The Gods of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 47

gardens and temples above they are kept in pits. The therns
fear them. It is because of the banths that they seldom venture below
ground except as their duties call them."

An idea occurred to me, suggested by what Thuvia had just said.

"Why not take a number of banths and set them loose before us above
ground?" I asked.

Thuvia laughed.

"It would distract attention from us, I am sure," she said.

She commenced calling in a low singsong voice that was half purr. She
continued this as we wound our tedious way through the maze of
subterranean passages and chambers.

Presently soft, padded feet sounded close behind us, and as I turned I
saw a pair of great, green eyes shining in the dark shadows at our
rear. From a diverging tunnel a sinuous, tawny form crept stealthily
toward us.

Low growls and angry snarls assailed our ears on every side as we
hastened on and one by one the ferocious creatures answered the call of
their mistress.

She spoke a word to each as it joined us. Like well-schooled terriers,
they paced the corridors with us, but I could not help but note the
lathering jowls, nor the hungry expressions with which they eyed Tars
Tarkas and myself.

Soon we were entirely surrounded by some fifty of the brutes. Two
walked close on either side of Thuvia, as guards might walk. The sleek
sides of others now and then touched my own naked limbs. It was a
strange experience; the almost noiseless passage of naked human feet
and padded paws; the golden walls splashed with precious stones; the
dim light cast by the tiny radium bulbs set at considerable distances
along the roof; the huge, maned beasts of prey crowding with low growls
about us; the mighty green warrior towering high above us all; myself
crowned with the priceless diadem of a Holy Thern; and leading the
procession the beautiful girl, Thuvia.

I shall not soon forget it.

Presently we approached a great chamber more brightly lighted than the
corridors. Thuvia halted us. Quietly she stole toward the entrance
and glanced within. Then she motioned us to follow her.

The room was filled with specimens of the strange beings that inhabit
this underworld; a heterogeneous collection of hybrids--the offspring
of the prisoners from the outside world; red and green Martians and the
white race of therns.

Constant confinement below ground had wrought odd freaks upon their
skins. They more resemble corpses than living beings. Many are
deformed, others maimed, while the majority, Thuvia explained, are
sightless.

As they

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