Thuvia, Maid of Mars

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 87

be as it
should be."

The girl shook her head.

"Wait!" he commanded, before she could speak. "Know the truth
before you speak words that may seal, not only your own fate, but
that of the thousands of warriors who battle because of you.

"Refuse to wed me willingly, and Dusar would be laid waste should
ever the truth be known to Ptarth and Kaol and Helium. They would
raze our cities, leaving not one stone upon another. They would
scatter our peoples across the face of Barsoom from the frozen north
to the frozen south, hunting them down and slaying them, until this
great nation remained only as a hated memory in the minds of men.

"But while they are exterminating the Dusarians, countless thousands
of their own warriors must perish--and all because of the stubbornness
of a single woman who would not wed the prince who loves her.

"Refuse, Thuvia of Ptarth, and there remains but a single
alternative--no man must ever know your fate. Only a handful of
loyal servitors besides my royal father and myself know that you
were stolen from the gardens of Thuvan Dihn by Astok, Prince of
Dusar, or that to-day you be imprisoned in my palace.

"Refuse, Thuvia of Ptarth, and you must die to save Dusar--there
is no other way. Nutus, the jeddak, has so decreed. I have spoken."

For a long moment the girl let her level gaze rest full upon the
face of Astok of Dusar. Then she spoke, and though the words were
few, the unimpassioned tone carried unfathomable depths of cold
contempt.

"Better all that you have threatened," she said, "than you."

Then she turned her back upon him and went to stand once more before
the east window, gazing with sad eyes toward distant Ptarth.

Astok wheeled and left the room, returning after a short interval
of time with food and drink.

"Here," he said, "is sustenance until I return again. The next to
enter this apartment will be your executioner. Commend yourself to
your ancestors, Thuvia of Ptarth, for within a few days you shall
be with them."

Then he was gone.

Half an hour later he was interviewing an officer high in the navy
of Dusar.

"Whither went Vas Kor?" he asked. "He is not at his palace."

"South, to the great waterway that skirts Torquas," replied the
other. "His son, Hal Vas, is Dwar of the Road there, and thither
has Vas Kor gone to enlist recruits among the workers on the farms."

"Good," said Astok, and a half-hour more found him rising above
Dusar

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