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The Gods of Mars

Chapter 19. Black Despair
"Ah," said Zat Arras, "to what kindly circumstance am I indebted for the pleasure of this
unexpected visit from the Prince of Helium?"
While he was speaking, one of my guards had removed the gag from my mouth, but I
made no reply to Zat Arras: simply standing there in silence with level gaze fixed upon
the Jed of Zodanga. And I doubt not that my expression was coloured by the contempt I
felt for the man.
The eyes of those within the chamber were fixed first upon me and then upon Zat Arras,
until finally a flush of anger crept slowly over his face.
"You may go," he said to those who had brought me, and when only his two companions
and ourselves were left in the chamber, he spoke to me again in a voice of ice-- very
slowly and deliberately, with many pauses, as though he would choose his words
cautiously.
"John Carter," he said, "by the edict of custom, by the law of our religion, and by the
verdict of an impartial court, you are condemned to die. The people cannot save you--I
alone may accomplish that. You are absolutely in my power to do with as I wish--I may
kill you, or I may free you, and should I elect to kill you, none would be the wiser.
"Should you go free in Helium for a year, in accordance with the conditions of your
reprieve, there is little fear that the people would ever insist upon the execution of the
sentence imposed upon you.
"You may go free within two minutes, upon one condition. Tardos Mors will never return
to Helium. Neither will Mors Kajak, nor Dejah Thoris. Helium must select a new Jeddak
within the year. Zat Arras would be Jeddak of Helium. Say that you will espouse my
cause. This is the price of your freedom. I am done."
I knew it was within the scope of Zat Arras' cruel heart to destroy me, and if I were dead I
could see little reason to doubt that he might easily become Jeddak of Helium. Free, I
could prosecute the search for Dejah Thoris. Were I dead, my brave comrades might not
be able to carry out our plans. So, by refusing to accede to his request, it was quite
probable that not only would I not prevent him from becoming Jeddak of Helium, but that
I would be the means of sealing Dejah Thoris' fate--of consigning her, through my
refusal, to the horrors of the arena of Issus.
For a moment I was perplexed, but for a moment only. The proud daughter of a thousand
Jeddaks would choose death to a dishonorable alliance such as this, nor could John Carter
do less for Helium than his Princess would do.
 
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