A Fighting Man of Mars
Chapter 5: To the Pits

Copyright© 2012 by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Below us, in the ever changing light of the two moons, stretched the weird landscape of Barsoomian night as our little craft sorely overloaded, winged slowly away from Xanator above the low hills that mark the southwestern boundary of the fierce, green hordes of Torquas. With the coming of the new day we discussed the advisability of making a landing and waiting until night before proceeding upon our journey, since we realized that should we be sighted by an enemy craft we could not possibly hope to escape.

"Few fliers pass this way," said Tavia, "and if we keep a sharp lookout I believe that we shall be as safe in the air as on the ground for although we have passed beyond the limits of Torquas, there would still be danger from their raiding parties, which often go far afield."

And so we proceeded slowly in the direction of Tjanath, our eyes constantly scanning the heavens in all directions.

The monotony of the landscape, combined with our slow rate of progress, would ordinarily have rendered such a journey unendurable to me, but to my surprise the time passed quickly, a fact which I attributed solely to the wit and intelligence of my companion for there was no gainsaying the fact that Tavia was excellent company. I think that we must have talked about everything upon Barsoom and naturally a great deal of the conversation revolved about our own experiences and personalities, so that long before we reached Tjanath I felt that I knew Tavia better than I had ever known any other woman and I was quite sure that I had never confided so completely in any other person.

Tavia had a way with her that seemed to compel confidences so that, to my own surprise, I found myself discussing the most intimate details of my past life, my hopes, ambitions and aspirations, as well as the fears and doubts which, I presume, assail the minds of all young men.

When I realized how fully I had unbosomed myself to this little slave girl, I experienced a distinct shock of embarrassment, but the sincerity of Tavia's interest dispelled this feeling as did the realization that she had been almost as equally free with her confidences as had I.

We were two nights and a day covering the distance between Xanator and Tjanath and as the towers and landing stages of our destination appeared upon the distant horizon toward the end of the first zode of the second day, I realized that the hours that stretched away behind us to Xanator were, for some unaccountable reason, as happy a period as I had ever experienced.

Now it was over. Tjanath lay before us, and, with the realization, I experienced a distinct regret that Tjanath did not lie upon the opposite side of Barsoom.

With the exception of Sanoma Tora, I had never been particularly keen to be much in the company of women. I do not mean to convey the impression that I did not like them, for that would not be true. Their occasional company offered a diversion, which I enjoyed and of which I took advantage, but that I could be for so many hours in the exclusive company of a woman I did not love and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it would have seemed to me quite impossible; yet such had been the fact and I found myself wondering if Tavia had shared my enjoyment of the adventure.

"That must be Tjanath," I said nodding in the direction of the distant city.

"Yes," she replied.

"You must be glad that the journey is over," I ventured.

She looked up at me quickly, her brows contracting suddenly in conjecture. "Perhaps I should be," she replied enigmatically.

"It is your home," I reminded her.

"I have no home," she replied.

"But your friends are here," I insisted.

"I have no friends," she said.

"You forget Hadron of Hastor," I reminded her.

"No," she said, "I do not forget that you have been kind to me, but I remember that I am only an incident in your search for Sanoma Tora. Tomorrow, perhaps, you will be gone and we shall never see each other again."

I had not thought of that and I found that I did not like to think about it, and yet I knew that it was true. "You will soon make friends here," I said.

"I hope so," she replied; "but I have been gone a very long time and I was so young when I was taken away that I have but the faintest of memories of my life in Tjanath. Tjanath really means nothing to me. I could be as happy anywhere else in Barsoom with--with a friend."

We were now close above the outer wall of the city and our conversation was interrupted by the appearance of a flier, evidently a patrol, bearing down upon us. She was sounding an alarm--the shrill screaming of her horn shattering the silence of the early morning. Almost immediately the warning was taken up by gongs and shrieking sirens throughout the city. The patrol boat changed her course and rose swiftly above us, while from landing stages all about rose scores of fighting planes until we were entirely surrounded.

