As I started to investigate, the lid of the chest was thrown aside; and a girl stepped out before me. This was more surprising than my first ancestor would have been, for the girl was Llana of Gathol!
“Llana!” I cried; “what are you doing here?”
“I might ask you the same question, my revered progenitor,” she shot back, with that lack of respect for my great age which has always characterized those closest to me in bonds of blood and affection.
Pan Dan Chee came forward rather open-mouthed and goggle-eyed. “Llana of Gathol!” he whispered as one might voice the name of a goddess. The roomful of anachronisms looked on more or less apathetically.
“Who is this person?” demanded Llana of Gathol.
“My friend, Pan Dan Chee of Horz,” I explained.
Pan Dan Chee unbuckled his sword and laid it at her feet, an act which is rather difficult to explain by Earthly standards of conduct. It is not exactly an avowal of love or a proposal of marriage. It is, in a way, something even more sacred. It means that as long as life lasts that sword is at the service of him at whose feet it has been laid. A warrior may lay his sword at the feet of a man or a woman. It means lifetime loyalty. Where the object of that loyalty is a woman, the man may have something else in mind. I am sure that Pan Dan Chee did.
“Your friend acts with amazing celerity,” said Llana of Gathol; but she stooped and picked up the sword and handed it back to Pan Dan Chee hilt first! which meant that she was pleased and accepted his offer of fealty. Had she simply refused it, she would have left the sword lying where it had been placed. Had she wished to spurn his offer, she would have returned his sword to him point first. That would have been the final and deadly insult. I was glad that Llana of Gathol had returned Pan Dan Chee’s sword hilt first, as I rather liked Pan Dan Chee. I was particularly glad that she had not returned it point first; as that would have meant that I, as the closest mate relative of Llana of Gathol available, would have had to fight Pan Dan Chee; and I certainly didn’t want to kill him.
“Well,” interrupted Kam Han Tor, “this is all very interesting and touching; but can’t we postpone it until we have gone down to the quays.”
Pan Dan Chee bridled, and laid a hand on the hilt of his sword. I forestalled any unseemly action on his part by suggesting that Kam Han Tor was wholly right and that our private affairs could wait until the matter of the ocean, so vital to all these other people, had been settled. Pan Dan Chee agreed; so we started again for the quay of ancient Horz.
Llana of Gathol walked at my side. “Now you may tell me,” I said, “how you came to be in the pits of Horz.”
“It has been many years,” she began, “since you were in the kingdom of Okar in the frozen north. Talu, the rebel prince, whom you placed upon the throne of Okar, visited Helium once immediately thereafter. Since then, as far as I have ever heard, there has been no intercourse between Okar and the rest of Barsoom.”
“What has all that to do with your being in the pits of Horz?” I demanded.
“Wait”’ she admonished. “I am leading up to that. The general belief has been that the region surrounding the North Pole is but sparsely inhabited and by a race of black-bearded yellow men only.”
“Correct,” I said.
“Not correct,” she contradicted. “There is a nation of red men occupying a considerable area, but at some distance from Okar. I am under the impression that when you were there the Okarians themselves had never heard of these people.
“Recently there came to the court of my father, Gahan of Gathol, a strange red man. He was like us, yet unlike. He came in an ancient ship, one which my father said must have been several hundred years old—obsolete in every respect. It was manned by a hundred warriors, whose harness and metal were unknown to us. They appeared fierce and warlike, but they came in peace and were received in peace.
“Their leader, whose name was Hin Abtol, was a pompous braggart. He was an uncultured boor; but, as our guest, he was accorded every courtesy. He said that he was Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North. My father said that he had thought that Talu held that title.
“‘He did,’ replied Hin Abtol, ‘until I conquered his country and made him my vassal. Now I am Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North. My country is cold and bleak outside our glazed cities. I would come south, looking for other lands in which my people may settle and increase.’ “My father told him that all the arable lands were settled and belonged to other nations which had held them for centuries.
