The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 51

their marvellous beauty.

But if their bodies are divine, their hearts, apparently, are quite the
reverse. Never did I witness such a malign lust for blood as these
demons of the outer air evinced in their mad battle with the therns.

All about us in the garden lay their sinister craft, which the therns
for some reason, then unaccountable to me, made no effort to injure.
Now and again a black warrior would rush from a nearby temple bearing
a young woman in his arms. Straight for his flier he would leap while
those of his comrades who fought near by would rush to cover his escape.

The therns on their side would hasten to rescue the girl, and in an
instant the two would be swallowed in the vortex of a maelstrom of
yelling devils, hacking and hewing at one another, like fiends
incarnate.

But always, it seemed, were the black pirates of Barsoom victorious,
and the girl, brought miraculously unharmed through the conflict, borne
away into the outer darkness upon the deck of a swift flier.

Fighting similar to that which surrounded us could be heard in both
directions as far as sound carried, and Thuvia told me that the attacks
of the black pirates were usually made simultaneously along the entire
ribbon-like domain of the therns, which circles the Valley Dor on the
outer slopes of the Mountains of Otz.

As the fighting receded from our position for a moment, Thuvia turned
toward me with a question.

"Do you understand now, O Prince," she said, "why a million warriors
guard the domains of the Holy Therns by day and by night?"

"The scene you are witnessing now is but a repetition of what I have
seen enacted a score of times during the fifteen years I have been a
prisoner here. From time immemorial the black pirates of Barsoom have
preyed upon the Holy Therns.

"Yet they never carry their expeditions to a point, as one might
readily believe it was in their power to do, where the extermination of
the race of therns is threatened. It is as though they but utilized
the race as playthings, with which they satisfy their ferocious lust
for fighting; and from whom they collect toll in arms and ammunition
and in prisoners."

"Why don't they jump in and destroy these fliers?" I asked. "That
would soon put a stop to the attacks, or at least the blacks would
scarce be so bold. Why, see how perfectly unguarded they leave their
craft, as though they were lying safe in their own hangars at

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