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A Princess of Mars

A Prisoner With Power
As I entered and saluted, Lorquas Ptomel signaled me to advance, and, fixing his great,
hideous eyes upon me, addressed me thus:
"You have been with us a few days, yet during that time you have by your prowess won a
high position among us. Be that as it may, you are not one of us; you owe us no
allegiance.
"Your position is a peculiar one," he continued; "you are a prisoner and yet you give
commands which must be obeyed; you are an alien and yet you are a Tharkian chieftain;
you are a midget and yet you can kill a mighty warrior with one blow of your fist. And
now you are reported to have been plotting to escape with another prisoner of another
race; a prisoner who, from her own admission, half believes you are returned from the
valley of Dor. Either one of these accusations, if proved, would be sufficient grounds for
your execution, but we are a just people and you shall have a trial on our return to Thark,
if Tal Hajus so commands.
"But," he continued, in his fierce guttural tones, "if you run off with the red girl it is I
who shall have to account to Tal Hajus; it is I who shall have to face Tars Tarkas, and
either demonstrate my right to command, or the metal from my dead carcass will go to a
better man, for such is the custom of the Tharks.
"I have no quarrel with Tars Tarkas; together we rule supreme the greatest of the lesser
communities among the green men; we do not wish to fight between ourselves; and so if
you were dead, John Carter, I should be glad. Under two conditions only, however, may
you be killed by us without orders from Tal Hajus; in personal combat in self-defense,
should you attack one of us, or were you apprehended in an attempt to escape.
"As a matter of justice I must warn you that we only await one of these two excuses for
ridding ourselves of so great a responsibility. The safe delivery of the red girl to Tal
Hajus is of the greatest importance. Not in a thousand years have the Tharks made such a
capture; she is the granddaughter of the greatest of the red jeddaks, who is also our
bitterest enemy. I have spoken. The red girl told us that we were without the softer
sentiments of humanity, but we are a just and truthful race. You may go."
Turning, I left the audience chamber. So this was the beginning of Sarkoja's persecution!
I knew that none other could be responsible for this report which had reached the ears of
Lorquas Ptomel so quickly, and now I recalled those portions of our conversation which
had touched upon escape and upon my origin.
Sarkoja was at this time Tars Tarkas' oldest and most trusted female. As such she was a
mighty power behind the throne, for no warrior had the confidence of Lorquas Ptomel to
such an extent as did his ablest lieutenant, Tars Tarkas.
 
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