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The attorney executing the will hands Burroughs Carter's journal, which he reads, hoping to find clues about Carter's death and the reason he is the willed heir. While prospecting in the Arizona Territory in 1868, just after the Civil War, Carter is arrested by Union Colonel Powell, who seeks his help in fighting the Apache and insists that Carter owes it to his country (in short; attempted illegal conscription).
Carter refuses, stating that any debt was paid when he lost his family.
Than he proposes a cease-fire with Helium and an end to the war, sealed by marriage to Mors' daughter, the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris.
The unwilling Princess, disguised as a soldier, escapes in a Helium ship.
The three are sentenced to death according to the Thark code, but are helped to escape by Tarkas, who reveals to Carter that Sola is his daughter.As Dejah leaves with Than, Carter is met by Matai Shang, who takes Carter prisoner and walks him around Zodanga.In different Zodangan forms, Shang explains to Carter the Therns' purpose, how they manipulate the civilizations of various planets into self-destruction.Carter and his Thark army charge on Helium and defeat the Zodangan army in a huge battle, while Than is killed by Shang before revealing anything more about the Therns to Carter.With the Therns' course they have set for Mars permanently foiled, Shang is forced to escape in the chaos of the battle and leave Mars forever.