The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 40

when we had
briefly explained our plan they decided to join forces with us, though
it was evident that it was with some considerable misgivings that they
thus tempted fate by opposing an ancient superstition, even though each
knew through cruel experience the fallacy of its entire fabric.

Thuvia, the girl whom I had first freed, soon had the others at
liberty. Tars Tarkas and I stripped the bodies of the two therns of
their weapons, which included swords, daggers, and two revolvers of the
curious and deadly type manufactured by the red Martians.

We distributed the weapons as far as they would go among our followers,
giving the firearms to two of the women; Thuvia being one so armed.

With the latter as our guide we set off rapidly but cautiously through
a maze of passages, crossing great chambers hewn from the solid metal
of the cliff, following winding corridors, ascending steep inclines,
and now and again concealing ourselves in dark recesses at the sound of
approaching footsteps.

Our destination, Thuvia said, was a distant storeroom where arms and
ammunition in plenty might be found. From there she was to lead us to
the summit of the cliffs, from where it would require both wondrous wit
and mighty fighting to win our way through the very heart of the
stronghold of the Holy Therns to the world without.

"And even then, O Prince," she cried, "the arm of the Holy Thern is
long. It reaches to every nation of Barsoom. His secret temples are
hidden in the heart of every community. Wherever we go should we
escape we shall find that word of our coming has preceded us, and death
awaits us before we may pollute the air with our blasphemies."

We had proceeded for possibly an hour without serious interruption, and
Thuvia had just whispered to me that we were approaching our first
destination, when on entering a great chamber we came upon a man,
evidently a thern.

He wore in addition to his leathern trappings and jewelled ornaments a
great circlet of gold about his brow in the exact centre of which was
set an immense stone, the exact counterpart of that which I had seen
upon the breast of the little old man at the atmosphere plant nearly
twenty years before.

It is the one priceless jewel of Barsoom. Only two are known to exist,
and these were worn as the insignia of their rank and position by the
two old men in whose charge was placed the operation of the great
engines which pump the artificial atmosphere

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