John is woken by the sounds of struggle; sounds like Tars Tarkas is off somewhere fighting. A pretty Red Martian girl, chained nearby, calls out to him to free her, so she can show him the hidden catches for the hidden door.
- She seems to have an even more flowery way of speaking than anyone else so far.
Tars Tarkas seems to be on his last legs, leaning against a wall, but his opponents, great beasts, seem to be wary of approaching; as the saying goes, "Leave to a Thark his head and one hand and he may yet conquer."
John is about to leap in and be heroic, but the girl pushes past him, and calls to the dogs; they heel and follow her into another room. Mysterious.
- You know, it probably takes some skill to be mysterious when you're not wearing a stitch.
They're searching for a way out when she steps out of another hidden passage. They explain their situation; she has apparently heard of John, even this far away.
She is a slave, has been for fifteen years, and was scheduled for death. Apparently the Holy Thems eat people, but only after they've had all their blood sucked out by the plant men. I guess that makes them Kosher or Halal...with apparently similar phrasing; I wonder if that means anything? The crazy conspiracy theorists weren't too far off, it's just the global cabal of Jews is in control of Mars, not Earth? Space Jews?
Anyway, John, umm...Carterized? Carterized a pair of the lesser Thems. The Holy Thems get palaces in the hills, with a scenic view of the outside world, while everyone else lives underground. I wonder if they have to worry about Rickets?
Some people managed to make it past all this, to the end of the valley, and the Temple of Issus, but no one knows what lies within; none have returned, but it is imagined to be a paradise. Sounds familiar...
The Thems go into the Temple after their thousand years of life, and if they die before, they're believed to spend the remainder as a plant man, which are held sacred; if they die before then, they're white apes, and if the managed to die again, well, an eternity as seaweed.
John reminds them that they have no requirement to stay in the valley, for the myths are wrong, and in fact they have a duty to return and tell the truth.
- Presumably they'll break heads until it is admitted that they're not heretics. I'm imagining the last guy Atop a Mountain of Corpses say "Okay, okay, you're right!"
Ten others join them, and we learn the girl's name is Thuvia, as John mentions passing out weapons to the followers. They plan to raid a storeroom for supplies and more weapons, fight through the palace of the Holy Thems, and return to Barsoom; Thuvia warns that even on Barsoom, there are secret temples everywhere, and they will seek to silence them before they can spread word.
- I wonder if they're behind the sabotage of the atmosphere plant?
And then as I wonder that, they come across a dude wearing a crown, set with a massive gem, identical to the pair worn by the two atmosphere plant technicians. Thuvia shoots him dead, as revenge for some past injustice, and notices that John is similar in stature and features, and they might be able to pull off Dressing as the Enemy, if it weren't for the fact that John isn't blond...or if the dude was wearing a blond wig? I'm confused; Aryan wannabes? Apparently they're all bald, from birth.
They make their way to the storeroom, and as they're busy looting, John is so exhausted that he has to sit and rest, along with Tars Tarkas, and sets a couple prisoners to stand watch.