The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 174

and blacks had not
combined against us. Wherever thern ship met ship of the First Born
was a battle royal, and in this I thought I saw our salvation.
Wherever messages could be passed between us that could not be
intercepted by our enemies I passed the word that all our vessels were
to withdraw from the fight as rapidly as possible, taking a position to
the west and south of the combatants. I also sent an air scout to the
fighting green men in the gardens below to re-embark, and to the
transports to join us.

My commanders were further instructed that when engaged with an enemy
to draw him as rapidly as possible toward a ship of his hereditary
foeman, and by careful manoeuvring to force the two to engage, thus
leaving himself free to withdraw. This stratagem worked to
perfection, and just before the sun went down I had the satisfaction of
seeing all that was left of my once mighty fleet gathered nearly twenty
miles southwest of the still terrific battle between the blacks and
whites.

I now transferred Xodar to another battleship and sent him with all the
transports and five thousand battleships directly overhead to the
Temple of Issus. Carthoris and I, with Kantos Kan, took the remaining
ships and headed for the entrance to Omean.

Our plan now was to attempt to make a combined assault upon Issus at
dawn of the following day. Tars Tarkas with his green warriors and Hor
Vastus with the red men, guided by Xodar, were to land within the
garden of Issus or the surrounding plains; while Carthoris, Kantos Kan,
and I were to lead our smaller force from the sea of Omean through the
pits beneath the temple, which Carthoris knew so well.

I now learned for the first time the cause of my ten ships' retreat
from the mouth of the shaft. It seemed that when they had come upon
the shaft the navy of the First Born were already issuing from its
mouth. Fully twenty vessels had emerged, and though they gave battle
immediately in an effort to stem the tide that rolled from the black
pit, the odds against them were too great and they were forced to flee.

With great caution we approached the shaft, under cover of darkness.
At a distance of several miles I caused the fleet to be halted, and
from there Carthoris went ahead alone upon a one-man flier to
reconnoitre. In perhaps half an hour he returned to report that there
was no sign of a

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