I entered the shop and asked the proprietor the price of the article I wished.
It was only three teepi, the equivalent of about thirty cents in United States money; but with the information came the realization that I had none of the money of the First Born.
The medium of exchange upon Mars is not dissimilar to our own, except that the coins are oval; and there are only three; the pi, pronounced pi; worth about one cent; the teepi, ten cents; and the tanpi, one dollar. These coins are oval; one of bronze, one of silver, and one of gold. Paper money is issued by individuals, much as we write a check, and is redeemed by the individual twice yearly. If a man issues more than he can redeem, the government pays his creditors in full; and the debtor works out the amount upon the farms, or in the mines, which are government owned.
I had with me money of Helium to the value of some fifty tanpi, and I asked the proprietor if he would accept a larger amount than the value of the article in foreign coin. As the value of the metal is equal to the value of the coin, he gladly accepted one dollar in gold for what was worth thirty cents in silver; and I placed my purchase in my pocket pouch and departed.
As I approached the palace, I saw a white-skinned man ahead of me carrying a heavy burden on his back. Now, as far as I knew, there was only one other white-skinned man in Kamtol; and that was Pan Dan Chee; so I hastened to overtake him.
Sure enough, it was the Orovar from Horz; and when I came up behind him and called him by name, he almost dropped his burden, so surprised was he.
“John Carter!” he exclaimed.
“Hush!” I cautioned; “my name is Dotar Sojat. If the First Born knew that John Carter was in Kamtol I hate to think what would happen to him. Tell me about yourself. What has happened to you since I last saw you?”
“I was purchased by Dator Nastor, who has the reputation of being the hardest master in Kamtol. He is also the meanest; he bought me only because he could buy me cheap, and he made them throw in Jad-han for good measure. He works us day and night, and feeds us very little—and poor food at that. Since he lost a hundred thousand tanpi to Xaxak, it has been almost like working for a maniac.
“By my first ancestor!” he exclaimed suddenly; “so it was you who defeated Nolat and caused Nastor to lose all that money! I didn’t realize it until just now. They said the slave who won the contest was named Dotar Sojat, and that meant nothing to me until now—and I was a little slow in getting it, at that.”
“Have you seen Llana of Gathol?” I asked him. “She was in Nastor’s loge at the Games; so I, presume she was purchased by him.”
“Yes, but I have not seen her,” replied Pan Dan Chee; “however, I have heard gossip in the slaves’ quarters; and I am much worried by what is being whispered about the palace.”
“What have you heard? I felt that she was in danger when I saw her in Nastor’s loge. She is too beautiful to be safe.”
“She was safe enough at first,” said Pan Dan Chee, “as she was originally purchased by Nastor’s principal wife. Everything was comparatively well for her until Nastor got a good look at her at the Games; then he tried to buy her from his wife. But she, Van-tija, refused to sell. Nastor was furious, and told Van-tija that he would take Llana anyway, so Van-tija has locked her in an apartment at the top of the tower of her own part of the palace, and has placed her personal guards at the only entrance. There is the tower, there,” he said, pointing; “perhaps Llana of Gathol is looking down at us now.”
As I looked up at the tower, I saw that it rose above a palace which stood directly across the large central plaza from that of the jeddak; and I saw something else—I saw the windows of Llana’s apartments were not barred.
“Do you think that Llana is in any immediate danger?” asked.
“Yes,” he replied, “I do. It is rumored in the palace that Nastor is going to lead warriors to Van-tija’s section of the palace and attempt to take the tower by storm.”
“Then we have no time to lose, Pan Dan Chee. We must act tonight.”
“But what can we two slaves do?” he demanded. “Even if we succeeded in getting Llana out of the tower, we could never escape from the Valley of the First Born. Do not forget the skeletons, John Carter.”
“Trust me,” I said, “and don’t call me John Carter. Can you get out of the palace of Nastor after dark?”
“I think so; they are very lax; because assassination and theft are practically unknown here, and the secret machine of the jeddak makes escape from the valley impossible. I am quite sure that I can get out. In fact, I have been sent out on errands every night since I was purchased.”
“Good!” I said. “Now listen carefully: Come out of the palace and loiter in the shadows near Nastor’s palace at about twenty-five xats after the eighth zode.1 Bring Jad-han with you, if he wishes to escape. If my plan succeeds, a flier will land here in the plaza near you; run for it and climb aboard. It will be piloted by a Black Pirate, but don’t let that deter you. If you and Jad-han can arm yourselves, do so; there may be fighting. If the flier does not come, you will know that I have failed; and you can go back to your quarters and be no worse off. If I do not come, it will be because I am dead, or about to die.”
“And Llana?” he asked. “What of her?”
“My plans all center around the rescue of Llana of Gathol,” I assured him. “If I fail in that, I fail in all; for I will not leave without her.”
“I wish you could tell me how you expect to accomplish the impossible,” he said.
“I should feel very much surer of the outcome, I know, if you would tell me at least something of your plans.”
“Certainly,” I said. “In the first place—”
“What are you two slaves doing loitering here?” demanded a gruff voice behind us. I turned to see a burly warrior at my shoulder. For answer, I showed him my pass from the jeddak.
Even after he read it, he looked as though he didn’t believe it; but presently he handed it back to me and said, “That’s all right for you, but how about this other one? Has he got a pass from the jeddak, too?”
“The fault is mine,” I said. “I knew him before we were captured, and I stopped him to ask how he was faring. I am sure that if the jeddak knew, he would say that it was all right for me to talk with a friend. The jeddak has been very kind to me.” I was trying to impress the fellow with the fact that his jeddak was very kindly disposed toward me. I think that I succeeded.
“Very well,” he said, “but get on your way now—the Great Plaza is no place for slaves to visit with one another.”
Pan Dan Chee picked up his burden and departed, and I was about to leave when the warrior detained me. “I saw you defeat Nolat and Ban-tor at the Games,” he said. “We were talking about it a little while ago with some of our friends from the Valley Dor. They said that there was once a warrior came there who was just such a marvellous swordsman. His name was John Carter, and he had a white skin and gray eyes! Could your name, by any chance, be John Carter?”
“My name is Dotar Sojat,” I replied.
“Our friends from the Valley Dor would like to get hold of John Carter,” he said; and then, with a rather nasty little smile, he turned on his heel and left me.
|1. Midnight, Earth time. [back]|