The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 27

who conceived both Life and Death, avert their eyes from its
fiendishness and close their ears against the hideous shrieks of its

"Go back, O fools, the way thou camest."

And then the awful laugh broke out from another part of the chamber.

"Most uncanny," I remarked, turning to Tars Tarkas.

"What shall we do?" he asked. "We cannot fight empty air; I would
almost sooner return and face foes into whose flesh I may feel my blade
bite and know that I am selling my carcass dearly before I go down to
that eternal oblivion which is evidently the fairest and most desirable
eternity that mortal man has the right to hope for."

"If, as you say, we cannot fight empty air, Tars Tarkas," I replied,
"neither, on the other hand, can empty air fight us. I, who have faced
and conquered in my time thousands of sinewy warriors and tempered
blades, shall not be turned back by wind; nor no more shall you, Thark."

"But unseen voices may emanate from unseen and unseeable creatures who
wield invisible blades," answered the green warrior.

"Rot, Tars Tarkas," I cried, "those voices come from beings as real as
you or as I. In their veins flows lifeblood that may be let as easily
as ours, and the fact that they remain invisible to us is the best
proof to my mind that they are mortal; nor overly courageous mortals at
that. Think you, Tars Tarkas, that John Carter will fly at the first
shriek of a cowardly foe who dare not come out into the open and face a
good blade?"

I had spoken in a loud voice that there might be no question that our
would-be terrorizers should hear me, for I was tiring of this
nerve-racking fiasco. It had occurred to me, too, that the whole
business was but a plan to frighten us back into the valley of death
from which we had escaped, that we might be quickly disposed of by the
savage creatures there.

For a long period there was silence, then of a sudden a soft, stealthy
sound behind me caused me to turn suddenly to behold a great
many-legged banth creeping sinuously upon me.

The banth is a fierce beast of prey that roams the low hills
surrounding the dead seas of ancient Mars. Like nearly all Martian
animals it is almost hairless, having only a great bristly mane about
its thick neck.

Its long, lithe body is supported by ten powerful legs, its enormous
jaws are equipped, like those of the calot, or Martian

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