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Loosely based on a chapter from Edgar Rice Burroughs' Llana of Gathol, (the tenth novel in his famous Barsoom series), "The Ancient Dead," originally "The City of Mummies," was the last to be published during Burroughs' lifetime. The story has a more humorous tone than earlier entries in the Barsoom series, and is considered to be an example of Edgar Rice Burroughs engaging in self-parody late in his career.
The story opens with John Carter cruising in a space flier over the Martian terrain. While reminiscing on Barsoom and his experiences there, he discovers and rescues Pan Dan Chee from an army of Tharks.
John Carter follows Pan Dan Chee into the city of Horz and is captured and sentenced to death by the men of the city. His crime? Strangers are not allowed into Horz and John Carter has clearly violated their law. The King of Horz explains the rich history of their city and its implications on his execution.
John Carter is given an additional day before the execution is to be carried out. Pan Dan Chee takes Carter to a special place and shows him the tombs of the ancient citizens of Horz. Among the tombs a secret passageway is found and the two men find their way to an old man who deceives and captures them. A new battle ensues, but are the ancient foes real or a figment of their imagination?