I tried to hail the nearer of them, but the infernal din of the warning signals drowned my voice. Hundreds of guns covered us, their crews standing ready to hurl destruction upon us.

"Does Tjanath always receive visitors in this hostile manner?" I inquired of Tavia.

She shook her head. "I do not know," she replied. "Had we approached in a strange ship of war, I might understand it; but why this little scout flier should attract half the navy of Tjanath is--Wait!" she exclaimed suddenly. "The design and color of our flier mark its origin as Jahar. The people of Tjanath have seen this color before and they fear it; yet if that is true, why is it that they have not fired upon us?"

"I do not know why they did not fire upon us at first," I replied, "but it is obvious why they do not now. Their ships are so thick about us that they could not fire without endangering their own craft and men."

"Can't you make them understand that we are friends?" she asked.

Immediately I made the signs of friendship and of surrender, but the ships seemed afraid to approach. The alarms had ceased and the ships were circling silently about us.

Again I hailed a nearby ship. "Do not fire," I shouted; "we are friends."

"Friends do not come to Tjanath in the blue death ships of Jahar," replied an officer upon the deck of the ship I had hailed.

"Let us come alongside," I insisted, "and at least I can prove to you that we are harmless."

"You will not come alongside my ship," he replied. "If you are friends you can prove it by doing as I instruct you."

"What are your wishes?" I asked.

"Come about and take your flier beyond the city walls. Ground her at least a haad beyond the east gate and then, with your companion, walk toward the city."

"Can you promise that we will be well received?" I asked.

"You will be questioned," he replied, "and if you are all right, you have nothing to fear."

"Very well," I replied, "we will do as you say. Signal your other ships to make way for us," and then, through the lane that they opened, we passed slowly back above the walls of Tjanath and came to the ground about a haad beyond the east gate.

As we approached the city the gates swung open and a detachment of warriors marched out to meet us. It was evident that they were very suspicious and fearful of us. The padwar in charge of them ordered us to halt while there were yet fully a hundred sofads between us.

"Throw down your weapons," he commanded, "and then come forward."

"But we are not enemies," I replied. "Do not the people of Tjanath know how to receive friends?"

"Do as you are told or we will destroy you both," was his only reply.

I could not refrain a shrug of disgust as I divested myself of my weapons, while Tavia threw down the short sword that I had loaned her. Unarmed we advanced toward the warriors, but even then the padwar was not entirely satisfied, for he searched our harness carefully before he finally conducted us into the city, keeping us well surrounded by warriors.

As the east gate of Tjanath closed behind us I realized that we were prisoners rather than the guests that we had hoped to be, but Tavia tried to reassure me by insisting that when they had heard our story we would be set at liberty and accorded the hospitality that she insisted was our due.

Our guards conducted us to a building that stood upon the opposite side of the avenue, facing the east gate, and presently we found ourselves upon a broad landing stage upon the roof of the building. Here a patrol flier awaited us and our padwar turned us over to the officer in charge, whose attitude toward us was marked by ill-concealed hatred and distrust.

As soon as we had been received on board, the patrol flier rose and proceeded toward the center of the city.

Below us lay Tjanath, giving the impression of a city that had not kept abreast of modern improvements. It was marked by signs of antiquity; the buildings reflected the architecture of the ancients and many of them were in a state of disrepair, though much of the city's ugliness was hidden or softened by the foliage of great trees and climbing vines, so that on the whole the aspect was more pleasing than otherwise. Toward the center of the city was a large plaza, entirely surrounded by imposing public buildings, including the palace of the Jed. It was upon the roof of one of these buildings that the flier landed.

Under a strong guard we were conducted into the interior of the building and after a brief wait were ushered into the presence of some high official. Evidently he had already been advised of the circumstances surrounding our arrival at Tjanath, for he seemed to be expecting us and was familiar with all that had transpired up to the present moment.

