The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 166

he replied. "Each is
sworn to loyalty and secrecy, nor were enough recruited from a single
district to cause suspicion."

"Good!" I cried. "Each has done his duty, and now, Kantos Kan, may we
not repair at once to Hastor and get under way before to-morrow's sun?"

"We should lose no time, Prince," replied Kantos Kan. "Already the
people of Hastor are questioning the purpose of so great a fleet fully
manned with fighting-men. I wonder much that word of it has not before
reached Zat Arras. A cruiser awaits above at your own dock; let us
leave at--" A fusillade of shots from the palace gardens just without
cut short his further words.

Together we rushed to the balcony in time to see a dozen members of my
palace guard disappear in the shadows of some distant shrubbery as in
pursuit of one who fled. Directly beneath us upon the scarlet sward a
handful of guardsmen were stooping above a still and prostrate form.

While we watched they lifted the figure in their arms and at my command
bore it to the audience chamber where we had been in council. When
they stretched the body at our feet we saw that it was that of a red
man in the prime of life--his metal was plain, such as common soldiers
wear, or those who wish to conceal their identity.

"Another of Zat Arras' spies," said Hor Vastus.

"So it would seem," I replied, and then to the guard: "You may remove
the body."

"Wait!" said Xodar. "If you will, Prince, ask that a cloth and a
little thoat oil be brought."

I nodded to one of the soldiers, who left the chamber, returning
presently with the things that Xodar had requested. The black kneeled
beside the body and, dipping a corner of the cloth in the thoat oil,
rubbed for a moment on the dead face before him. Then he turned to me
with a smile, pointing to his work. I looked and saw that where Xodar
had applied the thoat oil the face was white, as white as mine, and
then Xodar seized the black hair of the corpse and with a sudden wrench
tore it all away, revealing a hairless pate beneath.

Guardsmen and nobles pressed close about the silent witness upon the
marble floor. Many were the exclamations of astonishment and
questioning wonder as Xodar's acts confirmed the suspicion which he had
held.

"A thern!" whispered Tars Tarkas.

"Worse than that, I fear," replied Xodar. "But let us see."

With that he drew

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