“Hin Abtol merely shrugged superciliously. ‘When I find what I wish,’ he said, ‘I shall conquer its people. I, Hin Abtol, take what I wish from the lesser peoples of Barsoom. From what I have heard, they are all weak and effete; not hardy and warlike as are we Panars. We breed fighting men, in addition to which we have countless mercenaries. I could conquer all of Barsoom, if I chose.’
“Naturally, that sort of talk disgusted my father; but he kept his temper, for Hin Abtol was his guest. I suppose that Hin Abtol thought that my father feared him, his kind often believing that politeness is a sign of weakness. I know he once said to my father, ‘You are fortunate that Hin Abtol is your friend. Other nations may fall before my armies, but you shall be allowed to keep your throne. Perhaps I shall demand a little tribute from you, but you will be safe. Hin Abtol will protect you.’
“I do not know how my father controlled his temper. I was furious. A dozen times I insulted the fellow, but he was too much of an egotistical boor to realize that he was being insulted; then came the last straw. He told Gahan of Gathol had decided to honor him by taking me, Llana of as his wife. He had already bragged that he had seven!
“‘That,’ said my father, ‘is a matter that I cannot discuss with you. The daughter of Gahan of Gathol will choose her own mate.’” Hin Abtol laughed. ‘Hin Abtol,’ he said, ‘chooses his wives—they have nothing to say about it.’
“Well, I had stood about all I could of the fellow; and so I decided to go to Helium and visit you and Dejah Thoris. My father decided that I should go in a small flier manned by twenty-five of his most trusted men, all members of my personal Guard.
“When Hin Abtol heard that I was leaving, he said that he would have to leave also—that he was returning to his own country but that he would come back for me. ‘And I hope we have no trouble about it,’ he said, ‘for it would be too bad for Gathol if she made an enemy of Hin Abtol the Panar, Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North.’
“He left the day before I set out, and I did not change my plans because of his going. As a matter of fact, I had been planning on this visit for some time.
“My ship had covered scarce a hundred haads on the journey toward Helium, when we saw a ship rise from the edge of a sorapus forest ahead of us. It came slowly toward us, and presently I recognized its ancient lines. It was the ship of Hin Abtol the Panar, so-called Jeddak of Jeddaks of the North.
“When we were close enough it hailed us, and its captain told us that something had gone wrong with their compass and they were lost. He asked to come alongside that he might examine our charts and get his bearings. He hoped, he said, that we might repair his compass for him.
“Under the circumstances there was nothing to do but accede to his request, as one does not leave a disabled ship without offering aid. As I did not wish to see Hin Abtol, I went below to my cabin.
“I felt the two ships touch as that of the Panar came alongside, and an instant later I heard shouts and curses and the sounds of battle on the upper deck.
“I rushed up the ladder, and the sight that met my eyes filled me with rage. Nearly a hundred warriors swarmed over our deck from Hin Abtol’s ancient tub. I have never seen greater brutality displayed by even the green men. The beasts ignored the commonest ethics of civilized warfare. Outnumbering us four to one, we had not a chance; but the men of Gathol put up a most noble fight, taking bloody toll of their attackers; so that Hin Abtol must have lost fully fifty men before the last of my brave Guard was slaughtered.
“The Panars threw my wounded overboard with the dead, not even vouchsafing them the coup de grace. Of all my crew, not one was left alive.
“Then Hin Abtol swaggered aboard. ‘I told you,’ he said, ‘that Hin Abtol chooses his wives. It would have been better for you and for Gathol had you believed me.’
“‘It would have been better for you,’ I replied, ‘had you never heard of Llana of Gathol. You may rest assured that her death will be avenged.’
“‘I do not intend to kill you,’ he said.
“‘I shall kill myself,’ I told him, ‘before I shall mate with such an ulsio as you.’
“That made him angry, and he struck me. ‘A coward as well as an ulsio,’ I said.
“He did not strike me again, but he ordered me below. In my cabin I realized that the ship was again under way, and looking from the port I saw that it was heading north—north toward the frozen land of the Panars.”