put myresolve into execution, but at the moment of the shriek each member ofthe herd turned in the direction from which the sound seemed to come,and at the same instant every particular snake-like hair upon theirheads rose stiffly perpendicular as if each had been a sentientorganism looking or listening for the source or meaning of the wail.And indeed the latter proved to be the truth, for this strange growthupon the craniums of the plant men of Barsoom represents the thousandears of these hideous creatures, the last remnant of the strange racewhich sprang from the original Tree of Life.

Instantly every eye turned toward one member of the herd, a largefellow who evidently was the leader. A strange purring sound issuedfrom the mouth in the palm of one of his hands, and at the same time hestarted rapidly toward the bluff, followed by the entire herd.

Their speed and method of locomotion were both remarkable, springing asthey did in great leaps of twenty or thirty feet, much after the mannerof a kangaroo.

They were rapidly disappearing when it occurred to me to follow them,and so, hurling caution to the winds, I sprang across the meadow intheir wake with leaps and bounds even more prodigious than their own,for the muscles of an athletic Earth man produce remarkable resultswhen pitted against the lesser gravity and air pressure of Mars.

Their way led directly towards the apparent source of the river at thebase of the cliffs, and as I neared this point I found the meadowdotted with huge boulders that the ravages of time had evidentlydislodged from the towering crags above.

For this reason I came quite close to the cause of the disturbancebefore the scene broke upon my horrified gaze. As I topped a greatboulder I saw the herd of plant men surrounding a little group ofperhaps five or six green men and women of Barsoom.

That I was indeed upon Mars I now had no doubt, for here were membersof the wild hordes that people the dead sea bottoms and deserted citiesof that dying planet.

Here were the great males towering in all the majesty of their imposingheight; here were the gleaming white tusks protruding from theirmassive lower jaws to a point near the centre of their foreheads, thelaterally placed, protruding eyes with which they could look forward orbackward, or to either side without turning their heads, here thestrange antennae-like ears rising from the tops of their foreheads; andthe additional pair of arms extending from midway between the shouldersand the hips.

Even without the glossy green hide and the metal ornaments whichdenoted the tribes to which they belonged, I would have known them onthe instant for what they were, for where else in all the universe istheir like duplicated?

There were two men and four females in the party and their ornamentsdenoted them as members of different hordes, a fact which tended topuzzle me infinitely, since the various hordes of green men of Barsoomare eternally at deadly war with one another, and never, except on thatsingle historic instance when the great Tars Tarkas of Thark gathered ahundred and fifty thousand green warriors from several hordes to marchupon the doomed city of Zodanga to rescue Dejah Thoris, Princess ofHelium, from the clutches of Than Kosis, had I seen green Martians ofdifferent hordes associated in other than mortal combat.

But now they stood back to back, facing, in wide-eyed amazement, thevery evidently hostile demonstrations of a common enemy.

Both men and women were armed with long-swords and daggers, but nofirearms were in evidence, else it had been short shrift for thegruesome plant men of Barsoom.

Presently the leader of the plant men charged the little party, and hismethod of attack was as remarkable as it was effective, and by its verystrangeness was the more potent, since in the science of the greenwarriors there was no defence for this singular manner of attack, thelike of which it soon was evident to me they were as unfamiliar with asthey were with the monstrosities which confronted them.

The plant man charged to within a dozen feet of the party and then,with a bound, rose as though to pass directly above their heads. Hispowerful tail was raised high to one side, and as he passed close abovethem he brought it down in one terrific sweep that crushed a greenwarrior’s skull as though it had been an eggshell.

The balance of the frightful herd was now circling rapidly and withbewildering speed about the little knot of victims. Their prodigiousbounds and the shrill, screeching purr of their uncanny mouths werewell calculated to confuse and terrorize their prey, so that as two ofthem leaped simultaneously from either side, the mighty sweep of thoseawful tails met with no resistance and two more green Martians wentdown to an ignoble death.

There were now but one warrior and two females left, and it seemed thatit could be but a matter of seconds ere these, also, lay dead upon thescarlet sward.

But as two more of the plant men charged, the warrior, who was nowprepared by the experiences of the past few minutes, swung his mightylong-sword aloft and met the hurtling bulk with a clean cut that cloveone of the plant men from chin to groin.

The other, however, dealt a single blow with his cruel tail that laidboth of the females crushed corpses upon the ground.

As the green warrior saw the last of his companions go down and at thesame time perceived that the entire herd was charging him in a body, herushed boldly to meet them, swinging his long-sword in the terrificmanner that I had so often seen the men of his kind wield it in theirferocious and almost continual warfare among their own race.

Cutting and hewing to right and left, he laid an open path straightthrough the advancing plant men, and then commenced a mad race for theforest, in the shelter of which he evidently hoped that he might find ahaven of refuge.

He had turned for that portion of the forest which abutted on thecliffs, and thus the mad race was taking the entire party farther andfarther from the boulder where I lay concealed.

As I had watched the noble fight which the great warrior had put upagainst such enormous odds my heart had swelled in admiration for him,and acting as I am wont to do, more upon impulse than after maturedeliberation, I instantly sprang from my sheltering rock and boundedquickly toward the bodies of the dead green Martians, a well-definedplan of action already formed.

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