Thuvia, Maid of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 85

whisper.

Astok, Prince of Dusar, shuddered.

Weak he was; yes, and wicked, too; but the suggestion that his
father's words implied turned him cold with horror.

Cruel to their enemies are the men of Mars; but the word "enemies"
is commonly interpreted to mean men only. Assassination runs riot
in the great Barsoomian cities; yet to murder a woman is a crime
so unthinkable that even the most hardened of the paid assassins
would shrink from you in horror should you suggest such a thing to
him.

Nutus was apparently oblivious to his son's all-too-patent terror
at his suggestion. Presently he continued:

"You say that you know where the girl lies hid, since she was stolen
from your people at Aaanthor. Should she be found by any one of
the three powers, her unsupported story would be sufficient to turn
them all against us.

"There is but one way, Astok," cried the older man. "You must return
at once to her hiding-place and fetch her hither in all secrecy.
And, look you here! Return not to Dusar without her, upon pain of
death!"

Astok, Prince of Dusar, well knew his royal father's temper. He
knew that in the tyrant's heart there pulsed no single throb of
love for any creature.

Astok's mother had been a slave woman. Nutus had never loved her.
He had never loved another. In youth he had tried to find a bride
at the courts of several of his powerful neighbours, but their
women would have none of him.

After a dozen daughters of his own nobility had sought self-destruction
rather than wed him he had given up. And then it had been that
he had legally wed one of his slaves that he might have a son to
stand among the jeds when Nutus died and a new jeddak was chosen.

Slowly Astok withdrew from the presence of his father. With white
face and shaking limbs he made his way to his own palace. As he
crossed the courtyard his glance chanced to wander to the great
east tower looming high against the azure of the sky.

At sight of it beads of sweat broke out upon his brow.

Issus! No other hand than his could be trusted to do the horrid
thing. With his own fingers he must crush the life from that
perfect throat, or plunge the silent blade into the red, red heart.

Her heart! The heart that he had hoped would brim with love for
him!

But had it done so? He recalled the haughty contempt with

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