The Gods of Mars HTML version

Chapter 20. The Air Battle
Two hours after leaving my palace at Helium, or about midnight, Kantos Kan, Xodar, and
I arrived at Hastor. Carthoris, Tars Tarkas, and Hor Vastus had gone directly to Thark
upon another cruiser.
The transports were to get under way immediately and move slowly south. The fleet of
battleships would overtake them on the morning of the second day.
At Hastor we found all in readiness, and so perfectly had Kantos Kan planned every
detail of the campaign that within ten minutes of our arrival the first of the fleet had
soared aloft from its dock, and thereafter, at the rate of one a second, the great ships
floated gracefully out into the night to form a long, thin line which stretched for miles
toward the south.
It was not until after we had entered the cabin of Kantos Kan that I thought to ask the
date, for up to now I was not positive how long I had lain in the pits of Zat Arras. When
Kantos Kan told me, I realized with a pang of dismay that I had misreckoned the time
while I lay in the utter darkness of my cell. Three hundred and sixty-five days had
passed--it was too late to save Dejah Thoris.
The expedition was no longer one of rescue but of revenge. I did not remind Kantos Kan
of the terrible fact that ere we could hope to enter the Temple of Issus, the Princess of
Helium would be no more. In so far as I knew she might be already dead, for I did not
know the exact date on which she first viewed Issus.
What now the value of burdening my friends with my added personal sorrows--they had
shared quite enough of them with me in the past. Hereafter I would keep my grief to
myself, and so I said nothing to any other of the fact that we were too late. The expedition
could yet do much if it could but teach the people of Barsoom the facts of the cruel
deception that had been worked upon them for countless ages, and thus save thousands
each year from the horrid fate that awaited them at the conclusion of the voluntary
If it could open to the red men the fair Valley Dor it would have accomplished much, and
in the Land of Lost Souls between the Mountains of Otz and the ice barrier were many
broad acres that needed no irrigation to bear rich harvests.
Here at the bottom of a dying world was the only naturally productive area upon its
surface. Here alone were dews and rains, here alone was an open sea, here was water in
plenty; and all this was but the stamping ground of fierce brutes and from its beauteous
and fertile expanse the wicked remnants of two once mighty races barred all the other
millions of Barsoom. Could I but succeed in once breaking down the barrier of religious
superstition which had kept the red races from this El Dorado it would be a fitting