"What do you at Tjanath, Jaharian?" he demanded.

"I am not from Jahar," I replied. "Look at my metal."

"A warrior may change his metal," he replied, gruffly.

"This man has not changed his metal," said Tavia. "He is not from Jahar; he is from Hastor, one of the cities of Helium. I am from Jahar."

The official looked at her in surprise. "So you admit it!" he cried.

"But first I was from Tjanath," said the girl.

"What do you mean?" he demanded.

"As a little child I was stolen from Tjanath," replied Tavia. "All my life since I have been a slave in the palace of Tul Axtar, Jeddak of Jahar. Only recently I escaped in the same flier upon which we arrived at Tjanath. Near the dead city of Xanator I landed and was captured by the green men of Torquas. This warrior, who is Hadron of Hastor, rescued me from them. Together we came to Tjanath, expecting a friendly reception."

"Who are your people in Tjanath?" demanded the official.

"I do not know," replied Tavia; "I was very young. I remember practically nothing about my life in Tjanath."

"What is your name?"


The man's interest in her story, which had seemed wholly perfunctory, seemed suddenly altered and galvanized.

"You know nothing about your parents or your family?" he demanded.

"Nothing," replied Tavia.

He turned to the padwar who was in charge of our escort. "Hold them here until I return," he said, and, rising from his desk, he left the apartment.

"He seemed to recognize your name," I said to Tavia.

"How could he?" she asked.

"Possibly he knew your family," I suggested; "at least his manner suggested that we are going to be given some consideration."

"I hope so," she said.

"I feel that our troubles are about over, Tavia," I assured her; "and for your sake I shall be very happy."

"And you, I suppose," she said, "will endeavor to enlist aid in continuing your search for Sanoma Tora?"

"Naturally," I replied. "Could anything less be expected of me?"

"No," she admitted in a very low voice.

Notwithstanding the fact that something in the demeanor of the official who had interrogated us had raised my hope for our future, I was still conscious of a feeling of depression as our conversation emphasized the near approach of our separation. It seemed as though I had always known Tavia, for the few days that we had been thrown together had brought us very close indeed. I knew that I should miss her sparkling wit, her ready sympathy and the quiet companionship of her silences, and then the beautiful features of Sanoma Tora were projected upon memory's screen and, knowing where my duty lay, I cast vain regrets aside, for love, I knew, was greater than friendship and I loved Sanoma Tora.

After a considerable lapse of time the official re-entered the apartment. I searched his face to read the first tidings of good news there, but his expression was inscrutable; however, his first words, addressed to the padwar, were entirely understandable.

"Confine the woman in the East Tower," he said, "and send the man to the pits."

That was all. It was like a blow in the face. I looked at Tavia and saw her wide eyes upon the official. "You mean that we are to be held as prisoners?" she demanded; "I, a daughter of Tjanath, and this warrior who came here from a friendly nation seeking your aid and protection?"

"You will each have a hearing later before the Jed," snapped the official. "I have spoken. Take them away."

Several of the warriors seized me rather roughly by the arms. Tavia had turned away from the official and was looking at me. "Good-bye, Hadron of Hastor!" she said. "It is my fault that you are here. May my ancestors forgive me!"

"Do not reproach yourself, Tavia," I begged her, "for who might have foreseen such a stupid reception?"

We were taken from the apartment by different doorways and there we turned, each for a last look at the other, and in Tavia's eyes there were tears, and in my heart.

The pits of Tjanath, to which I was immediately conducted, are gloomy, but they are not enveloped in impenetrable darkness as are the pits beneath most Barsoomian cities. Into the dungeon dim light filtered through the iron grating from the corridors, where ancient radium bulbs glowed faintly. Yet it was light and I gave thanks for that, for I have always believed that I should go mad imprisoned in utter darkness.

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