The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 49

and superstition that
not a soul upon Barsoom would have dared to approach it even had they
known its exact location. I questioned Thuvia, asking her what enemies
the therns could fear in their impregnable fortress.

We had reached the doorway now and Thuvia was opening it.

"They fear the black pirates of Barsoom, O Prince," she said, "from
whom may our first ancestors preserve us."

The door swung open; the smell of growing things greeted my nostrils;
the cool night air blew against my cheek. The great banths sniffed the
unfamiliar odours, and then with a rush they broke past us with low
growls, swarming across the gardens beneath the lurid light of the
nearer moon.

Suddenly a great cry arose from the roofs of the temples; a cry of
alarm and warning that, taken up from point to point, ran off to the
east and to the west, from temple, court, and rampart, until it sounded
as a dim echo in the distance.

The great Thark's long-sword leaped from its scabbard; Thuvia shrank
shuddering to my side.



"What is it?" I asked of the girl.

For answer she pointed to the sky.

I looked, and there, above us, I saw shadowy bodies flitting hither and
thither high over temple, court, and garden.

Almost immediately flashes of light broke from these strange objects.
There was a roar of musketry, and then answering flashes and roars from
temple and rampart.

"The black pirates of Barsoom, O Prince," said Thuvia.

In great circles the air craft of the marauders swept lower and lower
toward the defending forces of the therns.

Volley after volley they vomited upon the temple guards; volley on
volley crashed through the thin air toward the fleeting and illusive

As the pirates swooped closer toward the ground, thern soldiery poured
from the temples into the gardens and courts. The sight of them in the
open brought a score of fliers darting toward us from all directions.

The therns fired upon them through shields affixed to their rifles, but
on, steadily on, came the grim, black craft. They were small fliers
for the most part, built for two to three men. A few larger ones there
were, but these kept high aloft dropping bombs upon the temples from
their keel batteries.

At length, with a concerted rush, evidently in response to a signal of
command, the pirates in our immediate vicinity dashed recklessly to the
ground in the very midst of the thern soldiery.

Scarcely waiting for their craft to touch, the creatures manning them
leaped among the therns with the

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