Thuvia, Maid of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 28

gradual
ascent.

The beast behind him was gaining upon him, crowding him perilously
close upon the heels of the beast in front. Presently he should
have to do battle with one, or both. More firmly he gripped his
weapon.

Now he could hear the breathing of the banth at his heels. Not
for much longer could he delay the encounter.

Long since he had become assured that the tunnel led beneath the
cliffs to the opposite side of the barrier, and he had hoped that
he might reach the moonlit open before being compelled to grapple
with either of the monsters.

The sun had been setting as he entered the tunnel, and the way
had been sufficiently long to assure him that darkness now reigned
upon the world without. He glanced behind him. Blazing out of
the darkness, seemingly not ten paces behind, glared two flaming
points of fire. As the savage eyes met his, the beast emitted a
frightful roar and then he charged.

To face that savage mountain of onrushing ferocity, to stand unshaken
before the hideous fangs that he knew were bared in slavering
blood-thirstiness, though he could not see them, required nerves
of steel; but of such were the nerves of Carthoris of Helium.

He had the brute's eyes to guide his point, and, as true as the
sword hand of his mighty sire, his guided the keen point to one of
those blazing orbs, even as he leaped lightly to one side.

With a hideous scream of pain and rage, the wounded banth hurtled,
clawing, past him. Then it turned to charge once more; but this
time Carthoris saw but a single gleaming point of fiery hate directed
upon him.

Again the needle point met its flashing target. Again the horrid
cry of the stricken beast reverberated through the rocky tunnel,
shocking in its torture-laden shrillness, deafening in its terrific
volume.

But now, as it turned to charge again, the man had no guide whereby
to direct his point. He heard the scraping of the padded feet upon
the rocky floor. He knew the thing was charging down upon him once
again, but he could see nothing.

Yet, if he could not see his antagonist, neither could his antagonist
now see him.

Leaping, as he thought, to the exact centre of the tunnel, he held
his sword point ready on a line with the beast's chest. It was
all that he could do, hoping that chance might send the point into
the savage heart as he went down beneath the great body.

So quickly was the thing

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