The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 60

That it
was far south of the equator was evident from the constellations, but I
was not sufficiently a Martian astronomer to come much closer than a
rough guess without the splendid charts and delicate instruments with
which, as an officer in the Heliumite Navy, I had formerly reckoned the
positions of the vessels on which I sailed.

That a northerly course would quickest lead me toward the more settled
portions of the planet immediately decided the direction that I should
steer. Beneath my hand the cruiser swung gracefully about. Then the
button which controlled the repulsive rays sent us soaring far out into
space. With speed lever pulled to the last notch, we raced toward the
north as we rose ever farther and farther above that terrible valley of
death.

As we passed at a dizzy height over the narrow domains of the therns
the flash of powder far below bore mute witness to the ferocity of the
battle that still raged along that cruel frontier. No sound of
conflict reached our ears, for in the rarefied atmosphere of our great
altitude no sound wave could penetrate; they were dissipated in thin
air far below us.

It became intensely cold. Breathing was difficult. The girl, Phaidor,
and the black pirate kept their eyes glued upon me. At length the girl
spoke.

"Unconsciousness comes quickly at this altitude," she said quietly.
"Unless you are inviting death for us all you had best drop, and that
quickly."

There was no fear in her voice. It was as one might say: "You had
better carry an umbrella. It is going to rain."

I dropped the vessel quickly to a lower level. Nor was I a moment too
soon. The girl had swooned.

The black, too, was unconscious, while I, myself, retained my senses, I
think, only by sheer will. The one on whom all responsibility rests is
apt to endure the most.

We were swinging along low above the foothills of the Otz. It was
comparatively warm and there was plenty of air for our starved lungs,
so I was not surprised to see the black open his eyes, and a moment
later the girl also.

"It was a close call," she said.

"It has taught me two things though," I replied.

"What?"

"That even Phaidor, daughter of the Master of Life and Death, is
mortal," I said smiling.

"There is immortality only in Issus," she replied. "And Issus is for
the race of therns alone. Thus am I immortal."

I caught a fleeting grin passing across the features

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