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.
Tarkas even grants him Dejah as part of the Thark spoils.
Later, Carter, accompanied by Dejah, tries to find a way to get back to Earth, and stumbles upon a temple ruin sacred to the Tharks; Sola encounters them there and vainly tries to stop them from entering.
The body is put in a tomb unlockable only from the inside.After initially fleeing, Carter sends the others away and takes a stand, fighting the horde himself as atonement for being unable to save his own family.Though defeating many Warhoon, Carter is ultimately overpowered; he is saved when Mors intervenes in a Helium ship.He is captured by the Tharks, a clan of four-armed Green Martians led by their "Jeddak" (chieftain), Tars Tarkas.Tars instructs his loyal follower Sola to watch over Carter, leading to her feeding him a liquid that enables him to understand the Martians' language.