Thuvia, Maid of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 73

moving through the deserted city as though no great
white apes lurked in the black shadows of the mystery-haunted piles
that flanked the broad avenues and the great plaza.

But if Carthoris was careless of his surroundings, not so other
eyes that watched his entrance into the plaza, and followed his slow
footsteps toward the marble pile that housed the tiny, half-choked
spring whose water one might gain only by scratching a deep hole
in the red sand that covered it.

And as the Heliumite entered the small building a dozen mighty,
grotesque figures emerged from the doorway of the palace to speed
noiselessly across the plaza toward him.

For half an hour Carthoris remained in the building, digging for
water and gaining the few much-needed drops which were the fruits
of his labour. Then he rose and slowly left the structure. Scarce
had he stepped beyond the threshold than twelve Torquasian warriors
leaped upon him.

No time then to draw long-sword; but swift from his harness flew
his long, slim dagger, and as he went down beneath them more than
a single green heart ceased beating at the bite of that keen point.

Then they overpowered him and took his weapons away; but only nine
of the twelve warriors who had crossed the plaza returned with
their prize.

They dragged their prisoner roughly to the palace pits, where
in utter darkness they chained him with rusty links to the solid
masonry of the wall.

"To-morrow Thar Ban will speak with you," they said. "Now
he sleeps. But great will be his pleasure when he learns who has
wandered amongst us--and great will be the pleasure of Hortan Gur
when Thar Ban drags before him the mad fool who dared prick the
great jeddak with his sword."

Then they left him to the silence and the darkness.

For what seemed hours Carthoris squatted upon the stone floor of
his prison, his back against the wall in which was sunk the heavy
eye-bolt that secured the chain which held him.

Then, from out of the mysterious blackness before him, there
came to his ears the sound of naked feet moving stealthily upon
stone--approaching nearer and nearer to where he lay, unarmed and
defenceless.

Minutes passed--minutes that seemed hours--during which time
periods of sepulchral silence would be followed by a repetition of
the uncanny scraping of naked feet slinking warily upon him.

At last he heard a sudden rush of unshod soles across the empty
blackness, and at a little distance a scuffling sound, heavy
breathing, and once what he thought the muttered imprecation of
a man battling against great odds.

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